Fruit beers are the guilty pleasure of the drinking world. Hell, if you believe in the Reinheitsgebot—the German beer purity law that says a true brew can only be made from water, barley and hops—fruit beers aren’t even real beers. But whether a fruit-accentuated wheat helped you crossover into the world of craft brews or a complex fruit-complimented sour recently reminded just how experimental American brewing has become, fruit beers are important members of the American beer canon. And thanks to the continuing innovation in our craft beer scene, more amazing new fruit beers hit the market every day.
For summer especially, fruit beers can really hit the spot in warm weather. So what better way to ring in the season with a list of my favorite American fruit beers made from pretty much every fruit I could think of? It’s a great way to diversify your palate. And as an added bonus, if anyone ever tries to tell you fruit beers are lame, just point them this direction to set them straight: A great beer can be made with all sorts of ingredients, from apricot to watermelon…
Pyramid Apricot Ale
More so than a lot of fruits, apricots make for an excellent adjunct because their flavor profile inherently fits in with many ale notes. Seattle’s Pyramid Breweries figured this out early, and their Apricot Ale, which has been around since 1994 (back when fruit beers weren’t even really a thing), is still the kind of straight-forward fruit-flavored wheat beer than can please almost anyone.
Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose
A gose for people who don’t think they like goses—or don’t even know what a gose is (it’s a German, sour beer)—Anderson Valley’s fruit-accentuated take on the sometimes challenging style reads tart and citric more so than the typical sour and saline, leaving a beer so quaffable you might find yourself wondering what all the gose fuss is about.
Evil Twin Justin Blabaer
This Berliner weisse brewed with blueberries is the polar opposite of its namesake: Whereas the teen icon lures you in with his boyish good looks before lulling you into complacency with simple pop hooks, Blabaer might turn some drinkers off with its assertively sour scent and complex taste profile, but the beer becomes more rewarding with every sip.
Crooked Stave Petite Sour Boysenberry
Crooked Stave could have landed on this list under a whole slew of fruit. If you happen to stop by their taproom at The Source in Denver, Colorado, you can try all sorts of fruit-flavored permutations from entire series of beers like its line of Petite Sours. Each brew tends to be wonderful in its own unique (usually tart and sour) way, but I chose to give them the nod for using the underrepresented Boysenberry to leave some space for other breweries elsewhere. My reign is a benevolent one.
New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
Over in Belgium, cherry-flavored beers called krieks have a long and heralded history. But in the U.S., Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing has created a “Wisconsin Belgian Red” all their own, brewed with whole Montmorency sour cherries and lagered in oak tanks. The result wallops you with bigtime cherry aromas and flavors that many affectionately compare to pie filling.
Devils Backbone Cran-Gose
Cranberry can be a pretty intense flavor; and gose can be a pretty intense beer style. So in many ways, what makes Cran-Gose so remarkable is that it’s able to show so much restraint. But at the same time, Devils Backbone’s fruity gose isn’t a Bartles & Jaymes substitute either. Instead it goes down easy in a thoughtful sort of way.
Harpoon UFO Big Squeeze Shandy
Over the past couple summers, everyone has gone gaga over Grapefruit IPAs. Yes, grapefruit does an amazing job of accentuating the modern hop profile of many IPAs, and I could easily be the latest writer to rave about Ballast Point Grapefruit Scuplin or the like. But instead, I figured why not give the list some shandy love. Shandies—a mix of beer and fruit juice (or soda)—won’t earn you a ton of beer snob cred, but they will keep you refreshed on a warm day. Harpoon’s Big Squeeze hits the right balance of beer, fruit juice and straight drinkability.
Dogfish Head SeaQuenchAle
It has been a tough time for lime ever since it got engulfed by Bud Light. But if you’re the kind of person who finds that Anheuser-Busch level of lime grating, give SeaQuenchAle a try. The unique mix of three styles—Kolsch, Berliner Weise and Gose—has a delightful undercurrent of lime that buoys the otherwise lightly tart beer just enough to make it feel at home on the beach.
Ballast Point Mango Even Keel
If there’s one thing America’s beer scene is lacking today, it’s super-sessionable, low-ABV beers. I’m talking in the 4 percent or lower range: The kind of brew you can drink without any worry that you may wake up hurting the next morning. But Ballast Point has come to the rescue with their 3.8 percent ABV Even Keel Session IPA. The mango version is equally nice, adding a bit of fruit flavor without going “full shandy”—meaning it still tastes more like beer than fruit juice.
Anchor Meyer Lemon Lager
Not every fruit beer has to be aggressively fruit forward. Instead, many brews benefit more from a deft hand that can weave a fruit flavor into the fruity notes already inherent in a beer’s style. So though a Meyer lemon-enhanced lager may not take the world by storm, Anchor achieves delightfully subtle harmony is this new addition from the historic brewery.
Moody Tongue Sliced Nectarine IPA
While plenty of other IPAs have been ratcheting up the acidity by adding big citrus flavors like grapefruit and tangerine, Chicago’s Moody Tongue took a slightly more subdued route, adding nectarines to their signature IPA. The result is rounded and delicate, with the nectarine holding down the beer’s backbone instead of shoving fruit in your face.
Avery Liliko’i Kepolo
Lots of great beers have a subtle passionfruit flavor; it’s often a natural note stemming from the hop bill. But for Liliko’I Kepolo, Colorado’s Avery Brewing said to hell with subtle, overloading this Belgian-style wheat with a wallop of the tart fruit. For fans of passionfruit flavor (and let’s be honest, it’s a hard flavor to dislike), this uniquely-named wheat is a coup.
Side Project Fuzzy
As opposed to those who prefer other styles, fruit beer lovers tend to gravitate to this adjunct-enhanced subsection of the beer world because they’re simply more drinkable. But brews like Fuzzy prove that fruit beers can be heady too: St. Louis’s Side Project creates this funky delight by natively fermenting a wild ale in Chardonnay barrels with loads of locally-grown white peaches.
Hudson Valley Soleil
No one likes a pretentious list full of purportedly amazing beers that you can only try at the top of Mount Everest, but sometimes you come across a beer so awesome you can’t help but spread the word: Soleil from New York’s newly established Hudson Valley Brewery is the best beer I’ve tried in 2016—a unique “mixed culture fermentation” sour brewed with pineapples and dry-hopped with marigolds and rose petals. As satire-ready as it sounds, this beer miraculously delivers in both the fruit and the flower department. Go find it!
At the intersection of high-minded and utterly chuggable is Rübaeus, a raspberry beer so ridiculously light and juicy that you’d feel guilty if you didn’t keep telling yourself that the folks over at Founders definitely know what they’re doing. The Grand Rapids brewery has grown tremendously thanks to their All Day IPA, but if hops turn you off, you may be better served making Rübaeus your all-day drinker.
Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry
Old world lambic producers have been using fruit to take the edge off sour beers for about as long as wild yeast has been naturally fermenting, but Almanac has found a way to strike that balance while turning all the components up to 11. This beer is cheek-puckeringly tart while also packing a huge strawberry flavor that still stops short of being too sweet.
21st Amendment Hell Or High Watermelon
Maybe more than any other beer on this list, 21st Amendment’s watermelon wheat beer tends to elicit a love-it-or hate-it reaction—not, as you might think, because it’s gratingly sweet, but the opposite. Hell Or High Watermelon brings a lot of genuine watermelon flavor into the fold without entirely compromising its beer base. For some, that surprising balance can take time to get used to, but if it’s up your alley, this brew’s drinkability is through the roof.