The Fruit Beer of Summer

Some people think of fruit beer and think of Fruli and wretch. Never you fear though, fruit beer is amazing! The hard part is finding one you like, since all fruits can be used and all styles of beer can be the vessel, so many combinations exist that it can be overwhelming.

Not all fruit beer is created equal. That should be obvious, but allow me to clarify: there is no standardized method for making a “fruit beer”. Some breweries add fruit to the second fermentation, whereas some breweries add fruit juice to the beer, either during the second fermentation or just before bottling. Neither method creates a better product, as it really depends on the potency of the fruit flavour and the base beer flavour. Sometimes, it just adds a neat colour without necessarily a strong fruit flavour. Just to make it more complicated, some beers just taste fruity but are merely characteristics of that beer style, rather than it purposely being made as a fruit beer.

Most fruit beer falls into one of 3 categories: wheat ale base, Belgian sour style base, or “other”. And of course some may fall into both! ;)

Fruit Wheat Ales:

  1. Postmark Brewing Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefeweizen (Vancouver, Canada): I really liked the uniqueness of this flavour. Medium bodied, good balance of fruit flavour with wheat flavour, overall 3.5/5 stars.Postmark Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefe
  2. Bridge Brewing Bourbon Blood Orange Wheat Ale (North Vancouver, Canada): The blood orange flavour was not strong but enough to balance the wheat flavour. The bourbon influence was the most noticeable. I gave this beer 3.5/5 stars.
  3. Fernie Brewing What the Huck Huckleberry Wheat Ale (Fernie, Canada): Now this is some tasty business. Definitely tastes like a berried wheat ale, not specific to huckleberries, but the purple beer is definitely eye catching. Medium bodied, overall 3.75/5 stars.
  4. Four Winds Berliner Weisse Sour Wheat Ale (Delta, Canada): This is absolutely my favourite! It tastes like a lemony wheat beer, slightly sour, like a beer lemonade! It’s light and thirst quenching and amazing. I gave it 4.5/5 stars.

Fruit Sours:

  1. Parallel 49 Apricotopus Sour Saison (Vancouver, Canada): This is not too strong in the apricot or sour flavour. Medium bodied. I would prefer if they made it more sour, as I feel it could have been so much more. 3/5 stars.
  2. Lindemans Lambics (all flavours – Belgium): All the Lambics!These are definitely sour! They come in many flavours like apple (pomme), peach (peche), raspberry (framboise), cherry (kriek), and black currant (cassis). The fruitiness is not subtle, but the sour fizziness of it makes it super light and easy to drink. These were my gateway into enjoying beer! I like the cassis the best, followed by the kriek in a close second. I gave the whole line 4/5 stars.
  3. Mort Subite (Framboise and Kriek – Belgium): Both of these are fruity and sour. I liked the framboise better than the kriek, only because the fruit flavour was slightly less intense and balanced the sour well. However, the kriek has a nice POP to it. Just have to be in the mood. 3.75/5 stars.
  4. Liefmans Cuvee Brut (Belgium): A sour kriek beer that has noticeable bite and still very smooth and had a complex flavour, almost like biting into a sour cherry pie. 4.25/5 stars.
  5. Parallel 49 Lil Redemption Cherry Sour (Vancouver, Canada): Now this one was a treat. This cherry sour was aged for 2 years in cabernet sauvignon barrels with wild yeast and sour bacteria (presumably our friends Brett and Lactobacillus, hmm?) and then blended with sour cherries for 3 months. It was a limited release beer and with good reason. It was just so strong and yet balanced. People who don’t like sours liked it and people who don’t like fruit beers liked it. It won the hearts of many! 5/5 stars.

Fruit “others”:

  1. Le Trou du Diable The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso (Shawinigan, Canada): The English label says it’s a “tropical strong beer” and the French website gives a little more insight into its flavour by calling it a White IPA. So it has the yeast of a wheat beer, the slight bitterness of the hops, and an indescribable nondescript fruitiness to it. Medium bodied. 3.5/5 stars.
  2. Maui Brewing Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA (USA): A medium bodied beer that was surprisingly smooth. The blood orange flavour balanced out the hops; not too bitter or sweet and not very hoppy or orange-y either. 3.75/5 stars.
  3. Parallel 49 Grapefruit Tricycle Radler (Vancouver, Canada): If you want something light and refreshing, this is it! All radlers are low in %ABV because they are beer combined with juice, after fermentation. They were popularized by cyclists as they could rehydrate and not be intoxicated enough to leave their bicycle at home! The grapefruit flavour was not too bitter or sweet. 3.5/5 stars.Bomber Brewing Park Life Passionfruit Ale
  4. Bomber Brewing Park Life Passionfruit Ale (Vancouver, Canada): I was weary to try this beer as I haven’t liked any of the beers that Bomber has produced. As in, I would run in the other direction, given the option. Luckily, one of my friends bought it so I had to try it and I was shocked at how good it was! Not only was it fruity, but it was well balanced with the beer flavour AND it was light bodied. I can see why they only sell it in 6-packs, because you will cry at how fast 1 runs out! 4.5/5 stars.
  5. Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale (UK): Now this was something else. It smelled like strawberry jam and tasted it, too! Definitely sweet but I appreciated that it poured like an ale should be coloured. Medium bodied and didn’t taste artificial or syrupy. The intense flavour had to be paced slowly. 3/5 stars.
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Wild yeast and bacteria – Why is it in my beer?

Sour beers are starting to become a craze on the West Coast. Originating in Belgium with the sour ales, such as the Lambic, Gueuze, Flanders Red Ale, and Oud Bruin (which I wrote about previously, here), a lot of the local breweries have decided they want to make their own sour beers.

Let’s talk about first why we’re calling it wild in the first place. The origin of sour beers from Belgium would be produced in what’s called “open-air fermentation“. This means that rather than using a yeast where it is measured, carefully selected and used in a controlled environment, the tanks in this case were left open. This would allow yeast and bacteria to enter the tanks, leaving behind a sour flavour. While this type of fermentation can leave behind “off-flavours” in other types of beer, this type of fermentation is actively trying to re-produce these wild conditions to develop a unique flavour.

Next, let’s talk about what yeast and bacteria are considered among the wild class:

Four Winds Berliner Weisse

Only lacto. German style sour wheat beer.

– Brettanomyces (aka “Brett”) is a wild yeast that is used in fermentation of many sour beers. It can take weeks, months, or years before the yeast is finished fermenting. It can be a slow process and you won’t necessarily get the same results every time. This is why people may purchase the same beer from year to year and then cellar it (remind you of wine enthusiasts, doesn’t it?). Any time you think of a beer tasting funky, you have Brett to thank for that!

Driftwood Gose-uh label

Only lacto. Gose German style sour.

– Lactobacillus is a bacteria that will consume the sugar and impart lactic acid. This is where the sour of sour beers come from. Since this bacteria is going to be occupied making lactic acid however, the yeast has to be added at a different time so that the increasing acidity doesn’t kill all the conversion of sugar into alcohol. (Thanks again, Brett!If the lactobacillus is used without the Brett however, the flavour left behind is a clean sour taste. Nothing funky or barnyard-y about it!

– Pediococcus is another bacteria that functions similarly to lactobacillus except that it imparts sourness and funk into the mix. I personally haven’t seen it listed on any beer labels, but the Belgians tend not to label their beers, either.

Moon Under Water - Hip As Funk label

Only Brett. Farmhouse IPA.

Since the West Coast beers are relatively new to producing sours, they like to include what they used to make it sour. Which is great, if you know which of the sour flavours you like and don’t like. Sour beers are polarizing; just like IPAs, people either love them or hate them. Knowing what aspect of the sourness one likes or dislikes, they can choose more wisely. Perhaps you like the sour and not the funk? Or perhaps you like the funk or not the sour? Or perhaps you are a sour fiend such as myself and you love all of it!

 

Links for further reading:
The Brettanomyces Project – someone’s Masters dissertation on Brettanomyces, in addition to the beer they are producing
Pediococcus on Wikipedia
Lactobacillus on Wikipedia
Gose beer on Wikipedia
Four Winds Brewing Company – in Delta, BC
Driftwood Brewery – in Victoria, BC
Moon Under Water Brewery – in Victoria, BC

Belgian Beer (Part II – Belgian Strong & Sour Ales)

Continuing off from the previous post, this post will focus on Belgian Strong Ales and Sour Ales.

Belgian Strong Ales are beers that are at least 7% ABV, and its sub-styles are the Belgian blonde, Belgian golden strong, and the Belgian dark strong ale. The tricky part about this style that makes it difficult to define is that Belgian brewers themselves do not use this nomenclature. Yet it is understood as a classification among importers and drinkers alike. In this case, the examples within these categories will do a better job of explaining the category better than I would!

Belgian Strong Ales worth trying:
Belgian Blonde: Brugse Zot – smells like a witbier, tart flavour, light finish. Other beer in this category which I have not tried yet include Palm, and Leffe Blond.
– Belgian Golden Strong: Duvel – smells toasted, light bodied, pairs well with fatty foods. Other beer in this category include Delirium Tremens, and Piraat.
– Belgian Dark Strong: Abbaye des Rocs Grand Cru – smells like caramel and raisins, tastes like gingerbread, medium bodied, pairs well with caramelized foods, and can be cellared for 10 years! Other beer in this category include Gulden Draak, and Kasteel Donker.

"Timmermans" by Fgeerts - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Timmermans.jpg#/media/File:Timmermans.jpg

An example of spontaneous fermentation.

Sour Ales are beer which taste sour but not bitter like an IPA. This is because the sourness is not attributed to use of hops, but more due to spontaneous fermentation and aging in oak barrels. Sour sub-styles include the Lambic, Gueuze, Fruit Lambic, Flanders Red Ale, and Flanders Brown Ale (Oud Bruin). Lambics are exposed to wild yeast and bacteria native to the Senne Valley, Gueuzes are a mixture of Lambics aged 1-3 years and undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle, Fruit Lambics are brewed with various fruits in the secondary fermentation process, Flanders Red Ales are brewed with a special red malt and the Lactobacillus bacteria which imparts lactic acid into the beer creating its sourness, and Oud Bruin which may be aged in oak barrels or not but all do undergo a secondary fermentation as well.

Other terms you may come across: Faro – a type of lambic which is sweetened at the end, so that the additional sugar does not increase the % ABV. Kriek – cherry lambic, Framboise – raspberry lambic, and Cassis – blackcurrant lambic are some of the most common fruit lambic flavours. Keep your eyes out for some fruit beer, as not all of them are created equal; while a lot of them use fruit in their fermentation process, some of them add fruit juice or syrup to the end of fermentation instead (see Kasteel Rouge).

Sour Ales worth trying:
– Lambic: I really like the Lindemans line. Not having recently tried them though, I have no tasting notes to offer, other than their faro was mildly sour and sweet. Other beer in this category includes the Cantillon Grand Cru.
– Gueuze: Van Honsebrouck St Louis Fond Tradition Gueuze – smells sour and fruity, tastes like sour pineapple, has a sharp and clean finish. Other beer in this category include the Cantillon Lou Pepe, Tilquin Gueuze, and the Lindemans Old Gueuze Cuvee Rene.
– Fruit Lambic: Van Honsebrouck St Louis Fond Tradition Kriek – tastes like pie! Sour flavour and sour aftertaste. Other beer in this category include the Oud Beersel Kriek, Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, and Lindemans (kriek, framboise, peche, pomme, and cassis).
– Flanders Red Ale: Omer Vander Ghinste Bockor Cuvee des Jacobins – don’t smell this beer, it smells like fish! It tastes toasted, sour and fruity. Other beer in this category include the Rodenbach Grand Cru.
– Oud Bruin: I have not tried any of these yet but I am keeping my eyes peeled for these ones: Petrus Oud Bruin, Vander Ghinste Oud Bruin, and the Van Honsebrouck Bacchus.

While the flavour information was my personal interpretation of the beers’ flavours, the Belgian beer lesson and category information (from this post and the one preceding) were given to me by Gerry West from Westbier. He gave us a private tasting at our liquor store, and is a Belgian beer importer into Vancouver, Canada.

Links for further reading:
– Beer in Belgium on Wikipedia
– Lambic Beer on Wikipedia
– Flanders Red Ale on Wikipedia

Belgian Beer (Part I – Trappist, Belgian & French)

Belgian beer is in a class of its own. It’s some of the oldest beer that the world has to offer, and has a flavour profile that is quite unique compared to beer from anywhere else in the world.

What’s even more awesome is that some of the Belgian beers are made by monks. The ones that are called Trappist beers belong to one of only a few monasteries. The monastery makes its money by producing the beer and selling it all over the world. Yet the monasteries do not profit; the money is to provide the monks with a living allowance, to contribute to the monastery for their building maintenance and upkeep of brewing equipment, and then any money leftover is donated to charity. A very different approach to passing around the church plate!

Belgian beer can be broken down into 4 basic styles: Trappist, Belgian & French, Belgian Strong, and Sour Ale (The first 2 styles will be covered in this post, the next 2 styles in the next post). There are also Abbey beers which are brewed in the Trappist style but are not produced by a monastery. The beers within a style are going to be similar but will also express a fair amount of flavour variance.

Trappist and Abbey beer denote their sub-styles by calling them single, dubbel, tripel, or quad. This is a general term to describe how much malt and how much % ABV the beer has. Single beers are not really produced any longer, and were intended to be consumed throughout the day without any marked decrease in cognition. Some of the beers have a number after them (e.g. Rochefort 10 or St Bernardus Abt 12) and this is to denote strength relative to the same brewery. A “12” is not stronger than a “10” among different breweries.

Trappist/Abbey beer worth trying:Belgian beer
– Dubbel: St Feuillien Brune – has a roasted malt flavour, medium body, smells fruity, medium sweetness. Other beer in this category that I have not yet tried include the Chimay Rouge and Westmalle Dubbel.
– Trippel: St Feuillien Trippel – smells like pear, medium body, slight bitter after taste, appropriate as an evening beer. Other beer in this category include the Westmalle Trippel and Kasteel Trippel.
– Quad: Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau – smells like raisins and sweet plum, heavy body, tastes like caramel sweet awesomeness, clean finish. Other beer in this category include the Prearis Quad, Chimay Bleu, Rochefort 10, and St Bernardus Abt 12.

Belgian & French beer denotes its sub-styles by calling them witbier, belgian pale ale, saison, bier de garde, or belgian specialty ale. Witbiers are made predominantly with wheat, belgian pale ales are like regular pale ales but with belgian yeast, saisons are low alcohol pale ales (3-8% ABV) that are brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, bier de gardes are a stronger pale ale, and belgian specialty ales are more difficult to classify into one sub-style.

Belgian & French beer worth trying:
– Witbier: Hoegaarden – light citrus smell, slightly floral at the beginning, clean finish, and light body. Prearis Belma – smells like oranges, light and tart flavour but not too sharp, medium body, slightly spicy finish. Other beer in this category include Abbaye des Rocs Blanche des Honnelles.
– Belgian Pale Ale: An example of which I did not try is the De Konnick.
– Saison: Dupont Saison – medium body, tangy, citrus finish, better to pair with food. St Feuillien Saison – light body, slight fruity flavour, clean finish, good on its own.
– Bier de Garde: An example of which I did not try is the Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts. 
– Belgian Specialty Ale: St Feuillien Grand Cru: smelled and tasted like caramel, heavy body; must be stored cool but drink it warm (hands under a fat bottomed glass with a stem), otherwise the bottle can explode! Kasteel Rouge: smells and tastes more like a cherry liqueur than a beer; you will like it if you like sweet things!

The next post will discuss the Belgian Strong Ales and the Sour Ales.

Further reading:
– Beer in Belgium on Wikipedia
– Trappist Beer on Wikipedia
– Dageraad Brewing (A Vancouver-area brewery that produces a Belgian style Blonde and Amber ale)
– Old Abbey Ales (A Vancouver-area brewery that produces a Belgian Tripel, Quad, and IPA)