Fruit Beers – What Are They, How To Brew With Fruit, and Examples!

Cherry stout, strawberry wheat, and mango IPA are just a sampling of the many fruit beers that are currently on the market. With juicy aromas and tart, sweet flavor, fruit beers have been rising in popularity for years. Are you wondering what they are and how to brew your own at home?

Fruit beers are any base beer that is brewed using fruit puree, extract, peel, zest, or juice. A wide range of fruits from citrus and tropical to most berries and even stone fruits can be added to the boil, at flameout, or during fermentation. Fruit adds depth, aroma, flavor, and a hint of fruit color to many beers.

Read on to find out what fruit beer is, which types of beers and fruit pair well together, plus how to use real fruit, juices, and extracts to flavor your next fruit beer.

What is a fruit beer?

Fruit beer is any base beer that uses fresh or frozen fruit, fruit juice, fruit extract, fruit peel, or zest for flavoring and aroma. 

People who don’t like beer might find commercial fruit beer to be a good stepping stone into craft beer’s eclectic and flavorful world. For homebrewers, adding fruit to enhance flavor or highlight other fruity-flavored ingredients (such as hops or yeast) can produce a satisfyingly original beer that is both tasty and refreshing.

Fruit beers are a fun, creative way to expand your brewing practice and bring along friends who haven’t yet expanded their tastes to include beer.

Is there alcohol in fruit beer?

A fruit beer can be alcoholic or very low in alcohol.

Beer brewed with fermented fruit for flavoring and aroma is called fruit beer. There are also low-alcohol and no-alcohol fruit beers with added fruit juice or fruit-flavored soda to decrease overall alcohol content such as the Radler and Shandy.

Belgian Lambic beers are also in this group with an ABV of 2.5%.

How the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) defines fruit beer

According to the BJCP, fruit beer is made with “fleshy, seed-associated structures of plants that are sweet or sour, and edible in the raw state.”

It should have the taste of the fruit used without seeming artificial in flavor. Any base beer type with fruit added can be considered a fruit beer.

The BJCP also details the specifics of a fruit beer concerning:

  • Appearance
  • Aroma
  • Flavor
  • Mouthfeel

Appearance

The base beer used for a fruit beer should be representative in color and appearance. For instance, a wheat beer should still have its hazy golden color that is characteristic of a wheat beer.

It is understood that the beer may take on a slight tint of the fruit used in the beer. 

Aroma

If you are declaring a specific fruit in the beer, such as cherries or mango, for example, the fruit’s aroma must be noticeable in the beer.

Any other fruit used in conjunction with the declared fruit should blend well in the bouquet.

Flavor

All flavors of the underlying beer type should be evident, such as hops and malts.

The fruit flavors should be balanced with the underlying beer type and not overpower them.

Mouthfeel

Fruit added to beer tends to thin out the base beer due to the added fermentables.

Smaller, darker fruit should overwhelm the base beer flavor. And, the fruit beer should have similar carbonation to that of the base beer used.

Which beer styles pair best with fruit?

Many styles of beer pair well with fruit, including some darker beers.

Flavored or light-bodied beers are ideal for blending with fruit. Including:

  • American lager (or pale lager) – Built for drinkability. These lagers are pale, straw-colored, and light-bodied. With a crisp, balanced flavor and little to no bitterness. Low hop and malt flavors, and a low ABV (3.2-4%). 
  • American blonde ale/American pale wheat ale – Are slightly more complex than American lagers and ales. They are pale in color with bready, malty flavors with a slight bitterness. ABV is generally around 5%.
  • Hefeweizen/Weissbier – Is a German wheat beer brewed with Weizen yeast and 50% malt wheat. It is straw to amber in color with fruity aromas and complex flavors like clove, banana, and bubblegum. The American version is lighter and some versions are hoppier. The ABV is generally 5-5.5%. 
  • Belgian Witbier – Is pale, cloudy, and brewed with coriander and citrus. These create sweet, fruity, and spicy flavors including banana and clove notes. The ABV averages between 4-5%.
  • Berliner Weisse: A cloudy northern Bavarian-style beer. It’s often mixed with fruit and lactose milk sugar. It has a balanced, lightly sweet, and sour taste. Its ABV is around 5%.
  • Weizenbock – A wheat ale that ranges from pale to dark amber. It combines the characteristics of a Hefeweizen and a Doppelbock with fruity and malty flavors. Its ABV is around 7-9%.

Add some fruit to these darker beers for aroma:

  • English IPAs – Are gold to bronze in color with more balanced hop/malt flavors than the American IPAs. Earthy and spicy with only slight caramel and toffee flavors. The ABV is typically between 4.5-5.5%. 
  •  Belgian IPAs – Are a hybrid of the IPA and Belgian ales that range in color from pale gold to amber and are slightly hazy. They are a hop-forward style with flavors of clove, banana, orange, pear, and apple.
  • American IPAs – Are ultra-clear to deep amber. They have a strong, hops-driven flavor with a higher ABV of around 6-8%. Often fruity, piney, or floral flavored from the hops that are used. 
  • Oatmeal stouts – Are earthy, nutty, and oat flavors with mild notes of coffee. It has a balanced sweetness with a medium hop bitterness. Deep brown to black with an ABV of 4.2-5.9%. Strawberries or raspberries pair best for fruit beers.
  • Baltic porters – Have a deep malty sweetness with complex caramel, nutty, and toffee flavors. There are also hints of chocolate and coffee. Dark brown to black with an ABV of 6.5-9.5%. Strawberries or raspberries pair best for fruit beers.

How to make fruit beers or add fruit to homebrew beer

Making fruit beer doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a few ways of adding fruit to your base beer.

Nearly any fruit can be added to beer, including:

  • Citrus (orange, lemon, lime)
  • Tropical (papaya, guava, pineapple, mango)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries)
  • Stone fruits (plum, peach, apricot, nectarine cherry)

Be sure to clean, peel and seed fresh fruit before blending. Or, a canned fruit puree is also an easy addition.

Using fruit extracts

Fruit extracts are the easiest way to add fruit flavor to beer. It takes a bit of experimentation to get the right amount of extract for the desired flavor. Fruit extracts can be too sweet or taste artificial.

It’s recommended to use 2 oz of extract for 5 gallons of beer. Pour the extract into your bottling bucket or keg before transferring the beer for packaging to ensure it’s blended well.

If 2 oz isn’t enough, more can be added to get the desired taste.

Using real fruit

Depending on the type of fruit you choose, there are various ways to add it to your beer. Most often fresh fruit is pureed in a blender with sterile water added. 

Freeze and thaw fresh fruit puree or flash pasteurize it by holding it at 160F-170°F for at least 15 minutes before use. Canned fruit puree may be used straight from the can. After the beer has been racked to the secondary fermenter, add the fruit puree. Allow it to sit in the fermenter for a couple of weeks. 

When racking to a keg or bottling, it’s best to use cheesecloth to filter out any pulp, seeds, or other solids from the puree. This chart can be used as a starting point for the amount of fresh fruit to use.

Using fruit juice

Using fruit juice will significantly dry out beer unless something else is used to compensate. You could add honey malt to the mash or add lactose to the boil to counter the dryness. 

The juice should be added after 3-4 days of fermentation because adding it to the boil could release pectins. Depending on the type of beer and the tartness and flavor of the juice, you can use between 2-5 cups of juice per a 5-gallon batch.

Using fruit peels, rinds, or zest

When using fruit peel, rinds, and zest, it’s best to start with less and experiment in future batches. Usually, these are from citrus fruits. 

They are best in beer when only the outermost peel is used to avoid adding the bitterness of the white pith. One to three citrus fruits very thinly peeled or zested is enough to start.

They add a light flavor when added at flameout or a bolder flavor when mixed with a few tablespoons of vodka and added after primary fermentation.

The best fruit beers to try in 2021

There are many examples of fruit beers to try. Some are sweet, some are tart and some are a combination of both. As you can see, there is a wide range of fruits used in many types of base beers to concoct these delicious, refreshing flavor pairings. 

Here are some of the best and most popular fruit beers currently available:

  • Dogfish Head Black & Blue
  • Sam Adams Cherry Wheat
  • New Glarus Belgian Road
  • Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale
  • Abita Purple Haze
  • Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA
  • Bells Oberon Tropical
  • Bell’s Cherry Stout
  • The Kimmy the Yink and the Holy Gose
  • Rubaeus

1. Dogfish Head Black & Blue 

  • Style: Belgian-style Golden Ale
  • Fruit: Blackberries and blueberries
  • Brand: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • From: Delaware
  • ABV: 10%
  • Taste: Pureed berries are added at fermentation for a unique, complex fruit flavor and aroma.
  • Where you can find it: Wine-searcher.com

2. Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat

  • Style: Wheat Fruit Beer
  • Fruit: Michigan Cherries
  • Brand: Samuel Adams Boston Beer Company
  • From: Massachusetts
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Color: Hazy Golden Orange
  • Taste: Strong cherry aroma. Light, tart cherry flavor upfront with biscuity wheat notes and a hint of honey sweetness. Finishes with a citrusy hops bitterness.
  • Where can you find it:  Totalwine.com

 3. New Glarus Belgian Red

  • Style: Belgian Ale
  • Fruit: Cherries
  • Brand: New Glarus Brewing Company
  • From: Wisconsin
  • ABV: 4.0%
  • Color: Ruby red
  • Taste: Light but pronounced tart cherry flavor with a hint of malt, oak, and vanilla. Very subtle acidity and lightly carbonated. Very balanced.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com.

4. Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale

  • Style: Kolsch, Salty Gose, Berlinerweiss
  • Fruit: Lime juice and lime peel
  • Brand: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • From: Delaware
  • ABV: 4.9%
  • Color: Hazy amber orange
  • Taste: It begins with a Kolsch made from wheat and Munich malt, then a salty Gose with black limes, coriander, and sea salt, followed by a tart Berlinerweiss with real lime juice and peel. All three beers are blended at fermentation to create this refreshingly tart, natural lime-flavored German hybrid fruit beer.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com.

5. Abita Purple Haze

  • Style: Lager
  • Fruit: Raspberries
  • Brand: Abita Brewing Company
  • From: Louisiana
  • ABV: 4.2%
  • Color: Hazy, subtle purple tone
  • Taste: Brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and real raspberries added at fermentation. Tartly sweet raspberry flavor and aroma.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com or most liquor stores, and some big box stores. 

6. Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA

  • Style: Pale Ale
  • Fruit: Grapefruit
  • Brand: Ghostfish Brewing Company
  • From: Washington
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Color: Clear, dark amber
  • Taste: Made with grapefruit peel, it’s bracingly bitter, with a bright citrusy flavor. Juicy fruit sweetness upfront with a caramel backbone and a prominent bitter finish. 
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com.

7. Bells Oberon Tropical

  • Style: Wheat Ale, summer seasonal
  • Fruit: Guava, Passionfruit, Mango
  • Brand: Bell’s Brewery
  • From: Michigan
  • ABV: 5.8% 
  • Color: Hazy Sunset Orange
  • Taste: Big tropical fruit flavor and aroma with a dry, tart finish.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com

8. Bell’s Cherry Stout

  • Style: American Stout
  • Fruit: Michigan Montmorency cherries
  • Brand: Bell’s Brewery
  • From: Michigan
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Color: Deep ruby-black
  • Taste: Warm dark chocolate and coffee notes with a tart cherry juice flavor. Just the right combination of tart and sweet. Lightly hopped for balance.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com or an upscale liquor store with a good beer selection.

9. The Kimmy The Yink and the Holy Gose

  • Style: Sour Gose
  • Fruit: Lemon, guava, and peach
  • Brand: Anderson Valley Brewing Company
  • From: California
  • ABV: 4.2%
  • Color: Bright gold 
  • Taste: Complex, sour salty gose with hints of lemon, guava, and peach with a little breadiness. Tangy, crisp, and salty flavors that are well balanced.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com.

10. Rubaeus 

  • Style: Fruit and Field Beer
  • Fruit: Raspberries
  • Brand: Founders Brewery
  • From: Michigan
  • ABV: 5.7%
  • Color: Clear, Dark Red
  • Taste: Very raspberry taste on the front with hints of malt, biscuit, and caramel. Medium sweetness with a nice malty background.
  • Where you can find it: Totalwine.com or Founders Brewing Co. Search to find bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in your area. 

Related Questions

Have more questions about fruit beers? Here are answers to some other common questions.

Is fruit beer sweet?

Fruit beers can be both sweet and tart depending on the type of fruit used, the type of base beer used, and the method by which the fruit was added. They can be very sweet or tart. Or they can tantalize the palate with just a hint of fruit flavor.

Are fruit beers girly?

Fruit beers sometimes get a reputation for being a bit girly. Some think that the fruit covers the beer taste making it seem more like a cocktail. However, there are plenty of fruit IPAs, stouts, and others that still have a traditional beer flavor that is nothing like a fruity cocktail.

Are fruit beers gluten-free?

Typically, fruit beers are not gluten-free. Many beers are made from wheat or barley which both contain gluten. With the growing popularity of fruit beers, there are a few brewers that use sorghum malt or extract to make gluten-free fruit beers. 

A great example is Dogfish Head Tweason’ale, which uses the juice from fresh strawberries.

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05/11/2022 02:25 pm GMT