Fresh & tart fruity style brews are set to dominate the beer scene this summer with flavours of cherry, mango and watermelon already becoming fast favourites.

We chat to beer expert Kirrily Waldhorn aka the Beer Diva to discover why this traditional Belgium style is gaining fans across the world.

What are fruit beers?

Let’s get this straight… the fruit beers we are discussing are those beers which have benefitted from the addition of real fruit (as opposed to artificial fruit flavourings) as part of the brewing process. We have the Belgians to thank for what is now becoming an emerging segment in the beer category in Australia, particularly amongst our craft breweries. The Belgians first utilised fruit in their Lambic style beers, which prior to the addition of a variety of fruits, are mouth-puckeringly tart. The fruit has a wonderful ability to round out and complement the tartness of this spontaneously fermented style of beer. Common fruit additions to Lambics are cherry (Kriek), of which the brewers will use the entire cherry, seed and all; raspberry (Framboise) and peach (Peche), though today there are a whole plethora of fruits delicately incorporated into beer.

Australia has a tendency to follow the lead of the American craft beer segment and this is an area that the American breweries have been driving for a few years now. In speaking recently with Ben Dobler, Master Brewer of USA based Widmer Bros Brewery, he “loves the creativity that the American breweries are incorporating into their beers”. Mentions of beers with the addition of sour, smoked cherries, organic local strawberries, Syrah & Granache grapes and tart Italian plums are just some of the fruitful delights being used in the American fruit beers within their craft beer segment.

How does fruit beer production differ from other beer styles?

Quite simply… the primary difference in the production of a fruit beer is… the addition of fruit! The brewers using fruit will choose a base style and then look at the hop, malt and yeast profile that is most likely going to let the fruit shine in the beer, or at least complement the fruit characteristics. Often these will be based on a Belgian style as the Belgians have been using fruit since around 1930 and they really know how to make this style of beer sing. Alternatively, depending on the fruit chosen, the base style could be a Pale Ale or India Pale Ale, which are generally hop-driven and by using the ultimate combination of hops, particularly those fruity, punchy new world hops, both the fruit and the hop characters will be enhanced in the beer. There are no rules though… and that’s what’s really fun about fruit beers. In terms of the brewing process, generally the fruit will be added into the brew at the end of the boil (post hop additions) or during fermentation.

Why is fruit beer the next big beer trend for summer?

When done well, fruit beers can be exceptionally refreshing and offer a thirst-quenching alternative to other beer styles. Tropical fruits such as mango, passionfruit, lychee, pineapple are very popular and the brewers will generally use fruits that are in season and in abundance. These fresh, punchy flavours are wonderful with our summer fare and as our brewers embrace and experiment within this style, which has in the past been relegated to the bottom of the beer style pile, drinkers will have the opportunity to enjoy some really interesting brews.

The Beer Diva’s top picks for Australian Fruit Beers

  • Feral Brewing Company recently won the Champion Beer Trophy at the Craft Beer Industry Association Beer Awards (CBIA Awards) with their Watermelon Warhead… a 2.9% Sour – Berliner Weisse beer infused with half a tonne of local Swan Valley watermelons
  • The Pink Boots Society Australia (an organisation supporting women in the beer industry) won the Best Belgian/French Style Trophy at the CBIA Awards for their Neneh Cherry Saison… a Belgian farmhouse ale which had 200kgs of fresh cherry juice from Cherry Hill Orchards in the Yarra Valley
  • Also in WA, Broome based, Matso’s Brewery are famous for their mango beer… they also brew a beer using fresh lychees
  • Ashley Huntington, the 2 metre tall brewer/owner of Two Metre Tall in Tasmania, brews a fabulous sour cherry ale using cherries from a local orchard. Ashley grows his own hops and barley as well… a true artisan brewer! /