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Fruity beers

And I don't mean lambics or franboise or anything sugary sickingly sweet.

I'm looking for recommendations for beers with subtle fruit flavoring--nothing too sweet or overpoweringly fruit. Generic example - Magic Hat is definitely apricot flavored but the flavoring isn't the first thing you notice when you take a sip (on second thought this is a bad example but nothing else is coming to mind at the moment). Tried Ephemere last night - I liked the dryness of it but it was too sweet. I've tried UFO's fruit beers and Purple Haze - not for me. Bluepoint's Blueberry was drinkable--it had a bit of a hoppy snap to it that balanced well with the strong blueberry scent. What about fruit beers that aren't wheats/whites/ales? I like all of those in the summer, but with fall/winter coming up I tend to go to the darker stuff.

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  1. Dogfish Head Aprihop is a nice one, although I believe it's out of season at the moment. Three Philosophers from Brewery Ommegang has a subtle flavor note from the addition of a small amount (2-3% IIRC) of Lindemans Kriek.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      I've had the Aprihop--can't say I was a big fan of it. Too hoppy for my tastes (which I find is the case with a lot of dofish head beers--they love their IPAs!) What fruit is used in the Philosophers? I live Brooklyn near two fairly well stocked beer stores (Bierkraft and a Polish deli whose name I can't remember) within walking distance, so obscure isn't a problem.

      1. re: erikka

        Three Philosophers includes a portion of Lindemans Kriek (cherry lambic).

        1. re: erikka

          Eagle (to non Brooklynites who wonder what this one word message means, it is the name of the Polish Food Store with the large beer choice that erikka was referring to).

        2. re: Jim Dorsch

          I just saw Aprihop at Beer Garden in Jamaica (Queens). Did not buy. I am embarking on tasting all the Unibroue offerings they have. But first had some Orval. Wow.

        3. Kind of a tough set of criteria you have here. Most fruit beers are wheat-based.

          When you say you're not talking about lambics or anything sugary sweet, that makes me think the only lambics you've had are from guys like Lindemans or Mort Subite.

          Real lambic isn't sweet or sugary. It does have some degree of fruit flavor, but it's sour, not sweet.

          I'd urge you to try some real lambic, it might be just what you're looking for. I recently had a delicious cherry lambic (known as Kriek) from Drie Fonteinen. Other good producers are Hanssens Artisinaal and Boon.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Josh

            I'll admit most of the lambics I've had were the corny, lindeman's variety--like drinking beer cough syrup. I'll try the ones you recommended--what kind of fruit are they? I'm not much for raspberry flavoring, but I could be swayed if something good came along.

            As for the wheat thing, it seems so predictable to add fruit to a wheat beer. Porters or pilsners are rarer but they do exist (few and far between).

            1. re: erikka

              Traditional fruit lambics are pretty much made with either cherries (sour cherries, specifically), or raspberries. Sometimes wine grapes are used, but the resulting brew is then called Vigneronne. Hanssens makes a seasonal strawberry lambic, but I've not tried it. (Rumor also has it that the current Fantome release has strawberries in it, though it's a saison and not a lambic)

              I actually forgot a pretty major producer in my list, and that is Cantillon. Cantillon makes some intense traditional lambics, including a vigneronne. They also make an insanely sour raspberry one called Lou Pepe.

              I'm not huge into the raspberry ones myself. I've come to enjoy straight lambic (aka gueuze), which is unflavored. However I still do enjoy a good kriek (which is cherry).

              Drei Fonteinen Kriek has a lot of sour cherry flavor, but is somewhat lacking in the sourness from the base beer that it should have. As the sour lambics go, it's probably most approachable.

              Hanssens Kriek is really good, but takes a little getting used to due to some of the wild herbal notes in the aroma. It's got the flavor of sour cherry, but no sweetness to speak of.

              I think once you try a real lambic, you'll see what a cartoonish version the Lindemans product is. That being said, Lindemans makes a gueuze called Cuvee Rene that is awesome in every way.

              1. re: erikka

                erikka, Josh is spot-on, and you can sample several Cantillons at Spuyten Duyvil. Cantillon Kriek ($12!) is dry as a bone, puckeringly sour which grows on you until you can't stop drinking it, pure essence of cherry flavor, let it breathe and aerate and it's perfect for drinking in 20-30 min. I haven't looked in my favorite Queens beer store yet (Beer Garden) but let me know if you see it in a Brooklyn store.

                1. re: kenito799

                  Now that I think back, I *have* tried that cherry one--do they ever have lambics on tap or strictly just bottled?

                  Bierkraft seems to have everything I've ever sought out, and if they don't have it they'll get it for you. There's another store on 19th & 5th called Eagle Provisions, but I've heard that their belgians are to be avoided as they've been there awhile.

                  1. re: erikka

                    I've seen lambic on draft, though very infrequently. One of the pubs out here gets Cantillon's Lou Pepe Framboise on draft from time to time. Lambic is one of those beers that I think is better out of a bottle. The bottle conditioning is a vital aspect of the flavor IMO.

                  2. re: kenito799

                    Where in Queens? We moved here from Brooklyn and can't find an acceptable selection of beers in the local stores.

                    1. re: MaspethMaven

                      134-11 Hillside, just west of the Van Wyck (Jamaica/Kew Gardens). They have a pretty good selection, I doubt rivaling Bierkraft though. The beer store on 69th St. in Maspeth across from Rosa's Pizza has some good stuff, too, Duvel, Ommegang, at least.

                      1. re: MaspethMaven

                        Are you in Astoria? There was a beer distro on 30th Av. near tne N train...I'll do a little googling and see if I can find more info. They had a decent selection.

                2. Lancaster Brewing Company makes a really nice Strawberry Wheat. It's very subtle strawberry flavor and smell--very smooth, not bitter. Its a great beer for the summer.

                  1. How about anything from Unibroue, especially the Ephmere choices(apple,cranberry,or black courant?). I am one of those who enjoy all the Unibroue especially the Maudite or the Trois Pistoles, not "fruit beers" but with hints of cherry and rasberry and perfect on a fall day with plenty of alcohol, I believe both are classified as belgian dark ales.

                    There are a few rasberry beers out there that meet your criteria but they are somewhat rare. Dogfish makes the Fort which is high alcohol 16% or so with a price that matches the alcohol level. If you have any connection in the Wisconsin/Chicago area have someone pick you up a bottle of New Glarus Rasberry tart, they also have a cherry beer. New Glarus is quite rare as I believe that all the operation consists of is a husband and wife.

                    Also, pumpkin beer season is upon us, not sure where the pumpkins they are using are coming from. Smuttynose is my favorite followed by the Dogfish Pumkin Ale. Post Road Pumpkin is not that bad, either owned or contract brewed by Brooklyn Brewery I believe. Personally, I limit myself to one 4 or 6 pack a year.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: mkel34

                      YES--pumpkin beer! One of my favorite things about fall. I've tried all of the beers you mention above and like them all.

                      I had the New Glarus cherry years ago--amazing and delicious. I haven't found it since I moved away from Wisconsin. Tried the DFH Fort a couple weeks ago-could only do a few swigs before I was knocked over. That's one I could never finish a whole bottle--I'd have to share it (among many people). 9% is probably my upper ABV limits

                      Tried the Ephmere apple on Saturday--I'm a fan of Unibrous, escpically La Fin Du MOnde (which is one of my favorites), but I had mixed feelings about this one. I did like the dryness of it, but part of me felt like if I was going to drink apple-flavored booze I might as well drink cider.

                      1. re: erikka

                        Just checked out the New Glarus website. Makes me wish we could get that stuff here.

                        1. re: Josh

                          New Glarus is awesome stuff, I used to get it in Boston when I lived there. It's quite sweet but balanced by tart acidity.

                          Hanssens also makes an amazing strawberry lambic, very dry and delicate.

                          1. re: warrenr

                            I just had a bottle of the New GLarus Raspberry Tart. Wonderful comibination of sweet and tart flavors.

                      2. re: mkel34

                        I went out and bought as many of the pumpkin beers that I could find. Unfortunately, for the last two years I couldn't find Post Road here in Baltimore, but 4 years ago, when I did, I rate it top of the charts.

                        Here are my ratings:

                        #1. The Shipyard Pumpkinhead - best I could find (and afford). Notes of pumpkin pie.

                        #2. Blue Moon - years ago they put out a tasty batch, but this year's (and the past few years) taste like a watered down Shipyard.

                        #3. Dogfish - I didn't buy it. It would have to be damn good to justify $8.99 for a 4 pack! What is with that?

                        I'll keep looking and report back if I find some other choices. I have seen the other Smuttynose beers here, but not the pumpkin. I'll look around for it.

                        1. re: chesapeakesun

                          You get what you pay for. $2 per beer isn't bad, considering how much you'd pay in a pub.

                          1. re: chesapeakesun

                            I just had the Dogfish Punkin on tap at a fine Philly bar, Dawson's. It was nicely pumpkin flavored without overbearing spice, but a bit too sweet for my taste.

                            1. re: kenito799

                              Yeah, I guess if you think of it that way, but still, it is hard to ante up that kinda of cash for brews (unless they are something truly special). I've had some less than great Dogfish in the past and didn't want to take a chance.

                              I tried Saranac's Pumpkin Ale. It wasn't too bad, actually tastier than I expected. I would rank it ahead of Blue Moon, yet behind Shipyard. Faint notes of nutmeg and vanilla.

                        2. Try Long Trail Blackberry Wheat if you're in the Northeast. Very Fruity, but not sweet. Amazingly light, looks like a bud light if you pour it in a glass. It's good. My summer beer.

                          1. Have you tried Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout? Rich, fruity, as sweet as a chocolate stout AND very reasonably priced. Probably available at Bierkraft. Definitely available at American Thrifty on Court St.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bobjbkln

                              I haven't--nor did I know of a liquor store on Court Street--I will definitely have to check out both!

                              1. re: erikka

                                As you know (but just for non-New Yorkers following this), you don't mean "liquor store" as you can't buy beer in a liquor store in New York State, only Wines and Liquors. Beer (but not wines and liquors) are available in food stores, including supermarkets, and beverage stores. American Thrifty is a beverage store, the best stocked in Brooklyn with very good prices. It's on Court St., Just south of Kane St.

                            2. Sam Adams "Cherry Wheat" Beer Kick A** in my beer book!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Ollie

                                My husband brought some of that home for me to try a few weeks ago. I thought it was nasty. Tasted like someone had mixed Robitussin into my beer.

                                I used to get a nice Lemon Lager from Saxer when I lived in Portland. And Ruby Ale from McMenamins (which you can now get bottled and sent to you from there, if you're willing to pay the price) is my favorite, ever.

                                1. re: revsharkie

                                  Robitussin??? How did he like it??

                              2. Look at the post for lambics. Tey are usually fruity.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: designerboy01

                                  Not looking for lambics -- per first sentence -- but thanks.

                                  1. re: erikka

                                    Seriously, what's the deal with users not reading the OP? I started a thread looking for delis, explicitly listing the bad ones I'd already tried, and then had people recommend them.

                                    Did you ever try any of the more authentic lambics?

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      I bought a couple new ones at bierkraft this weekend--review pending. When I asked about New Glarus the owner laughed and said I'd better get a plane ticket. No Fantome saison either--is that usually hard to come by or am I just hitting the wrong places?

                                      1. re: erikka

                                        Fantome can be hard to find, no question. I know of one shop in my area (and really, it's a 45 minute drive) that sells it. I would think though that you should be able to find it in NYC. Unfortunately I don't really know the stores there, but I'd be very surprised if it wasn't available somewhere. Here, it being limited is par for the course.

                                        1. re: erikka

                                          Take a look at the importer's website: http://www.sheltonbrothers.com/. They list their distributors and have a contact page.

                                          1. re: erikka

                                            I bought the Fantome Printemps since they had that one in stock--have you tried it? Not their signature saison but close enough that it'll do.

                                            Thank you for the link, Jim. It looks like Bierkraft is one of thier clients, but they also distribute to Thrifty, which I have been meaning to visit.

                                            1. re: erikka

                                              Never seen Fantome Printemps. Do let us know how it is. I'll enjoy it vicariously.

                                      2. Had an interesting blueberry one in Belgium last year. Have not yet seen it locally (Philadelphia)... I liked it, not sweet at all:

                                        Bon Secours Myrtille

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JugglerDave

                                          The Bluepoint Blueberry I mention above is really nice--I had a drink this weekend called a "black and blue", which was like a black & tan but w/ BPB substituted in. Really delicious!

                                        2. Erikka- you may want to check with your local microbrewery/brewpub and see if they are brewing anything special. As mentioned they do tend to be wheat beers, but not always. Cuurently, Chop House brewing co (I belive may be a small national chain) here in cleveland has a blueberry wheat (but very easy on the wheat) that is great. typically brewpubs don't always have a fruit infused beer all the time, but they do run them seasonally at times.

                                          edit: they hopefully sell growlers to take it home in or even bottles.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: lyn

                                            The Chophouses are part of the Rock Bottom chain.

                                          2. It sounds insane, but my personal favorite is Duck Rabbit Milk Stout - it's a NC microbrew, so I guess I've got a kind of local love affair for this beer. I swear it's got hints of mango or some other tropical fruit - but not overpowering. It's my favorite beer in any season...

                                            1. Those who don't mind a challenge to hunt for these sorts of culinary treasures, you owe it to yourselves to try these two beers:

                                              Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock - from a small brewery in Michigan (a hardware store-turned-homebrew shop-turned craft brewery, run by two brothers whose creativity never ceases), this is a big bold lager made in an "eis" method where the beer is frozen and the crystallized ice is removed to decrease water content, raise the gravity (and alcohol), and concentrate flavors. Fresh raspberry puree is added and the resulting beer is aged and allowed to "gain wisdom" for awhile, finishing off as a surprisingly subtle, lightly-carbonated, tangy and richly chocolate toffee-flavored after-dinner beer with a fabulously warming fresh raspberry aroma. As I hinted at earlier, it could be tricky to find, and it won't be cheap (6 oz. bottles go for $10 and are pretty much only sold at the brewery, while larger 750 mL bottles [in a beautiful "teardrop" shape] were only made available once in very limited supply, and went for $30 a pop), but the effort and expense should be justly rewarded for those curious enough to try it. The 10.6% alcohol is damn near invisible.

                                              Pizza Port Cuvee de Tomme - this is an anomaly and a conundrum even within the world of craft beers, an 11.5% alcohol sour beer, brewed somewhat like a big Belgian quadruppel (like Westvleteren 12 or Rochefort 10) but then allowed to age for a period of 12+ months in a barrel (usually bourbon) with a helping of sour cherries and an abundance of wild yeasts (the kind often used in brewing lambics). From the small but notorious chain of pizzerias/brewpubs scattered throughout the San Diego area, the beer is, at its best, a chocolatey and decadent, tart and velvety, blissfully soothing alcohol treat. The frustrating thing about this beer is that it is not only incredibly limited (perhaps even moreso than the Raspberry Eisbock, since it is bottled only in 750 mL bottles, released only a few hundred at a time every 18 months or so), but also somewhat inconsistent from batch to batch (the result of its long gestation and the unfortunate precision of combining the ingredients and brewing techniques used on this creation, which are not used on any other beer in the world that I know of). But when you find a serving of this beer at its peak, I can't think of any beer that is more of a treat. For those of you lucky enough to be in Denver, CO for this year's Great American Beer Festival at the end of this month, you owe it to yourselves to try several samples of this when you're there.

                                              (Side note: By far the most common bottles of the Cuvee de Tomme, featuring a black label with a gold "C" on it, were brewed at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA. They are pretty good, for what they are, but are a bit too forwardly alcoholic with the bourbon character sadly overshadowing some of the intricacies of the wild yeast and sour cherries. They are still strongly reminiscent of cherry cordial, for those who like it, but are not nearly as good as the tarter, silkier, fuller-bodied, lighter-carbonated, more chocolatey bottles that came out of the original Pizza Port-Solana Beach brewpub.)

                                              And I guess since this is my first post and all, I'd be remiss if I didn't offer to extend an olive branch of sorts-- for anyone in the LA area, if we should somehow cross paths and you want to try either of these beers, I've got at least a couple bottles of each, and I'd be happy to share.

                                              1. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat! GOLD MEDAL 2004 LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR. The tantalizing taste & aroma of fresh cherries is yours for the picking in this refreshing brew! Tart, thirst-quenching flavor!

                                                1. So last night I had an awesome lambic on draught - Cantillon's Lou Pepe Kriek. Super tart, but the cherry balances it into a simply awesome beverage experience.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    I am so jealous I recently had Lou Pepe Kriek for the first time in the bottle...amazing. Just curious, where did you have it and how much a glass?

                                                    1. re: kenito799

                                                      O'Brien's Pub, in San Diego. $6 for a 12 oz. pour.

                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                        That is a fantastic price. 750ml bottles in the few bars here that carry it run $28. Ok, I have decided I WILL go to that conference in San Diego next April...

                                                      2. re: kenito799

                                                        Spuyten sometimes has it on draft--call in advance and check.

                                                      3. re: Josh

                                                        I've had that--the tartness is shocking at first but you get used to it. Good stuff.

                                                      4. I'm not sure where you are, but I've loved Leinenkugel Berry Weiss for years. Doesn't fit your "not wheat/white" thing but it's so, so good.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          I'm orginally from Minnesota and love Leinies, but they don't reach all the way out to NYC. Certainly wish they did!

                                                        2. In reference to the original post: this thread made me try Magic Hat 9 at a party--YUCK! So glad I didn't buy it. Like apricot perfume dumped in some mediocre ale.

                                                          Being a Unibroue fan, have you tried their cherry beer Quelque Chose? I am confused by the reviews on beeradvocate. Sounds like a good winter warmer, and maybe changes batch to batch or with aging.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: kenito799

                                                            Quelque Chose is good, but it doesn't really taste like beer. They suggest serving it either on the rocks, at room temp, or heated up a bit. I tried it all three ways, and it was good, if different, each way.

                                                            1. re: kenito799

                                                              Magic Hat 9 is not my favorite beer on earth but when given limited options (at some bars it's either that Bud/Yuengling), I'll pick it. It's probably the easiest to find and most accessible fruit-flavored beer in NYC. Sorry you didn't like it.

                                                              I'd have to agree with Josh below. Like Unibroue, but their fruit flavored products aren't my favorite of their offerings.

                                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                                Magic Hat makes a lot of mediocre beers and their website is the worst in the industry. Having said that, I like the #9 on draft, particularly in the summertime, and find the apricot fruitiness toi be a nice foil for a modestly hopped beer.

                                                              2. A post in another thread reminded me of this sad oversight-- Russian River Supplication is a beautifully fruity (or fruit-kissed) beer, a Belgian brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries and wild yeast for a funky tartness. A wine-like beer with soft and light carbonation and lovely soft flavors, its fruitiness is very subtle and nuanced. One of my favorite beers ever.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: cquiroga

                                                                  That sounds lovely--but a quick google search turns up no NYC distributors
                                                                  eh, it figures. I'll have to track it down the next time I'm in DC.

                                                                2. try hitachino lacto stout, its sweet due to the lactose in it. Its pretty good, but I definitely have to take my time with them.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: bitsubeats

                                                                    I've had it at Spuyten and....it's strange. I couldn't even begin to describe it. Honestly, I couldn't figure out if I liked it or not. It's definitely unique, and I love Hitachino, but I'm not sure if I'd drink it again. Probably not the best beer on earth for the lactose intolerant people out there (like me).

                                                                  2. Whatever happened to the promised report on the authentic lambics? Curious if they were what you were looking for.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                      I tried a few (list is at home--will have to bring it another time) and they were interesting, but ultimately not for me. I could see myself drinking a lambic here and there but I had a hard time finishing every bottle I tried. The sour started getting to me after awhile--if they made half bottles that would be perfect. I could see myself drinking one every now and then but I don't think it'll come into regular rotation. Thanks for all your advice and guidance, Josh!

                                                                      1. re: erikka

                                                                        You can buy half bottles of several lambics. Hanssens comes to mind, and I believe you can get half bottles of Cantillon too.

                                                                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                          erikka, please forward your half-finished Cantillons to me.

                                                                          If you are ever in Philly check out Yards brewery http://www.yardsbrewing.com/
                                                                          and try their "Pynk", a lambic-inspired raspberry beer (available only on tap, I had it at the brewery, you can ask them what bars might have it). Just a hint of lambic sour, and wonderfully dry, more cherry/berry flavors than raspberry. I found it to be sort of a wit/weiss-lambic hybrid. Yum!

                                                                          Not fruit, but a tree: they make a nice spruce ale too, preferably from a beer engine (Dawson's bar, Roxborough).