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Aug 14, 2006 08:13 PM

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.