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Flavored, Naturally

June 16, 2010

It’s summer, and that can mean only one thing; flavored beer. Around this time every year, brewers all over the country start to roll out all kinds of fruit-flavored beers, with watermelon, raspberry, and blueberry being the traditional favorites. I have nothing against fruit-infused beer, because beer is awesome, as is fruit, so putting the two together is almost a no-brainer. However, brewers straddle a very fine line when it comes to brewing fruit-flavored beers, and like most specialty beer styles, they are not all created equal.

The trouble with flavored beers is that it’s not always easy to tell where exactly the fruit flavor comes from. I’m kind of a beer purist, in that I think if a brewer is going to make a blueberry-flavored beer, for example, there should be actual blueberries involved in the brewing process somewhere, not just a bunch of flavoring chemicals dumped in after the fact. You can’t always tell exactly what’s in a beer by reading the label, and phrases like “all natural” usually aren’t terribly convincing, but taste never lies. What I’m saying is that if a beer is supposed to be “fruit-flavored”, it should taste real, and not like someone just took a regular beer and dissolved a bunch of Jolly Ranchers in it.

That said, there are a lot of great examples of fruit-flavored beers out there that are able to stand on their own. The 21st Amendment Brewery, based out of San Francisco, earns my  respect for their Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, which uses 100% fresh watermelon juice in the brewing process to create a light, 4.9% abv brew with just the right amount of real watermelon flavor. Coincidently, many of my favorite fruit-flavored beers come from right here in Massachusetts. The Opa-Opa Brewing Company out of Southampton, MA, has produced some really good fruit-flavored beers, their most recent being their Blueberry Lager and Raspberry Wheat Ale. The Blue Hills Brewery, located in Canton, MA, recently released their Watermelon Wampatuck Wheat, which is a variation on the German hefeweizen style that has a very unique taste, with the refreshing flavor of watermelon and a hint of banana. Though most fruit-flavored beers tend to be variations on lower-abv wheat ales, Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield, MA, took it in another direction with their excellent Raspberry Barleywine Style Ale, which clocks in at an impressive 9% abv (though you wouldn’t know it because of the fruity taste).

So take advantage of these hot summer days and support local brewers by checking out some of their fruit-flavored offerings. I guarantee that they’re better than Bud Light Lime, which isn’t really saying much, but there you go.

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