Fruit and beer have a history as strange bedfellows.
Fruit was a common ingredient when ancient brewers would throw everything but the kitchen basin into beer to complement or counteract the sweetness of the grain bill. Fruit beers, however, gradually died out everywhere except Belgium, thanks to regulations like the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law of 1516) and the rise of what is now called the Standard American or International Lager, made by Big Breweries world-wide over the last 170 years or so.
However, thanks to the craft beer movement of the last 30 years, fruit beers have returned with a vengeance, blending almost any fruit with any beer style to create some truly unique combinations.
Beer purists believe a beer should stand alone on its own merit, and the addition of any kind of fruit garnish is blasphemous. Less rigid drinkers say the garnish can enhance some qualities in the beer. Some feel it simply adds to the presentation, and bartenders enjoy beautifying a beer much the same way they primp up a cocktail.
Whatever the reason is, fruit happens. Probably the most famous use of fruit is the wedge of lime with Corona. Served this way mostly in the U.S., Canada and tourist locales of Latin America, its origins are bathed in mystery.
But why a lime? Reasons abound; it adds flavour to the beer,it masks any skunkiness resulting from the beer having been exposed to light through its clear bottle, it can wipe away any rust stains from around the rim caused by the beer caps, it keeps away flies, or it’s a clever marketing ploy. For whatever reason, it’s now become the norm with several Mexican lagers.
Wheat beers are another style regularly accompanied with fruit. The tartness of citrus fruit accentuates certain properties of the weizen yeast and the citrus qualities of the beer. Lemon slices usually accompany German weizens, while orange slices tend to be served with wit beers to complement the orange peel already in the beer.
Nowadays, almost anything goes. Olives get plonked into IPAs, chocolate powder is used as a rimmer for stouts or porters, chili peppers are put into lager bottles, pumpkin ale glasses get rimmed with a cinnamon and sugar mixture… the modern rule is there are no rules.
Here are some fantastic beers that commonly come with fruit garnishes:
1) Belgian Moon, Colorado
New to Alberta, this is currently the No. 1 selling craft beer in the U.S. under its original name of Blue Moon (which can’t be used in Canada). It’s a Belgian style wit beer made from barley, wheat, and oats with Valencia orange peel and coriander. This unfiltered ale is crisp and full of orange flavour, making it a great patio beer. Often served with an orange slice on the side of the glass.
CSPC +779174, $17.50 6-pk. bottles
2) Big Rock Grasshopper, Calgary
Grasshopper exemplifies the evolution of fruit garnish with beer. When it debuted in 1994, it was the first Canadian-made wheat ale in Alberta, simply served in a tall glass. For the past couple of years, that glass now has a lemon slice clinging to it, pairing it with the citrus flavours of this kristallweizen (filtered wheat ale).
CSPC +718471 $16.00 6-pk. bottles
3) Wild Rose Wraspberry, Calgary
Probably the first beer served in Calgary that had fruit in the glass. Another wheat ale, this time made with whole raspberries. Slightly cloudy with a golden colour and a pink tinge, this is Wild Rose’s best selling beer. A local favourite all year round, it’s often served with raspberries.
CSPC +766766 $17.00 6-pk. bottles
4) Brewsters Brewfoot Blueberry Ale and River City Raspberry Ale, Calgary
Do you know you can buy many of this brewpub chain’s beers in liquor stores? These two light bodied wheat ales have a similar base beer, with the Brewfoot containing a blend of 10 types of blueberries to give it a slightly bluish hue, while the River City has 100 per cent raspberry puree added, producing a slightly reddish colour. At their brewpubs, both come with the appropriate fruit floating on the top.
CSPC +770048 (Brewfoot), +770047 (River City) $16.00 6-pk. bottles