BEERADVOCATE'S CO-FOUNDER Jason Alström exasperatedly updated his Facebook status, "Cheers to all the breweries that are throwing caution to the wind and NOT coming out with a fruited summer seasonal brew!" Alström is equal parts beer geek and beer crank, but he's right that each summer, the veritable fruit salad of summery beers snowballs. And this weekend welcomes the Sixth Annual Portland Fruit Beer Fest, which organizers Burnside Brewing are moving out of their brewpub on East Burnside to the North Park Blocks, because its increasing popularity has outgrown its home.
Putting fruit in beer isn't new. According to Dr. Patrick McGovern, the Beer Archeologist (his actual title is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum), the Mesopotamians were brewing with fruit thousands of years ago. But here in America, the first modern fruit beer was made 31 years ago at McMenamins' first brewpub in Hillsdale, and featured some blackberries growing up the back fence.
Nowadays, after "hopheads," the second most popular type of drinker may be fruitheads. (I call IPAs with fruit in them PiePAs.) As far as I can tell that trend started in 1999 with Dogfish Head's Aprihop. Made with pureed apricots, founder Sam Calagione called it, "A fruit beer for hopheads or an IPA with a fruit problem." More recently, Boston Beer Co., makers of Sam Adams, made an Pineapple IPA.
When the Portland Fruit Beer Festival debuted in 2011, the first of its kind, 15 beers were featured. Of them, two were fruit IPAs and a few featured a sour component courtesy of Lactobacillus, like Burnside's Gooseberry Berliner-Weisse. Relatively speaking this wasn't so long ago, but it was a time when the Commons Brewery was still called Beetje.
This year's fest will feature 60 fruity beverages (beers and ciders) from 36 breweries and cideries. A dozen are sour fruit beers including Breakside's Lightning Punch and Ruse's Patchwork (featuring strawberries and basil). Seven are fruit IPAs including Block 15's Guelah Papaya and Fat Head's Apricot IBUsive. And of course, many see this as another opportunity to come up with awesome/awful fruit beer puns depending on how you feel about fruit beer and/or puns. See Stormbreaker's "When I Fruit, I Fruit for the Timbers," featuring 180 pounds of cantaloupe.
Perhaps you love fruit beers and can't get enough. Perhaps you're over them like our long-suffering Alström. (When reached for a comment, he said, "I've been flooded with press releases of the 'latest' fruited summer beer... usually more than not it is bastardizing a style. Not a bad thing but there are breweries that are leaders and some that are followers that seem to chase every 'trend'.... There are a lot that probably should have never been brewed. IMO.") In either case, the Portland Fruit Beer Fest goes down this weekend.
North Park Blocks, Fri June 10, 11:30 am-9 pm, Sat June 11, 11 am-9 pm, Sun June 12, 11 am-6 pm, $25, all ages, fruitbeerfest.com
Fruit Beer Picks!
Most of the beers at the fest were brewed for the event itself. But here are five local fruit beers where the only price of admission is the cost of the bottle or pint.
BridgePort Stumptown Tart Cherry Saison (7 percent ABV)—This year's iteration of BridgePort's sour-ish summery release is infused with cherries. The execution is a bit solventy (smells like nail polish), yet it's surprisingly light-bodied. It's not a thinker, but remains a popular sunny day drinker.
Burnside Lime Kölsch (5.4 percent ABV)—Suck it, Bud Light Lime! Yeah, we totally want a beer that tastes like a light lager mixed with limeade, but we just don't want to drink an Anheuser-Busch product. Kölsch is a traditional German style of beer, but adding kaffir lime is anything but traditional. If ever there was a guilty pleasure, this is it.
Double Mountain Devil's Cuvée Kriek (9.5 percent ABV)—This Hood River versions of the Belgian spontaneously fermented style of ale is a blend of oak-aged beer—funky, delightfully tart, and tannic. The refreshing sour kick comes courtesy of pools of cherry juice and accompanying acids.
Lompoc Pamplemousse Citrus IPA (5.8 percent ABV)—The name may be French for grapefruit, but the flavor is all Pacific Northwest. As if the grapefruity hops didn't cut it, plenty of real fruit juice is added. Think of this as a session paloma or greyhound.
Stickmen Kissed by Melons (5.4 percent ABV)—Kettle-soured beers are all the rage, some to greater or lesser degrees of success due to the barfy flavor of butyric acid. But instead of throwing up, this one makes you want to pucker up. It's initially tart lemon flavored, but the kiss of melon at the end is a nice touch.