This year, walking down the beer aisle has felt a lot like perusing the produce section of a grocery store. Between the numerous strawberry wheats, grapefruit IPAs and raspberry sours, there's little question 2017 is the year of the fruit beer.
Adding fruit to a brew is nothing new, of course. For centuries, experts say, brewers have been using the ingredients available at their fingertips to make beer, including indigenous fruit, herbs and spices. American breweries, too, have built their reputations on fruited beers; for example, Pyramid Brewing Co. and its Apricot Ale. But recently it seems you can't scan a beer menu without feeling like you're choosing what to pick off an Edible Arrangement.
That's not a bad thing: Most drinkers are embracing these fruity flavors and, in fact, that's what is driving the trend.
According to a recent study by Nielsen, flavored beverages make up one of the fastest-growing sectors in the alcohol industry. Beer plays a role -- sales of flavored India pale ales, for example, grew to nearly $85 million in 2016 from $1 million in 2013, the study found -- but drinkers are also increasingly reaching for flavored ciders and malt beverages. This year, MillerCoors in Fort Worth spent $25 million on what it calls the most advanced flavoring system in its brewing network in anticipation of feeding consumer demand.
"It's easy to make a really delicious beer by adding really solid fruits," says Ryan Deyo, head brewer and co-founder of Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth. The brewery, which focuses on farmhouse-style beers, has a whole series that riffs on its popular Petite Golden Sour ale by adding various fruits, such as pineapple, blackberries, raspberries and cherries.
Don't expect this trend to spoil like a week-old bunch of bananas -- brewers are as invested in fruit beers as drinkers are.
"Brewers are nerdy experimental types. We like trying different things," Deyo says. "Adding your favorite fruit to a sour beer or gose is a really accessible way to play with your beer."
Here are five fruit beers worth your buck:
- Raspberry Petite Golden Sour by Collective Brewing Project (limited release)
- Grapefruit Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point Brewing Co.
- Passion Fruit Kicker by Green Flash Brewing Co.
- Apricot Hefeweizen by Wasatch Brewery
- Passiflora White IPA by Community Beer Co.