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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tasting Blind: Rating Summer Fruit Beers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 3:58 PM

click to enlarge We took great lengths to obscure the beers' identity.
  • We took great lengths to obscure the beers' identity.
For August's blind tasting, following up on last month's focus on summer beers (a way to ward off the season's cold, mentally anyway), we lined up a mixed bag of fruit beers befitting summer sipping. Though fruit beers are typically the realm of the Belgians, American craft brewers have had such success with them that even the big boys have thrown their hat into this ring ― sometimes with surprising results.

Panelists included Tom Madonna, co-owner of Shotwell's and gracious host for this session; Belgian beer importer Betz Hensley from Waterloo Beverages; evangelist and occasional beertender at Shotwell's Jen Rizzo; plus this blogger. The following are the locally yet widely available beers ― scored on a scale of 1 to10, based purely hedonistically ― listed in descending order of overall preference.

click to enlarge The lineup revealed.
  • The lineup revealed.
(Note: ABV stands for "alcohol by volume"; prices are approximate)

1. Bud Light Lime (St. Louis, Mo.): 31 points. This ain't no April Fool's joke. Out of eight samples, Bud Light Lime was the unanimous, across-the-board winner among four avowed beer geeks. (Just make sure it's cold; once it warms up, that telltale Anheuser-Busch, sour-corn taste seeps in.) Shh, listen: Is that the sound of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping closer? (4.2 percent ABV, $1.25)

2. Dogfish Head Aprihop (Milton, Del.): 25 points. Panelists disagreed on what the base style of this beer was (guesses included amber and märzen ― both lagers ― but everyone agreed we couldn't taste any fruit. The only surprising thing about beer geeks picking an un-fruity beer is that it still came in 6 points behind Bud Lime. (7 percent ABV, $2.75)

3. Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde (San Antonio, Tex.): 24 points. The one word that everyone used to describe this beer is "light." Rizzo took it a step further and added, "super easy to drink." (5 percent ABV, $1.50)

4. Marin Stinson Beach Peach (Larkspur, Calif.): 23 points. Another beer receiving comments of "light" all around, with a few commenting on how dry it was ― this blogger thought it had a hint of cocoa nibs or ground-up peach pits. (5 percent ABV, $4.29)

5. Unibroue Éphémère (Chambly, Quebec): 19 points. The first of three to tie at 19 points, this Canadian twist on a Belgian-style witbier employs not only curaçao and coriander but also apple juice. What Rizzo called "slightly grassy," Hensley dubbed "medicinal," but this blogger, for whom it tied with Bud Lime in terms of points, liked it best in this lineup for the "interesting way the spice played off the fruit." (5.5 percent ABV, $7)

6. Pyramid Audacious Apricot Wheat (Seattle, Wash./Berkeley, Calif.): 19 points. Most found it on the boring side, but this blogger said the marriage between a wheat beer and an almost-pulpiness to the stone fruit made it an easy drinker. (5.1 percent ABV, $1.75)

7. 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon (San Francisco, via Cold Springs, Minn): 19 points. In theory, this should be the quintessential summertime fruit beer, since this wheat beer undergoes secondary fermentation on watermelons. But the bottled version ran afoul of the fresh-on-tap version found in 21A's SOMA brewpub. No one was able to tag the fruit as watermelon. Rizzo called it "crisp, not overwhelmingly fruity," while this blogger felt it suffered from a "funky, dirty nose." (4.9 percent ABV, $2)

8. Lindeman's Pêche (Vlezenbeek, Belgium): 15 points. Ironic ― tragic even ― that the worst beer in the bunch was the only representative from Belgium, the land that performs miracles with lambics and other fruit beers. The moral here is that if you're looking for such a beer, don't get the cheap stuff available at Trader Joe's, when there are several bottle shops in town stocking amazing fruit lambics that warrant the cost. (5.1 percent ABV, $1.75)

click to enlarge The panel (from left): Rizzo, Madonna, Hensley, and the author.
  • The panel (from left): Rizzo, Madonna, Hensley, and the author.
Tune in next month when a new panel will blindly taste Oktoberfests in honor of the festival's 200th anniversary.

Other categories in this series:

Pilsner

Hefeweizen

Stout

Pale Ale

IPA

Summer

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow Brian Yaeger at @yaeger.

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