Inevitably when we dream of great summer beers we start to think of FRUIT BEERS!
A good lawnmower beer is a great beer to have on a hot day after working in the yard or playing with the dog. However, when the temperature climbs a little touch of fruit in a well made crisp beer can really slake the thirst… and keep you coming back for more.
Getting fruit into your beer can come in three general ways: Raw fruit purchased fresh, fruit flavored extracts, or prepackaged fruit products. Each one has its pros and cons.
If you are fortunate to live in an area with a unique source of fruit in ample supply there can be great pride taken in making your own beer with local produce. Depending on location you can often get raw fruit at the peak of freshness for maximum impact on the beer. The down side to natural raw fruit is that from a beer stand point it is dirty. If you want to keep wild yeasts and bacteria out of your precious brew this can be a challenge with raw fruit. Secondly, the fruit likely needs to be processed in some way, such as a food processor or other mechanical mashing, to release its goodness into the beer.
The largest advantage that extracts have is the extremely low likely hood of a microbial contamination. These things are often made as alcohol based extractions of fruit flavors and they are easily filtered free of microbes. Second to that is the ease of use. You can easily control the amount of flavor you get by adding a little at a time to a keg or bottling bucket. Just add an ounce at a time, stir and taste. When its just right you are done. The disadvantage with extracts is that many people complain they tend to taste like….extracts. Something is just missing from the flavor profile that you can only get with fresh fruit.
Prepackaged Fruit Products:
Namely I am referring here to fruit purees. With these products you get the advantage of whole fruit fully processed to expose the fruity characters and you get cutting edge packaging and handling technology. Many fruit purees are flash pasteurized so the microbial contamination issue is eliminated. The only minor disadvantage is how much to add. You’ll need to add a puree in a secondary fermentor like you would raw fruit and let it ferment out to prevent overly carbonated beers at bottling time.
Overall, I think that Fruit Purees are the way to go. You get pre-processed fruit that is sterile and packaged at its peak of freshness.
A common variety is the Oregon Fruit Products brand. I have seen these a many a homebrew shop. So give them a try next time you are looking for a fruit addition. I know the next Strawberry Wheat I make, I am going to try it out.