There’s nothing inherently wrong with making beer with fruit additions, but it needs to be done with respect. If a brewery respects the ingredients, the process, and the drinkers, they can create wonderful fruited beverages that are not cloying or artificial. Of course, Redd’s Strawberry Ale from MillerCoors is probably not the drink you’re after. Here are some craft-brewed choices for when you want a little strawberry in your beer.
Don’t Drink This:
A few months ago we took a look at the original Redd’s Apple Ale as the marketing push for the beverage resulted in ubiquitous TV spots and aggressive retail placements. That post has become one of the most popular (and controversial) on Beer of Tomorrow, and I thought I should follow it up with some alternatives to the strawberry flavored version.
Before I get to the recommendations I’ll provide one caveat – if you legitimately enjoy Redd’s drinks (or any other mass market malt liquor hybrid beverage), more power to you! I’m not telling you to NOT drink something that you enjoy, but rather helping people who might be curious about the flavors promised by these glossy-brands find a craft-brewed alternative that should be more satisfying. And again, I haven’t actually tried the Redd’s brews – I see no need as I’d never be able to give them a fair-shot, and I’d rather drink one of these anyways:
Strawberry Ale – Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Ale
A British import, this is unmistakably a beer – but with a firm presence of berry flavor. Sam Smith makes a lot of great classic English ales, and you can find them at most decent bottle shops. If you want your strawberry beer to still taste like an ale, this would be my #1 recommendation. (They also make a cherry, raspberry, and apricot version – though these are tougher to find.)
Gluten Free Strawberry Ale – Dogfish Head Tweason’ale
This “between seasons” seasonal from the Delaware brewery uses massive quantities of fresh strawberries, and it’s brewed with a sorghum base instead of traditional malted barley so the brew is gluten free! It isn’t particularly beer-like, but I’d wager that many people curious about Redd’s don’t want something beery anyways. It tastes like a sweet, fruity soda but is still 6%ABV. Worth a shot for the berry-curious and gluten-intolerant alike.
Light and Crisp Berry Lager – Abita
The Louisiana brewery is perhaps best-known in California for their Purple Haze raspberry lager, and this is a great choice for warm spring and summer days. The brew is refreshing, very sessionable at 4.1%AVB, and not too tough to find. The brewery also makes a seasonal Strawberry version that comes out after the harvest. All their fruited beers have fresh juices added post fermentation and filtering, so they’re a bit sweet and very flavorful.
Pucker-up – Sour Beers with Strawberry
Many of the inventive breweries working with wild ales have a brew features strawberries. They can be limited releases, tough to find, or brewery-only beers, but keep your eyes out for examples from Cascade Brewing, New Glarus, and Upland Brewing. Orange County’s The Bruery collaborated with Hangar 24 on Ichigo Highway a couple of years ago, but good luck finding bottles of that. (The Bruery’s Sans Pagaie and Beauregard – sour blondes with cherries and blueberries added respectively – are probably my favorite berry-beers.) You might have more luck with Goose Island’s Gillian (which also uses white pepper and honey).
What are your favorite berry beers?