There’s no right way to make a fruit beer.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t established methods. The Belgians have been brewing krieks for more than a century, aging spontaneously fermented lambic beer on sour cherries. After 20-plus years of making its flagship white ale, Allagash is pretty set on how to brew a wheat beer with orange peel.
But finding a common thread between, say, Founders Brewing Company Frootwood — a cherry ale aged in used oak and maple syrup barrels — and Wachusett Blueberry Ale is a (bad pun coming) fruitless exercise, because except for the fruit, the beers don’t have much in common. When people say “I don’t like fruity beers,” they aren’t really saying anything.
Which is why Phil Markowski, master brewer and cofounder of Two Roads Brewing Company, isn’t being coy when he says Road Jam, a fruited ale from the Stratford, Conn., operation, isn’t based on anything in particular.
“There certainly have been wheat-based beers with fruit added that existed beforehand,” says Markowski, and Magic Hat No. 9 and Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat come to mind. “But I suppose you could say that Road Jam bears a resemblance to lambics in that they contain a fairly high amount of fruit compared to other fruit beers.”
To make Road Jam, Two Roads brewers add lemongrass during the boiling stage, then raspberries after the initial fermentation, subjecting the brew to a second fermentation to preserve the aromatics.
Poured into a glass, Road Jam appears the dramatic reddish-purple of real raspberries, the same color that stains your fingers if you’ve ever picked your own. But the drink is far from syrupy or sticky. The fruit presents itself in the brew’s wonderful nose, with an energizing pop from the lemongrass.
But the beer is a little watery, without a biscuity backbone like in the Sam Cherry Wheat. Nor is there any spicy bitterness here, like in the Allagash. Still, Road Jam (5 percent ABV) is a fruity beverage that never feels cloying, giving it a distinct advantage over ubiquitous alcopops like Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
For something completely different, try Mr. Pink from the Denmark brewery To Ol. It’s a Berliner Weisse-style ale made with lychee and pink guava, and tastes like the old pink Mauna La’i juice made by Ocean Spray, albeit with a 4.5 percent ABV kick.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen