Do you remember the first fruit beer you had? And if so, do you remember it fondly? I do, and I do. I was a sucker for Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat for a good half-decade in my early twenties, and I still defend its honor in public. But I must admit that I haven’t had one in several years, and I fear I’d be disappointed if I revisited it.
I can’t talk definitive shit about a beer I haven’t had in recent memory, but I suspect my beloved Cherry Wheat might be the sort of sticky, goopy mess that high-minded beer geeks like our fine selves tend to look down upon. For a long time, American fruit beers were kinda bullshit: maybe fun for the first six or eight ounces, but ultimately too syrupy and fake-tasting to justify buying a 6-pack.
But fruit is so damn good, and beer is so damn good, so it makes perfect sense that they’d be good together! This is why we’re lucky to live and drink in an age when serious brewers are finally starting to devote attention to elevating this previously lackluster style. Some of the best beers I’ve had in the past 18 months feature fruit to some extent.
Most of my favorite fruited beers employ cherries, which often impart a bracing tartness to balance out the increased sugar load fruit brings to the brewing process. This is why I was a bit hesitant to spend $12 for 10 ounces of Founders Blushing Monk at a Kentucky Breakfast Stout event earlier in the spring. Founders is one of my favorite breweries, and raspberries are one of any sound person’s favorite foods, but I still wasn’t certain a raspberry beer could provide $1.20 per ounce worth of pleasure.
As it turns out, I preferred Blushing Monk to the KBS that brought me out to the bar in the first place. Although I am very much pro-fruit beer, I still couldn’t imagine so much depth and complexity of flavor could be wrung from fermented raspberry juice.
First of all, Blushing Monk may be the prettiest beer on the market. It’s bright red! It has a very strong raspberry aroma that alternates between sweet and sour, with a bit of biscuity malt and Belgian yeast, and even a touch of herbal hops lingering around the edges. Blushing Monk sits very thick on the tongue, which isn’t nearly as gross as it sounds. The initial taste suggests a really talented person’s homemade raspberry-and-grape Pop Tarts, but then the acidity emerges to balance things out and remind you that this is no mere fruit trick, but instead Serious Beer, the sort that costs $20 a bottle and has 9.2 percent alcohol by volume.
Founders Blushing Monk is absolutely special-occasion beer, but as long as you restrict your intake to a few sunny afternoons per year, it’s well worth the indulgence.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.