As girly as they may seem to some, fruit beers can kick your ass in the brewhouse. With few exceptions, fruit beer is one of the most difficult styles of beer to brew right, so if you have yet to sample a good example of a delicious commercial fruit beer, this is probably why. And if the pros are struggling with this style of beer, just imagine how much more of a headache brewing an incredible fruit beer is for the homebrewer.
We’ve all heard that the key to any good beer is balance, and nowhere does this hold more true than with fruit beer: the ultimate Goldilocks challenge. When it comes to fruit beer though, you might think that the biggest worry for the brewer is packing too much of a fruity punch into the beer so that it ends up tasting less like fruit beer, and more like fruit soda. But the truth is that for most of us, it’s exactly the opposite. Imagine the letdown after going through all the trouble of selecting the finest, ripest, juiciest fruit, properly preparing said fruit, and then spending the extra time and money to ferment it, only to have all of that brilliant fruit character and sweetness simply vanish. This is one of the most common and frustrating problems faced by many a brewer when set with the task of brewing a stunning fruit beer using real fruit, a problem which I affectionately refer to as the case of the disappearing fruit, and one that is a particular threat to the keg-challenged homebrewer who is limited to bottling only.
I’m not going to lie: If you don’t have a kegging setup, the chips are stacked against you if you’re dreaming of brewing a brilliantly balanced, appropriately sweet, fruit beer. It’s not impossible, but it’s an uphill battle and you’re going to need all the help you can get.
So let’s get to it.