Season of Fruitfulness: Summer Beers with a Little Extra Flavour

Written by George Macke

In a sauce over ice cream, in muffins, or in a pie. These are all noble ways to use rhubarb, but can anything compare with putting it in beer? Two London breweries think not.

Forked River Brewing has, for most if not all of its six years in business, used rhubarb to brew Flashback. It’s a wheat beer with rhubarb added to give it a refreshing tartness and at 4.5 per cent alcohol, it’s okay to say, “I’ll have another.” Flashback has grown beyond the brewery bottle shop and is now sold at LCBO stores in London and beyond.

Not to be outdone, London Brewing has its own celebration of spring with Neighbourhood Tart, flavoured with donated rhubarb from the backyards of Londoners. The 2019 batch of this anticipated seasonal is ready at the brewery shop.

Rhubarb is not the only fruit helping to flavour beer at London Brewing. Arguably the best on the board is Resolution, which uses the lesser-known kumquat. Kumquats are about the size of grape tomatoes and, when used in Resolution, add a zippiness to the sour beer to create a warm weather thirst quencher decidedly different from Bud Light.

Here are some other beers with fruit themes from around the region to impress your friends with this summer.

Bad Apple on Highway 21 between St. Joseph and Bayfield brews a strawberry cyser-weisen, adding strawberries and apples to a base of wheat beer. There is also a strawberry-rhubarb version. 

Bad Apple is also brewing Penny’s Radler in collaboration with Culture Shock Kombucha of Grand Bend. Penny’s Radler will have a cherry flavour, along with vanilla. The juice and beer blends of radlers are a welcome addition to a summer’s day, whether you’re at a Huron County beach or in the city.

This summer, Upper Thames in Woodstock will be dabbling in the fruit and beer space again with Making Waves. It will be a sour beer, but exactly what fruit will be used is being kept close to the vest. Upper Thames also has brewed Waves – Black Currant, magenta in colour and so, so very sour. A beer with passion fruit, which is a popular choice for brewers, is called Making Waves. Both Waves — Black Currant and Making Waves — are on tap at the brewery.

Savouring and saving just got easier, thanks to Half Hours on Earth in Seaforth. The brewery has released a raw ale (which means the wort hasn’t been boiled) called Centigrade. Black currant leaves, dandelion roots, and lemon zest help to flavour this sour beer. Savour it, yes. The saving part comes with the knowledge that $1 from each bottle sold will be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation to aid its efforts to battle climate change. Climate change and Earth’s rising temperatures are also what inspired the beer’s name. Maybe take cold comfort with a refreshing beer for increasingly hot days.

Tango with mango, you say? Mango is a popular fruit to add to beer. At Anderson Craft Ales in London, they’ve combined mangoes and lime in a gose (a German-style sour beer) to create a pucker-worthy experience. Tart and fruity, this is fresh at the taproom.

Confluence, a sour IPA brewed by Storm Stayed in London, incorporates apricots and peaches with Azacca and Mosaic hops. Hop choices will add to the fruit flavour of a beer. Azacca provides citrus and tropical fruit notes. Mosaic hops, which are very popular, provide aromas such as blueberry and mango.

Black Swan near Brantford used almost 20 kilograms of mangoes in brewing kettle sour. The on-farm brewery doesn’t name its beer, but we’ll call this one Mango Mama.

Personally, I hate grapefruit and no amount of brown sugar can sway me. But squeeze that taste into a beer, and maybe … Black Swan in Stratford created Grapefruit Wild Child, a Berliner weisse which comes with the advisory that tartness and fruit flavour may vary by batch. Neat trick to keep us coming back to try some more beer.

If fruit creativity in the brewhouse is your thing, it pays to keep watch on the Renegade series from Cowbell in Blyth. The farm brewery/restaurant/event centre’s current release in No. 23, an oatmeal vanilla black lager. But recent releases have included a dry-hopped cherry weizen and a mango milkshake IPA. There’ll be more around the corner.    


About the author

George Macke

George Macke is a Southwestern Ontario craft beer explorer who spends too much time at the LCBO.