If you want to drink something fruity and alcoholic, we suggest wine, cider or even mead. However, if you’re dead-set against those other ferments and need a fruity Michigan beer, Revue’s got you covered — sort of.
Fruit beers are not our first — or even fifth — style choice, but they are a thing and many people, especially hop-haters, seem to enjoy them.
On the other hand, we like our beer to taste like, well, beer. (The exception to that general rule of thumb: sour beers. Try the pomegranate Incipient Golden Sour from Speciation Artisan Ales in Comstock Park — you’ll thank us later.)
In any event, it turns out that brewing with fruit is nothing new. A look back into the history of brewing shows that many of the earliest beers used whatever local ingredients were available at the time, including fruits, herbs and spices.
“The list of additives in medieval beer corresponded roughly to what you’d find in a local market,” author Jeff Alworth wrote in 2015’s The Beer Bible.
He described the recent return to fruited beers as a form of “place-based brewing,” a movement inspired in many ways by the local food trend. In other words, brewers can use fruit to show off a seasonal flavor, which might explain why so many West Michigan brewers use fruits like cherries, raspberries and blueberries that are common in the region.
One caveat: Brewers can also use fruit or other flavorings to cover flaws or off-flavors in a beer. It happens, so just be aware and ask a lot of questions if you have any suspicions.
Revue gathered a baker’s dozen of fruit beers made by Michigan breweries and put them before our tasting panel. Here are our recommendations.
Perrin Brewing Co., Comstock Park
Pours a sparkling and clear amber, a bit like rosé. Cherry and overripe fruit aromas, but nothing too sweet or tart. It seems like it’s an IPA in name only, called such to move beer off the shelf. Regardless, it’s a well-balanced beer and downright refreshing.
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids
Pours a signature deep ruby red. Raspberry dominates the nose, as well as the taste in this beer. If you like raspberries, this is the beer for you. Some tasters — who admittedly do not like sweet beers — said it bordered on being too sweet for them, but wasn’t offensive. (Pro tip: Try it on nitro.)
Bell’s Brewery Inc., Comstock
Pours a hazy yellow, with yeasty and wheaty aromas. Flavor is reminiscent of a Belgian golden ale with a hint of cherry, which comes through more on the finish.
Strawberry Short’s Cake
Short’s Brewing Co., Bellaire
Looks a bit like a rosé, and has an effervescent, ripe fruit aroma. A slight berry tartness to the flavor up front tapers off to light biscuity notes. This is a light beer — don’t expect a ton of body — but it really surprised us because it managed to avoid being a sugar-bomb.
Mi-Berry Vice, Arcadia Ales, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
Lost Dune, New Holland Brewing Co., Holland
Tropical Saison, Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids
Grapefruit IPA, Perrin Brewing Co., Comstock Park
Mother Schmucker, Grand Armory Brewing Co., Grand Haven
Mandarina IPA, Saugatuck Brewing Co.
Exeter, Short’s Brewing Co., Bellaire
Raspberry Ale, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall
Cranium Crush, Petoskey Brewing Co., Petoskey