Fruit beers occupy an odd space in the beer world. They often get disregarded and thought of as beers for people who don’t drink beer, except for the few fruit beers that get lauded over by the beer geeks (see: New Glarus, certain lambics/sours with added fruit). I don’t envy anyone trying to make a fruit beer, because there is rarely any middle ground. There is a fine line between the fruit beer that deftly contrasts the sweetness of the fruit with a tart or dry finish, all the while trying to make sure the fruit does not taste artificial or cloying. The beer will ideally be refreshing on a hot summer day, yet as complex and vibrant as any good beer should be.
The St. Ambroise Frambroise (5% ABV) from the McAuslan brewery has been in and out of Ontario over the past couple of years, but has become more of a mainstay this summer with its inclusion in the St. Ambroise Gift Pack at the LCBO and a stronger presence on tap in bars. The Framboise pours a lovely pinkish-red with a fluffy, billowing rose-hued head. This was one of the rare heads that looked so good I almost took a spoon to it – just incredible looking. As one would expect, the smell of raspberry is prevalent, but there is also a green, earthy quality that reminds me of freshly picked berries.
You always want a fruit beer to taste like real fruit, as opposed to a syrup or artificial flavouring, which the St. Ambroise Framboise does. The raspberry is the star, but it still tastes like beer with a biscuity malt character. The sweetness of the fruit is balanced by a nice tartness, adding complexity and giving the beer some balance. It is a refreshing beer with a body similar to that of a wheat beer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some wheat was added to the malt bill. The beer finishes dry, which is exactly what I like in a fruit beer. Another well made beer from McAuslan.
If you’re still not swayed, check out the review yesterday from Chris Schryer over at the Toronto Beer Blog.