10 Best Fruity Beers For Late Summer Sipping

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- There are much better ways to combine fruit and beers this summer than sticking a wedge of half-rotted lime into a bottle of Mexican light lager.

Blending fruit flavors into beer is nothing shy of sacrilege to drinkers who still define beer by the Reinheitsgebot German beer purity law limiting ingredients to water, barley and hops. Well this isn't 1487 anymore, and the Belgians told the Germans where they could stick their purity laws well before that. Though some wheat beer brewers claim to still keep it simple, many brewers have gone the Belgian route and added sugars and other fruity ingredients to their beers to give drinkers some more refreshing options for the warm months.

We hate to break this to the traditionalists, but the fruit-craving, malt-seeking masses are winning. Sales of hard cider in the U.S. jumped 25% last year, to $49.5 million, and inspired MolsonCoors ( TAP) to buy out Minnesota hard cider maker Crispin. Meanwhile, Mike's Hard Lemonade maker Mark Anthony saw sales jump 16.2% last year after climbing 23% in 2010. It may not be beer, but when these beverages share cooler and tap space with their beer competitors, it can mean trouble for brewers unwilling to adapt.

With help from the beer raters at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer as well as some in-house tasting, we've put together a 10-pack of great fruit beers for sipping away those dwindling summer days:

Stumptown Tart
BridgePort Brewery
Portland, Ore.

The Portland mainstay brewery issues another version of its pinup-labeled Stumptown Tart each year, but this year's batch is a bit more complex than its predecessors. This pink-hued concoction combines strawberries, raspberries and marionberries from Oregon's Willamette River Valley with pilsner and wheat malt for a light and slightly sour Belgian-style. Don't let the fizzy fruitiness fool you, though: At 7.8% alcohol by volume, this is a sipping beer worth keeping away from your summer session pint glass.

Wachusett Blueberry
Wachusett Brewing
Westminster, Mass.

There are brewers who'll argue that their beer is closer to the blueberry source and others who'll use a teaspoon of frozen blueberries to perform parlor tricks in your pint glass, but none of their blueberry ales are as consistently light and refreshing on a hot day as Wachusett's. The blueberry flavor isn't super sweet or overstated and its malty finish makes it easy to have more than one in a sitting. Its relatively low 4.5% ABV won't punish drinkers for reaching for another.

Pomegranate Wheat Ale
Moylan's Brewery and Restaurant
Novato, Calif.

Brendan Moylan's been brewing since 1995 and built his reputation in Novato by making enjoyable, flavorful brews that fit in quite well with his California neighbors. The Pomegranate Wheat that Moylan brought to the Oregon Brewers Festival last month strays from that template a bit by taking a mild, lightly hopped wheat beer and brewing it with Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice. The result is a tangy 5% ABV dream of a beer that's slightly more flavorful than Moylan's standard boysenberry wheat brew while far more fizzy and light than straight pomegranate juice. It's a fun little experiment that's an excellent fit for a stiflingly hot summer.

Raspberry Crush
10 Barrel Brewery
Bend, Ore.

The Belgian fruit beers don't hold much back in flavor or in punch. This offering from 10 Barrel strays from that formula and puts the puckeringly tart raspberry upfront while keeping the beer's boozy bite down to 5.2% ABV. With almost no hop presence to throw off the taste and just the right combination of the wheat and bacteria Belgians love so well, the Raspberry Crush is as close to a pure fruit beer as a brew this mild can get.

Wisconsin Belgian Red
New Glarus Brewing
New Glarus, Wis.

Tucked away in a Wisconsin town that looks like it was airlifted in from the Swiss Alps, New Glarus Brewing has perhaps the broadest fruit beer offerings of any brewer in the country. With offerings including a Raspberry Tart near-sour beer, a Cherry Stout and an Apple Ale, it takes quite a bit to separate any one brew from the pack. The pound of Montmorency cherries in each 750 milliliter bottle do just that by overwhelming the Wisconsin wheat and coming across like a dessert wine. At a mere 4% ABV, however, the Belgian Red just begs to be finished over a dinner of mussels or an ice cream nightcap.

Cerise
Founders Brewing
Grand Rapids, Mich.

We didn't want to put a second cherry beer on this list, but Founders forced our hand with this light little summer seasonal. Cerise pours like a reddish pink spritzer and isn't too cherry sweet or raspberry sour. The Michigan tart cherries deserve a lot of credit for that balance, but even that pleasant mild flavor can't mask 6.5% ABV that makes Cerise best enjoyed in small servings.

Festina Peche
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Sam Calagione and company aren't looking to knock drinkers over the head with peach flavor. They're just using peaches in their fermenting process to make this 4.5% ABV Berliner Weisse as tart and sour as possible. They pretty much nailed it, as the tart peach is evident from the first whiff and lingers in the slightly sour flavor that follows. It's fairly mild as sour beers go, but is a good set of training wheels for summer fruit beer drinkers looking to sip something a bit stronger than their last Shock Top.

Pineapple Kolsch
Cigar City Brewing
Tampa, Fla.

We've mentioned before that Florida has its own way of brewing that's heavily influenced by weather, environment and the folks who call it home. Cigar City's Pilot Series of experimental brews reflects this with a beer that takes all the mild, understated, lawnmower beer qualities of the German Kolsch style and buries them beneath a heaping helping of pineapple flavor. The result? Perhaps the first tropical cooler for the beer set. Put away the Pina Colada and move aside the Mai Tais -- at 5% ABV, this Pineapple Kolsch is just as sweet as either but will get you to sundown. Cigar City's flirted with flavors such as passion fruit and dragon fruit before, but it may want to consider making the pineapple kolsch a summer staple.

Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat
21st Amendment Brewery
San Francisco

It doesn't get more summery than a watermelon-laced wheat beer served in a 12-ounce can. Though usually the domain of brewpubs that stick foot-long wedges of watermelon into pint glasses of heffeweizen and call it a special, the watermelon beer can be a dreadful bore for palates built on loads of hops. If you're a wheat beer fan or someone who doesn't think much of beer at all, 21st Amendment's watermelon wheat is a tasty alternative to more bitter beers. It's malty, it's smooth and at 5.5% ABV it's just slightly more potent than a light lager and a lot sweeter.

Kona Wailua Wheat
Kona Brewing
Kailua Kona, Hawaii

The Craft Brewers Alliance's ( BREW) westernmost member isn't above brewing porter or brown ales during the summer or making cold-brewed lagers in a warm-weather climate, but summer puts this brewer right in its sweet spot. The Wailua Wheat stands apart from its blonde Belgian brethren by putting some passion fruit into the mix and sweetening up the citrus undertones a bit. It's not what hard-line beer drinkers like to hear or even what witbier lovers like to taste, but Wailua Wheat does for passion fruit what Magic Hat No. 9 and Pyramid Brewing did for the apricot: Made it a standard fixture on the American beer spectrum.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.