To describe something as a fruit beer is actually to not really describe it at all, considering the extremely wide spectrum within the category. 

Fruit can be added to nearly any base style you’d like, whether it’s a wheat or a wit, a sour or a stout. The history of fruit beers is really pretty interesting, if you think about the 500 year-old Belgian brewing tradition of fruit lambics, spontaneously fermented ales that can come in a variety of forms such as cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), or peach (peche). But unlike some of the artificially sweetened, Kool-Aid-like versions you tend to see out there (I won’t name names), true fruit lambics tend to maintain the inherent sour characteristics of the base style with a nicely balanced, supporting role from the fruit.   

Which leads me to my point. Generally speaking, I think the fruit aspect in a beer, whatever that fruit might be, should serve to complement the underlying base style rather than overpower it. Sometimes it works very well. However, sometimes it can completely fail. 

One of those big misses in my beer sampling history was Leinie’s Berry Weiss, to this day my ultimate in fruit beer disasters. More of a non-descript berry assault on the senses parading around as a smooth beer. Then came a few others, including Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, which all things considered is actually pretty drinkable, but compared to something like Founders Cerise, one of the better fruit beers I’ve had in recent memory, is definitely in the minor leagues of the segment.

Founders continues to impress me, whether it’s their very well-done Centennial IPA, Red’s Rye Pale Ale or something more on the extreme end of the spectrum like their Kentucky (or Canadian) Breakfast Stout. Their Cerise, a 6.5% ABV, lightly hopped cherry ale is nothing short of spectacular.   

Beautiful black cherry aroma from the fresh Michigan cherries used at five different stages through the fermentation process (I suppose fruit beer’s answer to Dogfish Head’s continuous hopping process). Reddish amber appearance with a pinkish creamy head. The taste and aroma are fairly similar…a noticeable maltiness that couples well with the sweet cherry, leading to a perfectly balanced tart finish.

Really superb. And definitely a “gateway” kind of beer I would readily suggest to someone who may not be as interested in or familiar with craft beer in general.

Rating: A