Fruit Beers an Excerpt from Wild Brews

Reprinted with permission from Wild Brews by Jaega Wise, Kyle Books 2022

fruit beers

These are one of my favourite beer styles to drink. When a brewer gets it right, a fruit beer can be glorious: like the heavens opening, angels singing. But when a brewer gets it wrong, it can be beyond disappointing. All that hard work and effort just for someone to say: ‘They used mango? Really?! 
I couldn’t even taste it!’

Fruit beers have, for some reason or another, long been associated with women. You might hear a bartender suggesting ‘a fruit beer for the lady’. It is a cause of irritation for me, 
and probably many other women, too. In 
my experience, it just isn’t true.

When you’re dealing with a customer that announces: ‘I don’t like beer, but I love fruit ciders,’ introducing them to a fruity Berliner Weisse is often an easy win. The pH levels of cider and that of a light sour are similar, so the distance to travel between the two drinks is not that great. But people do surprise you. More than once, I’ve seen the person that announces they ‘don’t like beer’ end up clutching a 10 per cent Russian Imperial stout – definitely not a beer usually associated with beginners.

The first time I brewed with fruit was problematic. In fact, not just problematic – it was explosive. Literally. Most fruits are laden with simple sugars, normally fructose and glucose. Additionally there are usually some more complex sugars present. The rest of your fruit is made up of pectin, tannins, aroma compounds and vegetative matter, all in various quantities, depending on the fruit you’re working with. It’s very important to remember that when you add fruit to your brew, you add sugar. You need to give your chosen microorganisms ample opportunity to feast on your fruit sugars, either in primary or secondary fermentation. If not, you’ll end up with an explosive mess – as I found out to my ceiling’s detriment. When you bottle beer at home, the beer will usually contain residual yeast. This yeast will continue to consume your unchecked fruit sugar in the bottle, producing more CO2 in a finite space. This increases the pressure inside the container, and eventually leads to exploding bottles. No one needs that! These pitfalls are so avoidable. Following a few simple rules will help you get it right, every time.

The first thing you have to decide is the 
type of fruit you want to brew with. It sounds straightforward, but there is usually a whole plethora of different factors you have to take into account before you can begin your brew. What type of beer do you want to brew? 
Does it really need a fruit addition, and, if 
it does, have you left enough space in the 
recipe development and the beer’s flavour profile to really let that fruit shine? Brewing with fruit, especially real fruit (not essences), can be one of the most complex, challenging and rewarding brewing experiences. But be warned: this is not for the faint-hearted! 
I would certainly recommend being able 
to brew cleanly, with no ‘off’ flavours in 
your brew, before you even attempt this. 
But this is not a book for the unadventurous, so here goes…

fruit types

You can buy fruit in a variety of different formats. Depending on what you want to achieve, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Fresh fruit

The epitome of fruity brewing. Brewing with fresh fruit has an authenticity, a wholesomeness. It’s like comparing a sourdough bread to a sliced white loaf. Fresh fruit is high in flavour, cheap (when bought seasonally) and, whether it’s picked from your own garden or bought from your local greengrocer, you know – or can easily find out – where it has come from.

However, brewing with fresh fruit is not all sunshine and daisies. The first time I brewed with fruit commercially was with fresh raspberries. I had been down to New Spitalfields market in East London the night before and haggled for my fruit. New Spitalfields market is where London’s fanciest restaurants buy their fruit and veg in the dead of night. Trading starts there at 11 p.m., but in reality many of the traders won’t sell you a bean until they’re fully set up at around 1 a.m. So I turned up at the brewery the next day with my raspberries, a food processor and a lot of determination. Once the raspberries had been crushed and whizzed, I added them to the brew at the 
end of the boil, feeling pretty chuffed. What 
I hadn’t counted on were the seeds. Those damn raspberry seeds happened to be exactly the same size as the holes in the filter at the bottom of the kettle. So obviously, they blocked the kettle completely! I had to use every ounce of engineering skill I possess to free my raspberry beer from its seedy prison. Fate was cruel that day. My point: using fresh raspberries in a commercial brew can be impractical. It’s important you use what’s viable for your situation.

How much fruit do I add?

• lackberries: 120–500g per litre

• lueberries: 120–350g per litre

• herries: 120–500g per litre

• aspberries: 30–375g per litre

• ango: 50–120g per litre

• pricot: 180–500g per litre

When should I add it?

Kettle, fermenter, secondary fermentation.

Top tip

It is important that you take a gravity reading before and after the addition of fruit. This will help you to calculate the final alcoholic content of your beer.
. . .

Rule of thumb

Fresh active yeast will convert simple sugars in fruit into alcohol and CO².
. . .

Rule of thumb

Bacteria is more likely to act on sugar before you see any significant response from the yeast when you add fruit to matured aged sour beer.

Frozen fruit

Whether you’re using fruit you’ve frozen yourself or fruit from a supermarket’s frozen aisle, freezing can be a great way to work around the seasonality of fresh fruit.

With traditional freezing methods, i.e. if you put it in your own freezer, the water within the fruit freezes and expands, which will cause a rupture of the cell wall. Water is one of the few known substances whose density decreases upon a change of state – going from a liquid to a solid form. It’s the reason why ice floats and icebergs exist. Most liquids shrink upon freezing, as the molecular structure becomes more tightly packed. Water follows this same shrinking pattern until it reaches 4°C (39°F), but below that, it slowly begins to expand until the freezing point is reached. When water freezes, it expands in volume 
by a massive 9 per cent (approximately).

Although this rupturing of the cell wall would be less appealing if you wanted to 
eat the fruit whole (no one wants to eat a 
wet, mushy strawberry), it can actually be advantageous to the brewing process. When the cell walls burst, a huge amount of the fruit flavour and colour is released. Because of this, using frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit can work well when making beer.

When should I add it?

Kettle, fermenter, secondary fermentation.

Above left: Cell in natural state.

Above right: Cell wall broken after freezing.

Pulps and purées

One of the most common questions I am asked when talking about fruit is: ‘What’s the difference between a pulp and a purée?’ The answer: not a lot. The two words are often used interchangeably. In the grand scheme of things, a pulp and a purée are in fact very similar. However, there are differences that must be noted, albeit small ones.

A fruit pulp is the edible part of the fruit 
that has been pressed. Pulp has often had the membranes within the fruit crushed, releasing more juice. The final product contains the juice as well as the fibrous content of the fruit. It can, depending on the fruit you’re working with, have a similar consistency to a marmalade.

A purée, on the other hand, is exactly that: fruit that has been puréed. So it should be smooth and contain no lumps.

Both pulps and purées are stabilised 
for storage in some way, whether that’s pasteurisation, freezing or the addition of formic or sorbic acid. One of the major benefits of both fruit pulps and purées is that they retain the same flavour, aroma, taste and colour as the whole fruit, as well as its beneficial nutrients.

On a commercial scale, I love brewing with fruit purée. My only issue is the sheer amount of volume it adds to your brew. You have to take this into account. If you have a 20-litre brew, and you want to add 5 litres of purée, but your fermenter is only 23 litres… well…

Another thing to watch out for when buying fruit pulps or purées is their sugar content. Many small-scale, readily available purées are made for use in cocktails, and they have often had sugar added. Always check 
the ingredients to ensure that what you are buying is the fruit alone and nothing else.

When should I add it?

Kettle, fermenter, secondary fermentation.

Juices and concentrate

Freshly squeezed juice is delicious, but it does have its limitations. Untreated fresh juice has a short shelf life, which can limit its use in beer. If you do use freshly squeezed juice, whether you make it yourself or buy it, always taste it before adding it to your beer. You wouldn’t want to ruin your beer by adding spoiled juice.

Widely available in supermarkets, however, are fresh juices that have had minimal heat treatment and are supported by cold-chain distribution. These can be great additions to your beer.

Making a fruit juice concentrate was, 
can you believe it, the final project of my Chemical Engineering degree. The process 
is complicated. It involves a huge amount of processing, which in the final product shows in a loss of flavour. Fruit juice made from concentrate is easy to transport, get hold of and straightforward to use. One can definitely see why they are so popular.

One of the most important things to note 
is that the fruit juice aroma is removed fairly early on in the process when making fruit juice from concentrate, in order to protect these volatile compounds. Aroma compounds are easily damaged and simply would not survive the evaporation process intact. They are later added back into the juice.

The difference in flavour between freshly squeezed orange juice and orange juice from concentrate is palpable, and that difference will probably be noticeable in your brew. The colour of a fruit juice concentrate, or the deterioration thereof, can be a good indicator of quality. Any overprocessing or storage in poor conditions will be evident in its colour.

I have worked with some excellent fresh juices and juice concentrates, and some terrible ones. I have learned over the years to make a judgement call based on the quality of the juice or concentrate I have in front of me. There is no better way, and there is no substitution for tasting the product. When making a beer – or any drink – from fruit, the quality of the raw material is always where I start.

There are many different options for the many types of fruits and juices that you can add to your home brew. Cherry is a common addition to krieks, passionfruit is added to sour beers, whilst red berries are often used in dark beers and citrus fruit such as grapefruit and oranges are used in IPA’s.

When should I add it?

Kettle, fermenter, secondary fermentation.


Fruit essence can come in a few different forms. The aroma that is removed during the fruit juice concentration process to protect it from the heat, can be separated and is sold on its own. It’s usually clear and concentrated. It has uses in many other industries, including the perfume industry, and can even be an ingredient in sweets! It can also be used to enhance fruit beers.

However, I must admit that I am not a big fan of fruit essences. They can be narrow, one note and lack the complexity of fresh fruit. However, I get that, on a commercial scale, fruit essence can have its uses, especially when working with fruit with a muted nose. 
A good example would be blueberries or cherries – both fruits that don’t have a strong or immediately recognisable smell. When a natural essence is combined with a pulp or purée, it can result in a beer that not only tastes great, but smells great too. My advice here: if you are going to use an essence, do 
so sparingly.

Artificial essences or flavourings tend to be made in a laboratory, often from raw materials that are not edible. Often the chemical compounds found in natural flavourings and artificial ones are actually the same, but overuse of these kinds of flavourings in beer is where I draw the line. For example, the difference between ‘fake’ cherry, such as cherry drops, and real, fresh cherries is vast and the fake version just isn’t something 
I want to drink. I get that there are many 
beers out there with these kinds of tastes 
and flavours, and there are some that have become very popular, but it’s just not what 
I want to produce.

When should I add it?

Prior to packaging.

Dried fruit

Brewing with dried fruit can be delicious: think raisins, dried apricots and dried sloe berries. You will often get the most out of your dried fruit by rehydrating them before use – simply soaking them in water. A lot of dried fruit ends up sitting in a dusty cupboard weeks or months, so it’s always worth washing thoroughly and sanitising with boiling water prior to use. Watch out for preservatives, additives or oils – you don’t want those in your beer, so always check the ingredients list.

When should I add it?

Mash, kettle, fermenter, secondary fermentation.



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