Fruit beers divide opinion. Some really love a tart, cherry-stuffed kriek but others have only come across very sweet fruit beers and loathe them as a result. There are those that think fruit just has no place in beer and others who think it ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it. I fall into the latter camp.
If it’s done well, if it’s made with real fruit, if it tastes good then it gets my vote. Fruit beers I love include Burton Bridge Damson Porter (4.5%), once described to me as being like an orgasm in a glass; I was blown away the first time I had De Keersmaeker Morte Subite Oude Kriek (6.5%) because it was tart and fruity – nothing like the horrid sweetened krieks I’d been given previously – and perfectly matched the suckling pig I was lucky enough to be eating and then there’s Cantillon. I was lucky enough to visit the famous Cantillon Brewery in Brussels last year and while there tasted their frambozen. As with my kriek experience until then I’d only been given frambozens (which are made with raspberries) packed with added sugar. Cantillon think added sugar is an unnecessary evil. They don’t even call their frambozen a frambozen because of the negative connotations with the horribly sweet versions. Instead they call it Rosé de Gambrinus (5%). It’s a gorgeous reddish-pink beer, smells of flowers and raspberries and is gentle but tart like a raspberry sorbet – or perhaps a pavlova as there’s hints of creaminess too. I am misty-eyed just thinking how lovely it was.
So I was intrigued to be contacted by a brewery from Brazil which makes beers with fruits native to the rain forest – most of which I’d never even heard of. Amazon Beers are based in Belém in the north of Brazil and their labels were designed by US beer evangelist Randy Mosher (I’m not sure if he is also responsible for their logo but in any case it is a clever little design featuring a monkey whose tail forms the ‘o’ in ‘Amazon’). As I understand it the fruit used is made into a puree and added after fermentation.
I started with Cerveja Stout Acai, or Acai Stout, (7.2%) partly because I love stout but also because I’d heard of acai berries, which are meant to be an antioxidant-rich superfood. I didn’t get round to trying any before writing but apparently they taste like a cross between blackberries, raspberries and dark chocolate and have a fairly bitter character. Sounds a perfect match for a stout! It’ll be no accident as Amazon Beers employ a beer sommelier who works with the brewer to create the recipes – which are tested on a pilot brewing kit before going into full production. The Acai Stout was delicious. It had a big, dark chocolate aroma with hints of tobacco and liquorice and a tangy, chocolatey flavour with a herbal, piney bitterness. It somehow managed to be both rich and full-bodied but light and refreshing too.
Next up Cerveja Witbier Taperebá or Taperebá Wheat Beer (4.7%). Taperebá fruits look a bit like potatoes but apparently taste like mangoes. They are often made into ice creams in Brazil. I didn’t get mangoes when I tasted the beer but a mixture of mandarin, melon and apricot. There was an initial juicy-fruity tart bite to the beer which gave way to a refreshing, fuzzy sherbet-like flavour and then to a balancing cereal aftertaste. Overall a zingy, little wheat beer with an unusual fruity character.
Finally I tried the Red Ale Priprioca (6%). Priprioca is a root rather than a fruit and is said to have a woody, vanilla flavour and even an aroma of patchouli! (You can find an excellent video about it, and its use by Brazilian chefs, here). I didn’t pick this up in the beer, instead it reminded me of a strong British-style bitter but with rhubarb crumble and baked apple flavours (the latter in a good way – like a spiced apple baked with sultanas and raisins – NOT a green apple off flavour). I was sorry I only had one bottle of this beer, both because I enjoyed it but also I wanted to re-taste it after researching priprioca.
At the time of writing Amazon Beer’s UK website is down but I understand the beers are available in Britain and there are plans to increase exports. I hope so as I definitely want to quaff more Acai Stout and further investigate the flavour of priprioca.
You can find Amazon Beer’s website – which is in Portuguese – here.