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Strawberry beers make for sweet summer sipping

There are plenty of beers that are made specifically for summer, but few exemplify the spirit of the season more than beers made with strawberry. Florida strawberry season may be over, but a nice, strawberry-infused brew does a great fill-in job as a tasty summer refresher.

I perused the stock of my local beer shops and was able to round up a handful of strawberry-centric beers (and one cider) to pit against the oppressive July heat.

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager (1), a crisp wheat lager, is made by the New Orleans-area brewery perhaps best known for another fruit beer, the raspberry-infused Purple Haze. This beer is a hazy, thirst-quenching lager with a nose like a strawberry shortcake scratch-and-sniff sticker and a sweet but delicate fruity taste to match. This is due to a hefty dose of strawberry juice blended into the base beer, giving it loads of fresh strawberry flavor and a dense fruitiness that nearly masks the Vanguard hops used to balance the beer's sweetness.

This is similar to how Früli Strawberry Beer (2) from Belgium's Brouwerij Huyghe is produced. This syrupy-sweet brew is produced by blending seven parts classic Belgian witbier (a wheat beer flavored with coriander and bitter orange peel) with three parts strawberry juice, natural, and artificial flavors. The result is a rich, decadent dessert beer reminiscent of some of the sweetened fruit lambic blends from Lindemans, De Troch and other popular Belgian brewers.

Despite the use of flavoring additives, Früli tastes authentic, though not as authentic as Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale (3) does. This beer is produced at the Melbourn Bros. Brewery in Stamford, England — a brewery that formerly produced spontaneously fermented fruit beers. The Strawberry Ale is blended and packaged at Samuel Smith's historic Yorkshire brewery, resulting in a rich, nutty and slightly tart beer that tastes like it's loaded with servings of actual strawberry jam.

On the lighter side of flavor spectrum is Time Traveler Shandy (4) from The Traveler Beer Co. in Burlington, Vermont. Shandies — a mix of beer and fruit soft drinks — are meant to be light-bodied and refreshing, and Time Traveler is no exception. Constructed from a wheat beer-base flavored with German Hallertau hops, Time Traveler gets its summery flavor from an addition of puréed strawberries.

If you're not in the mood for beer, you still have options in the strawberry department. Kopparberg Strawberry-Lime Cider (5) from the brewery of the same name in Bergslagen, Sweden is a fruit-forward brew, even for a cider. The apple cider base is flavored with strawberry and elderberry, giving it a fresh, berry nose and a bright, ruby-pink appearance. The cider is lightly carbonated and semi-sweet, with a clean finish. Oddly, there's no lime juice listed in the ingredients — just citric acid.

If you want to get more strawberry into your beer, but you're worried about what your beer snob friends might think, consider splurging for the only beer on this list that's not obtainable in local bars and bottle shops. Cascade Strawberry (6), from Portland, Ore., unfortunately is not distributed in Florida, but you can order it from cascadebrewing.com; the shipping is quick and reliable.

Cascade Strawberry is a blend of wheat ales aged together for up to 12 months in large, wooden casks, where they are inoculated with lactobacillus bacteria. The beer is then aged another three months with fresh strawberries, giving it a funky, tart strawberry flavor. The bad news is that it's $20 a bottle, and there's a two-bottle minimum to order online. The total for two bottles after shipping is nearly $60; caveat emptor. Personally, I say go for it — I've had this beer twice this season, and it's world-class, a funky, complex, and aggressively-sour fruit ale that is unlike any other beer on the market. — jg@saintbeat.com

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Strawberry beers make for sweet summer sipping 07/11/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 3:17pm]
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