It’s hard to win with fruit beers.
Some are sweet and sticky, verging on a cooler or cider. The best ones in this category are bursing with ripe fruit with a trace of malt and hops; the worst are the ones that hit you over the head with nasty, tinny, cloying artificial flavour better suited to an alco-pop.
Then there’s the flip side: a whole range of beers so concerned about accidentally burying the flavour of the beer that they hardly add any fruit at all. The world is too full of insipid lagers with a pink raspberry tint, or overly robust, hoppy beers that outcompete any subtle fruit flavour added to them.
It’s a fine line to walk, and there are far more fruit-beer failures than successes.
Granted, a few brewers get it right. Belgian brewer Floris makes a super-fruity fruit beer called Ninkeberry (likely too sweet for some, and not beerish enough for others), and Edmonton’s own Alley Kat Brewing makes a beautifully balanced apricot beer known as Aprikat. The former is sweeter than the latter, but neither one is afraid to show their fruit.
From the very first sniff, the Blackberry Porter from Cannery Brewing in Penticton, B.C., announces itself as firmly in the fruit-forward category. The nose is juicy blackberry and roasted barley, with a whiff of alcohol. (It’s not a light beer by any means.)
The first sip lets you know that you’re drinking beer, not a cooler. The blackberry and the porter compete for attention, all the way from the start to the finish. The not-overpowering sweetness contrasts with the bitterness from the hops and the astringency from the roasted barley. It’s a complicated dance between the two elements. And it’s delicious.
Paired with a dessert, I’d go with chocolate ice cream with berries, or maybe mocha cheesecake. With food, you’ll need something to stand up to it. A flame-grilled steak, possibly drizzled with a wine (or blackberry wine) reduction? In fact, this might be a curious beer to cook with.
Be warned that this isn’t a quick sipper. You’ll need time and patience to appreciate it.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $5.59 per 650 mL (22 oz.) bottle at DeVine Wines and Spirits.
Value for cash money: Not bad. It’s a big bottle, and it’s an interesting microbrew.
Availability: Spotty in Alberta. Probably better in B.C., where it’s from.
Nutrition?: It’s beer.
Beerish power: 6.5 % a.b.v.
The verdict: Not some limp beer-tinged cooler. It’s packed with fruit flavour without shying away from a whole heap of beer taste. Good stuff.