If you want to make the beermakers at Surly even more surly, ask them when they're joining the hard seltzer craze.
"Most brewers aren't into the idea of making things with less flavor," Surly's Bill Manley says with trash-talk flair. Still, the Minneapolis brewery's director of brand development conceded, "There's no denying seltzers' popularity. We have to compete with that, but we have to do it on our own terms."
Surly's answer was to create more light, summery — but still flavorful — beers infused with fruit. Building on the success of its Grapefruit Supreme, it has added three more Supreme tart ales: Black Cherry, Mango and Key Lime Supreme, now sold together in a variety pack and on tap at the brewery's newly reopened beer garden.
Between keeping up with seltzers (and ciders), experimenting more with sour beers and emphasizing summery vibes on their patios, many Minnesota breweries are getting fruity. Like Surly, though, they're all quick to emphasize that adding fruit doesn't subtract from beers' other flavors.
"We're very careful about when and how much [fruit] is added so it still tastes like high-quality beer," says Jon Eager, research and development brewer at Indeed Brewing.
Indeed is proof that fruit beers are nothing new: The northeast Minneapolis brewery's lemon- and orange-tinged Lucy Session Sour has been a staple since 2017. This year, it is heavily promoting its Strawberry Fields sour ale — first brewed five years ago in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing in Colorado.
Historically, fruit beers have been closely tied to Berliner weisse, framboise and other light German and Belgium beers. More recently, American breweries have been experimenting more with fruit-infused pale ales and especially sours.
Some of the best examples of the boldest fruit beers can be found in taprooms around the state, especially Bad Habit in St. Joseph, Tin Whiskers in St. Paul and Eastlake and Wild Mind Artisan Ales in Minneapolis.
For more accessible/less pucker-inducing fruit beers, look no further than the Minnesota State Fair, which helped popularize Grain Belt Blu (blueberry lager), Summit's Cabin Crusher (kölsch with lime) and Lift Bridge's Mango Blonde and Key Lime Pie ales.
Like the fair, though, the demand for fruit beers come and go fast: "Our sales numbers clearly show they just don't sell well in the cold season," Eager said. "They're definitely more of a summer thing in Minnesota."
Three to try
Mango Blonde, Lift Bridge Brewery, liftbridgebrewery.com
A good starter for those who want a refreshing fruit beer that's still hearty and not too fruity. This golden-malted blonde ale from the Stillwater-reared (and now also in New Richmond, Wis.) brewery has an orange-gold hue that glows beautifully in the summer sun, and a lightly bready flavor that lingers sweetly in the mouth.
Strawberry Fields, Indeed Brewing, indeedbrewing.com
Beer drinkers not sweet on sours still might take a shine to this fruity kettle sour. The brewers use berry-tinged Belma hops and add lactobacillus (a good kind of bacteria) during fermentation to bring out the fruity flavor without overloading the sweetness. It goes down a lot easier than that complex process sounds.
Grapefruit Supreme, Surly Brewing, surlybrewing.com
This one pops with fizz and aromatic citrus, so much so that the brewery has offered recipes to use it for gin or tequila cocktails. The bright tang balances out nicely with the tart ale's wheaty, hazy-yellow body. Basically a sure thing if you love grapefruit and beer.