About Fruit & Specialty Beers

The specialty beer category includes some of the more unique and individualized styles. Many of these beers either do not have a clearly defined style guideline or do not fit under the umbrella of another category. Smoked malts and wild yeasts can drastically alter any beer's flavor profile, adding another dimension and layer of complexity for a brewer. Steeped in centuries of brewing history, styles such as rauchbier and lambic continue to be some of the more revered and sought after beers for consumers. Both styles exhibit a flavor profile that may not be for everyone, yet have very clear and devoted followings.

This category also includes barrel and wood-aged beers. Although the bourbon barrel continues to be the most popular, brewers have pushed this category far beyond bourbon barrel aged stouts, experimenting by aging any style from pilsner to Belgian-style quad, in any barrel they can get their hands on. Fruit flavored beer is another anchor of this category. Whole fruit or fruit juice may be added at multiple points during the brewing process with varying impact on the final beer. Regardless of how fruit is utilized by the brewer, the resulting beer should always preserve a balance between the added fruit and base beer style. This category also includes a wide range of hybrid styles, beers brewed from specialty yeast and malts and gluten-free ales and lagers.
Top Picks for Fruit & Specialty Beers
203443
Lambickx
Lambickx De Troch
Slightly hazy golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of salty baguette, gruyere omelet, and lemon spritzed green apples with tart, frothy medium-full body and a long, mouthwatering apple cider vinaigrette on endive and kumquat finish. A great food beer with laser-like acidity.
Date Tasted: 9/4/2013 in our Chicago tasting lab
199587
New Glarus Brewing Co.
Raspberry Tart
Deep scarlet mahogany color. Aromas of toasted raspberry pastry and oily roasted nuts with a tangy, fruity-yet-dry medium-full body and a suede, Meyer lemon, and grassy earth accented finish. Fantastically flavorful.
Date Tasted: 8/29/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
199588
New Glarus Brewing Co.
Wisconsin Belgian Red
Deep mahogany red color. Rich aromas of dried cherry and baklava with a supple, fruity medium-full body and a lush, layered finish with honey, cherry compote, delicate spices, and tangy citrus like acidity. A fabulous world-class fruit beer.
Date Tasted: 8/29/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
213260
The Boston Beer Co.
Samuel Adams Cinder Bock
Bright clear burnt sienna color. Bright, attractive, smoky meaty aromas and flavors of smoked jerky, smoked nuts, and pumpernickel toast with a satiny, vibrant, finely carbonated, fruity full body and a peppery, long cigar ember, dried fruits, caramelized pork, and grilled romaine finish. A delicious, well balanced smoky beer with nice chewiness.
Date Tasted: 11/3/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab
212127
The Boston Beer Co.
2013 Utopias
Clear reddish mahogany color. Lively, inviting, complex aromas of sherry, toasted fig bread, sautéed almonds, and pepper with a bright, moderately sweet full body and a peppery, very long caramelized oranges, soy, and sweet and peppery spices finish. A superb, high alcohol after dinner beer that is very reminiscent of a Palo Cortado Sherry.
Date Tasted: 9/13/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab
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Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Maracaibo Especial Special Brown Ale
Hazy medium amber color. Complex aromas and flavors of sour cherries, cinnamon, horse blanket, and candied ginger with a lively, dryish medium body and a very complex, long finish with overtones of dark cacao nibs and dried citrus. An amazingly complex and vibrant sour ale that is a benchmark for others in the category.
Date Tasted: 9/9/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab
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Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.
Opaque brown black color. Rich aromas and flavors of vanilla caramel cake, chocolate covered mangos and bananas, and rum raisins with a velvety, tangy, finely carbonated, fruity full body and a warming, colossal, endless finish with shades of herb toast, peppercorns, radish, and nuts. A fantastically flavorful and balanced barrel aged imperial stout that will be a superb, dangerously drinkable winter warmer.
Date Tasted: 9/3/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab
209191
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
Daft
Cloudy bronze color. Lively, dense aromas and flavors of praline, roasted tropical fruits, chestnut honey, and creme brulee with a velvety, tangy, finely carbonated, fruity medium-full body and a warming, very complex, very long finish displaying impressions of pepper jelly, brandied cherries and peaches, cedar, and minerals with light oak. An amazingly flavorful, complex , and balanced barrel aged beer.
Date Tasted: 1/20/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab
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Caldera Brewing Company
Rauch Ür Bock
Dark reddish mahogany color. Bold aromas of smoked nuts and hams and grilled stone fruit and beets with chewy, dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a tangy, roasted citrus, baked chocolate, radicchio, and peppercorn finish. Nice balance, vibrancy, and length of smokiness. Pair with Reubens and split pea soup.
Date Tasted: 11/18/2013 in our Chicago tasting lab
207809
Grand Rapids Brewing Company
The Philanthropist
Dark mahogany brown color. Attractive aromas and flavors of chocolate gelato, roasted nuts, dried fruits, and sweet tobacco with a chewy, tangy, finely carbonated, fruity sweet full body and a mildly astringent, epic, long finish with accents of pepper muffin, earth, citrus custard, and soy finish with light oak. A rich, powerful and balanced beer with great savory, umami character.
Date Tasted: 9/4/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab