Do fruit juice sours get people into beer?

There are now beers that look and taste just like fruit juice or pop. Is there a route from enjoying those to appreciating, say, cask bitter?

First, we should say this: we (and especially Jess) quite like fruit juice beers. We have a ready supply from our local specialist off licence, Pat’s News and Booze.

They’re usually available at some of our favourite bristol pubs, too, such as The King’s Head, The Llandoger Trow and The Swan With Two Necks.

Often filed under ‘sours’, and badged as ‘modern sour beer’ or something similar, sourness is, oddly, not always a defining feature.

Or, at least, to us they seem no more sour than a can of Lilt or Fanta, and distinctly less so than a glass of grapefruit juice.

Our notes on Vault City’s Fruit Salad ‘session sour’, for example, were “artificial fruit (as hinted at by garish label) but not too sweet or sour… vanilla notes… raspberry dominates over pineapple”.

We can imagine why these are popular.

For a start, the cans often look appealing with bright colours, attractive pop art typography, and words like ‘sherbet’ or ‘tropical’ that get your mouth watering. (Don’t tell the Portman Group.)

Secondly, they don’t look, smell or taste like beer, just as berry cider doesn’t look, smell or taste like cider, and the original Hooch didn’t look, smell or taste like booze at all.

This is a major selling point if you don’t like beer, or the culture that comes with it.

Drinking a kiwi, melon and mango session sour this weekend, we marvelled at its similarity to actual mango juice, even down to the viscous texture, achieved with oats.

We then tried to imagine someone starting out on beers like this, perhaps as a student, and wondered if they’d ever find their way to Bass or Young’s Ordinary.

Perhaps the novelty of novelty beers might wear off after a while. We often find ourselves saying things like: “This is good but I couldn’t drink two in a row.”

Or maybe once you’re a fan of a particular brewery you find yourself willing to try their soft and hazy IPA. The one that’s a bit like fruit juice, but couldn’t actually pass for a smoothie. That is definitely beer, with discernible hops, even if we wish it was more bitter.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter at all.

If fruit juice beers allow breweries to connect with customers who would otherwise drink Reef or Bacardi Breezers, that’s good for the industry.

In terms of cash flow, anyway.

7 replies on “Do fruit juice sours get people into beer?”

Old-school bitter in most its forms is – there’s no getting round it – bitter, and as such it takes a bit of getting used to. I’m old enough to remember when that was a really big deal, because what was going to be on the bar was bitter and, er, that’s it. Back then, if you didn’t get used to bitter you didn’t drink beer at all – certainly not real ale. Thinking about my own tastes in 2023, though, I’m a big fan of a lot of styles that aren’t assertively bitter (as well as some that are) – West Coast IPAs, light milds, tripels, porters… and fruit beers, at least if they’re done as well as Vault City do them.

There are lots of beers out there that you can find your way to from a not-obviously-beery starting point; if you don’t acquire the taste for Harvey’s Sussex Best along the way, well, it’s your loss, but it’s not going to hold you back any more than never acquiring the taste for stout, say.

Agreed. Bitter is “bitter” and like most things that are worth doing, acquiring the taste for it takes perseverance and persistence.

There are enough daft novelty beers out there (Black IPAs, pastry stouts NEIPAs), without adding to the pile.

Why is there this constant need to spoon feed people, or hold their hands? Man up, or as my wife would say, put your big girl’s knickers on! ????

I think it was back in ‘94 at GBBF when I first encountered a beer, other than a Belgian one, that had fruit in it. Magic Hat Number 9, a not quite Pale Ale with Apricot, it was different, it was actually rather nice and it was recognisable as a Pale Ale. Fast forward to the plethora of fruited Sours, IPAs, Gose & whatever’s next on the hit list and the predominant impression is of overly sweet artificial fruit with no recognisable link to whatever beer it is flavouring. Can they, will they act as gateway beers to more traditional styles? I somehow doubt it, more likely to lead to diabetes.

They are alcoholic drinks for those that don’t like beer. Gateway to bitter or stout, or even a clean lager? Not for many I’ll bet.

Coming from another angle, I’m finding too many beers that aren’t beery enough, for me that’s not bitter or hoppy enough.

E.g. I used enjoy NEIPAs but I’ve found a lot of the mainstream ones (Brewdog’s Hazy Jane, Northern Monk’s Faith) are too soft, fruity and are just quaffable and a bit nothing.

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe the recipes are softening.

When I was a lad in the 50s and 60s fruit juice was a bit of a rarity. We had orange squash, lemon barley water and lime cordial, with lemonade or coke as a treat. I can remember looking forward to the time when I would be able to enjoy the adult taste of beer, all yeasty and bitter. Nowadays perhaps kids are getting hooked on the huge variety of sweet fruit drinks and never really grow out of it.

Comments are closed.