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.