About Fruit and 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 and Specialty Beers

Deschutes Brewery The Abyss Brandy Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
97 points
Dark brown black color. Interesting aromas of single village chocolate, graham cracker, licorice, and smoked jerky with a velvety, vibrant, finely carbonated, fruity fat body and a warming, intricate, long toffee, smoked peppercorn, dark roast coffee, and oak finish. A fantastical deep and rich imperial stout with great waves of flavor and texture to savor.
Awards: 2017 Top 3 Best Beer, 2017 Top 2 Best Ale, 2017 Top 3 Best US Beer,
2017 Best Barrel Aged Beer
Samuel Adams Cinder Bock
97 points
Hazy sunburst color. Attractive, smoky, meaty aromas and flavors of smoked meats, sausages and nuts, caramelized dried fruits, and apple butter on raisin toast with a chewy, vibrant, finely carbonated, fruity medium-full body and a warming, very long chocolate custard and orange peels, sweet bbq rub, and white ash finish. A superb smoky beer with great chewy, fruity, and smoky malt abounding with finesse and fine balance.
Awards: 2017 Best Lager, 2017 Top 2 Best Ale, 2017 Top 3 Best US Beer, 2017 Top 3 Best Beer
Upland Brewing Sour Reserve
97 points
Minutely hazy gold color. Sour aromas and flavors of pickled vegetables and fruits, champagne vinaigrette on greens, honey buttered sourdough toast, and reduced lemon with a lightly tannic, tart, effervescent, sour full body and a tingling, distinctive, very long radish and jicama, nuts, and grassy earth finish. A superlative sour beer with great length, power, and finesse.
Awards: 2017 Top 3 Best Beer, 2017 Top 2 Best Ale, 2017 Top 3 Best US Beer, 2017 Best Sour Beer
Island Brewing Company 2015 Big Island Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine
97 points
Cloudy color. Aromas and flavors of melted chocolate, caramelized nuts and yams, sweet and peppery spices and mint, and gingerbread pudding with a chewy, vibrant, finely carbonated, fruity body and a warming, very long vanilla custard, caramel frosted fruit cake, whisky soaked nuts, and pepper finish. A big, broad-shouldered bourbon-barrel behemoth of a beer.
The Boston Beer Co. 2013 Utopias
97 points
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.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Maracaibo Especial Special Brown Ale
97 points
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.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.
97 points
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.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Daft
96 points
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.
Caldera Brewing Company Rauch Ür Bock
96 points
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.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company The Philanthropist
96 points
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.