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

Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Alexander
97 points
Dusty mahogany color. Savory, sour aromas of reduced lemon with balsamic, sour cherry kefir, and lettuce greens with pickled veggies and vinaigrette with a satiny, vibrant, finely carbonated, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a smooth, compelling, medium-long sourdough cherry toast with lemon-kiwi marmalade, marinated artichokes, nuts, and brandy barrels finish. A complex, delicious and flavor pack sour fruit beer that will rule at the table.
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.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Barrel Aged BORIS Royale Imperial Stout
95 points
Ebony color. Aromas and flavors of chocolate coconut macaroon, brown butter, and dried berries with a silky, bright, finely carbonated, off-dry medium-to-full body and a tingling, appealing, long chocolate mousse, roasted nuts, latte, and peppered greens finish. A solid imperial stout with fun chocolate, fruit, and coffee flavors.
Awards: 2017 Best Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Reuben’s Brews Bourbon Barrel Auld Heritage
95 points
Dark sunburst color. Complex aromas and flavors of creme brulee, honeyed cherries, and maple nut brittle with a slightly chewy, bright, off-dry medium-full body and a warming, elegant, toasted coconut, peach cobbler, and cherry cola and brandy finish. A very lively and stimulating barrel-aged ale that will make a great fireside winter warmer.
Island Brewing Company 15th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale
95 points
Brown color. Attractive, sweet aromas and flavors of chocolate toffee, caramel fudge, and latte with a chewy, vibrant, finely carbonated, fruity sweet medium-full body and a warming, elegant, long coconut custard, vanilla, and pepper finish. A lush, chewy, chocolatey bourbon-barrel aged stout in the classic BCS style.
Shmaltz Brewing Company R.I.P.A on Rye
95 points
Reddish mahogany color. Aromas and flavors of chocolate covered citrus peels, roasted nuts, bread pudding, and pepper with a chewy, vibrant, finely carbonated, dry-yet-fruity full body and a warming, very complex, very long smoked nuts and meats, caramel fudge, grilled grapefruit, and pepper finish. A lush, full-throttle ménage à trois of hops, malt, and a barrel.