Beer of the Week: Keep Your Fruit Out of My Beer!
Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie
will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it:
How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find
it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer
you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.
I've heard the impassioned cry from beer drinkers a thousand times before: "Keep your fruit out of my beer!"
Usually, that comment is levied from the deck of a pool-side bar, where people stick limes into Coronas like they're trying to ward off scurvy. The implication is that beer tastes well enough on its own -- why add citrus to muck it up? (Obviously, these people never tried a Corona sans lime.) Oddly enough, the folks usually making said comments are the ones glugging down cans of Coors Light or Natty Ice as they try to even out their farmer's tans.
As for me, I gotta fess up: I enjoy a Corona with a lime. Call me a
sell out or a beer wuss if you like, but a cold Corona with a squeeze
of bright acidity and maybe even a pinch of salt just tastes
refreshing. It's not in the same realm as a fine craft beer, mind you
-- I enjoy the two for very different reasons. But just because I can
get behind a $20 bottle of imported Belgian ale doesn't mean I need to
get all Nazi with people who want a kick of citrus in their brew.
Never mind that the whole lime in the Corona bit started out of
necessity and not for flavor. (Used to be Corona bottles were so
dirty that a swipe of lime across the lip of one was important if you
didn't want to catch something communicable.) But fruit in beer was not a
trend started in Mexico (or Mexican restaurants for that matter). Since
the early 1960s, German beer drinkers have been putting a slice of
lemon in their hefeweizen, or German wheat ale. The result would
accentuate the acidic, citrusy flavors present in the beer.
Of course, not everybody loved the lemon. Even now, it's far from
hefeweizen gospel, despite the fact that the practice has become so widespread
that the bartender is probably going to give you a slice of citrus in
just about any wheat beer you order at a bar these days. Shoot, Blue Moon probably single-handedly doubled the adult consumption of oranges in the U.S. since it debuted (may I add: yuck). Still, I think there's a big difference between pulling a shriveled
up piece of fruit out of a bar caddy and slicing a bit of fresh lemon
to squeeze into a cool hefeweizen.
Personally, I really like a squeeze of fresh lemon in a hefeweizen. Not
always, and not with every beer. But the reasoning is simple -- I like the
way it tastes. I don't care what rules you might have or what tradition
dictates. If it tastes good, then I'll do it. End of story.
I bought a six pack of Smuttynose Summer Weizen last week from Crown Wine & Spirits
(the Florida chain actually has a great selection of beer these days).
I took it home and poured myself a tall glass of the pale, wheaty
weizen and took a sip. It was yeasty and crisp with a faint alcohol kick. But it wasn't too tart. So I
opened up my fridge, grabbed a lemon, and cut a small slice. That
little squeeze perked Smuttynose's offering right up. Maybe it's not
for everyone, but sipping that refreshing wheat beer with a hint of
lemon just seemed right.
Best of all: There was no one there to tell me otherwise.
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