03 August 2007

Far flung fruit

The Session is upon us once more, and this time the theme is fruit beers. The Low Countries, and Belgium in particular, are the spiritual home of fruit beer. Brewers there have been softening lambics with fruit syrup and spicing up witbiers with orange peel since time immemorial. I've decided to step away from the native styles, however, and go for something a bit different: exotically-themed Benelux fruit beers. Surely there can't be too many other Sessioneers writing on that today.

So first up is the delightfully-named Iki Beer. It hails from the Netherlands but is very much pitched on a Japanese theme. As well as the usual hops and barley, cloudy orange Iki contains green tea and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit. Refreshment appears to be the product's main aim. Alas, what that actually gives us is blandness. The foretaste is dominated by lots of gas making it difficult to taste anything. The aftertaste is quite strong on lagery malt, with the hops level turned slightly higher than the average lager. But of fruit and tea there is only the faintest trace at the end. I'd have hoped for a bit more citrus out of this one, so a bad start to the day's fruitiness.

I admit I'm stepping outside the remit of the Session theme with my next one, Palmnut from the Belgian Mongozo range of African-themed fair trade beers. When one describes a beer as "amber", one does not normally mean to imply the serious quantity of suspended floaty bits characteristic of that gemstone, but Mongozo Palmnut is very definitely amber. You'd almost expect to see a dino-blood-carrying mosquito in amongst the debris. It tastes pretty smooth, though, and carries the full weight of its 7.5% alcohol. Unfortunately there's not much else going on: no nuttiness or fruitiness, just vaguely acidic sour notes, like a lesser class of Rodenbach. I am none the wiser as to what palm nuts actually taste like. Strike two on the fruit quest.

Staying in the same range, my last offering is Mongozo Banana, and there is no shortage of fruit here. Two years ago I reviewed Banana Bread Beer and remarked how well-balanced its banana flavour was. Mongozo cares not for such subtlety: this beer presents a rampant banana dominating everything else. It's incredibly sweet, to the point of turning sour again, and only the soft fluffy texture stops it from being hard to drink. I have little doubt that every single person I know would hate this beer, but I have a soft spot for it. Bananas on the label; bananas on the palate; bananas out and proud. It makes up for the lack of fruit in my other two beers all on its own.

To sign off I'd like to give props to Greg over at Beer, Beats & Bites for hosting this Session and for choosing such a daring topic. Fruit beer has a very bad reputation among beer fans of my acquaintance, and I'm sure there were groans at keyboards across the beer blogging world when the topic was announced. But bunging fruit into beer is one major way of Keeping It Interesting, and for me that's a big part of what makes beer worthwhile. Oh, and if anyone's interested in my actual recommendations for good fruit beer, two very different ones are Früli and Cantillon's Lou Pepe Kriek: both Belgian, natch.


  1. Thank you for the review (we import Iki into Ireland), even if you didn't find it quite what you were hoping for. Iki is already making a strong challenge to the more established - fruitless - 'Oriental' beers. Those might be the ones to taste it against another time. You can look forward (?) to imported Sapporo in the airship-like 650ml tin from us fairly soon, too. I'm looking forward to me next pint of Adnams.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Julian. I'm not a huge fan of Asian (or Asian-style) beers generally, so I definitely welcome anything on the market that's out of the ordinary, including Iki. Keep up the good work.