In the ’90s, most Americans — outside of beer connoisseurs — didn’t know much about craft beer. Fast-forward to 2020, and your average drinker is more willing to branch out from macrobrews into the nuances of craft beer in its many varieties, especially those with a fruit flavor profile.
Christine Celis, owner and head brewer of the rebooted Celis Brewery in Austin, has witnessed the rise in popularity of craft beer. She’s part of a legacy that was at the forefront of introducing fruit-flavored craft beers locally. Her father, Pierre Celis, started the original Austin brewery with the Celis name in 1992.
"Originally we are from Belgium," Celis says. "In Europe and Belgium in particular, you have a lot of fruit beers. When my dad was flying back and forth, he said fruit beers are doing so well in Belgium, and he thought it would be very appealing to the American drinker, as well. Sure enough, it was a tremendous hit. People loved it because they never had a fruit beer before unless it was imported, and now they had it fresh."
In 1994, the original Celis Brewery introduced its famous Celis Raspberry. The modern iteration of the brewery has carried the flavor into the present.
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Texas has tons of breweries and distilleries innovating in their respective scenes, and "Texans are proud of being in Texas," Celis says. "So, they’re very proud of what’s being manufactured or brewed in Texas. We try to buy as much local as possible. Our brewers are as competitive and knowledgeable as anywhere else in the nation. So, I’m proud to be here. I’m not shy to go and compete in the World Beer Cup, because I know in Texas, we have a lot of good breweries."
With good breweries come good, ice-cold beers, essential tools for enduring sweltering Texas summers. Fruit beers, unfortunately, can catch heat for being one-note and sometimes flat. Far from the case, we rounded up eight flavor-packed, Texas-brewed fruit beers that are worth your attention this summer. Check brewery websites and your favorite beer store for availability.
Celis Raspberry (Celis Brewery, Austin)
As one of the original fruit beers from Celis Brewery in the 1990s, this still reigns supreme. The brewery uses its renowned witbier brewed with a proprietary yeast strain originating from the 18th century and adds 100% pure raspberry juice. It’s great for drinking all on its own but equally tasty when combined with prosecco or seltzer for a touch of extra fizz.
Mango Smash IPA (Three Nations Brewing Company, Carrollton)
Three Nations founder and head brewer Gavin Secchi was trained in Germany. Prior to Three Nations, he worked at a number of renowned breweries including Goose Island in Chicago, Karbach in Houston, Rahr & Sons in Fort Worth and Franconia in McKinney before launching Three Nations in 2015.
Though the Mango Smash IPA is made with mango and pineapple concentrate, it’s the six different hops that give this beer its enticing scent. First brewed in spring 2017 as a seasonal IPA, it has now become the company’s bestselling beer. It doesn’t taste quite as bitter most IPAs (thankfully), plus it has a light and crisp mouthfeel.
Smarty Dinoberry (Ingenious Brewing Co., Humble)
The entire Smarty series is comprised of refreshing Berliner Weisse-style beers that are conditioned on fruit and other natural flavors. They pack a bit more punch than your average Berliner Weisse and weigh in at a nice 6.8% ABV. "This summer, we were inspired by one of our favorite ’90s treats, Flintstones Push-Up Pops, and created several variations of our Berliner Weisse showcasing the flavors of sherbet and vanilla beans," says Joshua King, the brewery’s distribution and event manager.
Smarty Dinoberry is a tart Berliner featuring blackberries, boysenberries, blackberry sherbet and vanilla bean flavors. Currently, it is only available to go through Ingenious’ Houston-area taproom (1986 S. Houston Ave. in Humble) and will only be there for a limited time. So, call your Houston friends and get on that!
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Juicy IPA (Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Houston)
When Saint Arnold is developing a new beer, their research and development team usually tastes several different variations of a recipe. However, with Juicy IPA, there was only one version presented to the panel. It was an automatic hit and immediately approved. Yeah, I know the feeling — after just one sip, you’re hooked. This beer fits its "tropical and citrusy" description. I mean, what’s not to love about an IPA that features subtle bitterness followed by a hint of sweetness?
Dankonia Express IPA (Zilker Brewing Co., Austin)
This IPA is bursting with pineapple flavor. Dankonia Express is the perfect hazy, medium-body beer. While there’s plenty of sweetness here, there’s also balancing bitterness. For IPA fans, this is a cool switch over into the world of fruit beers.
Colour Out Of Space (4th Tap Brewing Co-op, Austin)
Hypnotized by the bittersweet aroma and fangirling for the inclusion of blackberries and raspberries, this kettle sour is one that transports me to a cooler day. (We can only imagine.) Mike Foster, 4th Tap’s brewer, says the beer "has a pale base malt with a smack of wheat, not-too-low pH for approachability." It’s 4th Tap’s first kettle sour they’ve ever produced, and it immediately became one of their top three selling beers in the taproom, attesting to its delicious, crave-inducing taste.
Island Mist Tropical Spritzer (Austin Beerworks, Austin)
I’m a huge fan of Austin Beerworks’ zesty Tropical Einhorn. So, I was bummed to find out it’s completely sold out (only available in select stores) until next year. On a happier note, the brewery is slated to release its equally refreshing Island Mist Tropical Spritzer, a low-cal, low-carb, gluten-free beer, in mid-July. It contains all-natural mango and lime puree. What started out as "a weird science experiment," as described by co-founder Michael Graham, ended up in a flavorful beer ready-made for summer. He adds, "The finished beer isn't at all what we expected, but we love it. It reminds us of an adult version of Capri Sun, which is why we gave it that silly name."
This beer will be exclusively sold through the brewery’s taproom (3001 Industrial Terrace); their patio seating is once again closed due to recent state pandemic orders, but beer to go is still available, according to their website.
Strawberry Blonde (Southern Star Brewing Company, Conroe)
Nothing screams summer more than strawberries. When infused into a delicious beer such as this one, you’ll appreciate the fruit all the more. This crisp and dry lager is brewed to have a hint of juicy strawberry. It’s one of the best beers you’ll have all year long.