by Sophie Nelson, [email protected]
The other week I was chatting with a friend about a beer release at a brewery he follows. This, of course, is not a novel conversation. The beer style, however, is what caught my attention: a line of smoothie sour beers. Yes, you read that right. I admit I’m not the most on-the-dot person when it comes to new and exciting things in the beer world, but this completely threw me for a loop. I had to know more.
It turns out that smoothie beers originated on the East Coast and are the ideal attempt at making the perfect fruit smoothie that’s still technically a beer. They start with a simple kettle sour base. To make it a smoothie, lots of fruit juice and fruit puree is added, which thickens the body and adds drippy, fruity sweetness.
Lactose or other unfermentable sugars are added to round out a smooth, rich body with a creamlike sweetness. Other sweet additions such as vanilla are also common. What’s left is a refreshing, juicy, sweet, thick beer with just the right amount of tartness to make it drinkable.
To be certain I was getting the full experience, I picked up a few from some excellent Wisconsin breweries to try out.
Mango, Tangerine and Key Lime Smoothie Sour
Badger State Brewing (Green Bay)
Wow, what a start! This beer is the ultimate drinkable Sour Patch Kid. It offers bright, sour lime on the start, and it finishes with a candy-sweet taste of creamy mango and Key lime pie. It has a very manageable tartness, with just enough punch to balance the sweetness that really does remind me of gummy candy. It’s rich and thick, with the consistency of fresh orange juice. I can’t believe this is a beer.
Peach Ginger Smoothie Sour
Badger State Brewing
There’s a strong ginger start with this one that tickles the back of your throat, but it doesn’t quite give that spicy burn. It has a pleasant sharpness balanced with a light sweetness. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it really reminded me – and a few friends who were helping me taste – of the sort of wellness shot you’d get at a healthful smoothie store. One of my tasting buddies thought it tasted exactly like a ripe peach, but I struggled to get over thinking about it as a carrot-ginger shot.
Groovie Smoothie: Pink Guava and Passion Fruit
O’so Brewing Company (Plover)
This one is juicy, with a little tartness to keep it insanely quenching. There was so much passion fruit that I swore I was just waiting to crunch on the seeds. It’s very creamy without being heavy. I could drink this all day!
Coastal Sunshine: Orange, Banana, Pineapple
Humble Forager Brewery (Waunakee)
Picture the perfect ingredients for your summer fruit salad. Now put that in a beer. Crazy, right? Crazy delicious! I was very surprised by how much I liked this one. I don’t always like banana in beer, but you can tell that this one did it right: no fake flavors, only pure juice. It drinks like a Naked Juice made into a mimosa. The light carbonation and smooth acidity on the end were exactly like a champagne finish, and they made it drinkable and delicious.
Coastal Sunshine: Passion Fruit, Mango, Pink Guava
Humble Forager Brewery
This is a thick one! It pours like a mango Naked Juice and tastes a little like one, too. It has a light tartness to balance some of the sweetness and thickness of the body – but not a lot – so it drinks like a rich juice smoothie. The balance of rich, sweet mango and lightly acidic guava make a perfect balance for the ultimate summer smoothie that you’d never guess is actually a beer. I was lucky enough to snag a case of this beauty for the Ephraim Coffee Lab’s after-hours beer garden.