When done well, the addition of fruit flavors in the right beer can be a thoroughly harmonious experience for the drinker. The right ingredients link up and heighten the taste of things, making a good thing even better. An example of this phenomenon is the way that krieks use cherries to lend depth and slight sweetness to the beer’s sourness. Schlafly’s Grapefruit IPA found a harmonious way to blend a distinctive citrus taste with a solidly made India Pale Ale.
The risk when trying to create this harmonious pairing is ending up with something shrugged off as a “fruity beer.” Do it right and you have something that adds to the beer without distracting from the sense that you are, in fact, drinking a beer. Do it badly and you’ll have something akin to mediocre fruit juice that’ll leave you with a terrible hangover. Does anyone want that, really?
Into this realm strides Rogue Ale’s Paradise Pucker, a sour ale with three distinct fruit flavors in its list of ingredients: Passion fruit, pink guava and orange peel. The design here seems to be for warm-weather drinking. It comes in at 6% ABV and isn’t terribly heavy as you drink it; the bottle’s design features an archetypal tropical island and a bold pair of lips hovers above it all.
It might not be a sour ale capable of transporting you to a tropical vacation, but there’s plenty to savor in there regardless.”
When poured into a glass, the ale reveals itself to be somewhat hazy, and golden brown in color. Once you drink it, the fruits that went into the beer are distinctly discernible: There’s a robustness from the passion fruit, sweetness from the guava and citric bite you’d expect from the orange peel. The three work together nicely, with the more bitter and sour tastes keeping the guava from overpowering the rest of the beer. But there’s another component to the taste that also makes for an interesting addition to this beer, and it has very little to do with the trio of fruits that went into it.
Specifically, there’s a bit of sea salt present on the palate. The label cites “Free Range Coastal Water” as one of the ale’s ingredients—and the presence of a blissful ocean on the bottle seems more and more like a hat-tip to this aspect of the beer’s crafting. As tastes go, it’s not quite as forceful as, say, Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, but it is there. It fits into the complexities of this beer nicely, too. Much as the sour and sweet tastes work in tandem, the presence of this particular flavor discourages rapid drinking, instead pointing the drinker in the direction of a well-paced session of savoring this ale’s flavors over time.
That subtle addition winds up being the secret weapon of this particular ale. The beer as a whole is a complex creation; it’s deceptively light-hearted. Given the size of the bottle, this seems tailor-made for sharing with similarly-minded friends and pondering the different flavors as they emerge. It might not be a sour ale capable of transporting you to a tropical vacation, but there’s plenty to savor in there regardless.