I generally espouse a “to each their own” attitude regarding beer. What I like may not be what you like. That being said, I tend to pass on fruited beers in favor of brews that coax the fruit flavor simply from hops.
This isn’t a grumpy-old-man “don’t put fruit in my beer” thing. It’s just that, to my palate, fruited beers typically lack the nuance and complexity of purely hop-derived flavor. Don’t give me a beer with mango and pineapple, give me a beer that tastes like mango and pineapple. Exchanging hop additions for fruit additions won’t ruin my drinking experience, but it does cap the ceiling for a beer in my opinion.
One beer that shrugs off my bias is Elysian’s Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale. Usually an offering I’d pass right over, I reached for the blood orange infused summer seasonal due to my affinity for Elysian’s flagship IPA Space Dust. I was curious if the maker of one of my favorite Northwest-style IPAs could raise the bar for fruited beer. Spoiler alert: Sort of.
Superfuzz is a deeply hazy, lightly-orange gold. It’s a pretty beer, with a solid finger of white head clinging to the glass. It looks like more of a New England-style IPA than a West Coast pale ale in my drinking vessel. However, the aroma is less intense—it smells more like a beer than a cup of fruit juice, so I’m fine with the subtlety. The blood orange addition isn’t immediately evident on the nose. Sweet citrus and grainy malt make up the bulk of the aroma I pick up, while straining to pick up much of anything at all.
Superfuzz is the perfect name, as the beer has a delightfully fuzzy quality, like shaking up the bottom of a bottle of orange juice.”
It’s the first taste that reveals everything there is to like about this beer. Superfuzz is the perfect name, as the beer has a delightfully fuzzy quality, like shaking up the bottom of a bottle of orange juice to infuse air. The orange flavor is bright, but distinctly blood orange—less sweet, more bitter and much less acidic. Elysian has picked up the key characteristics of the rind and flesh of the blood orange, which are both added during brewing.
I have a hard time seeing this beer stand on its own without the fruit addition. Blood orange singularly dominates the taste in a way that covers up the citra and amarillo hops. The malt bill and carbonation are perfectly crafted to support the blood orange flavor, but I’d really like to see how they’d play with a more traditional hop-only recipe.
While Superfuzz is more of a beer with fruit added than a fruited beer, it still suffers from some of the lack of complexity I bemoan across the style, particularly in the aroma. The taste is just interesting enough to support the 6.4% ABV, but it is the fuzzy feel that rescues the beer. Coupled with the blood orange flavor, Superfuzz is an ideal summer seasonal.