There is a debate raging among craft beer enthusiasts today that I’d like to weigh in on, since it has the possibility of splitting the legions of beer drinkers who might otherwise agree. This topic is one that comes up and I get asked every summer (and sometimes debated on). Bartenders have even started asking about it, now that summer is coming around. My friend got asked in south Boston the other day when ordering a hefeweizen…. “Do you want fruit in ya beeah?“
It is the question of whether or not one should put a slice of fruit in, or around, certain beers to enhance or compliment their flavor.
The most familiar to all is the Corona + Lime situation. Urban legend has it that drinkers of Corona in Mexico would wedge a slice of lime in the neck of their bottle to keep out various tropical insects that might be attracted to the beer. After tourists saw this, it became commonplace and Corona is rarely served without the lime. (In fact, Corona also sells a lime slicer on their website to assist you in this process). While this one can infuriate a lot of beer drinkers that may object to the “girly” act of putting a lime in a Corona, I’d like to assert that the lime actually adds a little bit of a crisper, cleaner taste to a Corona. I am not one to shun a beer altogether, but the clear bottle and lightness of the ale does leave it prone to skunking, and to me Corona always tastes a little bit sour or skunkish, which I can only hope that it is intended to. The tartness of the lime balances out that sourness and I would like to say, improves the beer a little. And, what’s more summery than putting something tropical in your brew? I have to admit that I often put two limes into mine, because I really like lime flavor. (but not enough to try this)
Blue Moon (or other wheat beers) + Orange slice. This one got started by playing off of Corona’s lime popularity, and because of some of the spices found in a Blue Moon, such as coriander. “Putting a new twist on the lime ritual, Blue Moon is traditionally served with a slice of orange,” their bottles say. The orange is supposed to enhance the flavors of the spices within the beer.
Similarly with some hefeweizens, they are recommended to be served with a lemon to bring out some of the citrus notes in the wheat.
The major problem most people have with these combinations is probably that if a certain beer is supposed to go with an orange or lemon to enhance the flavor, the usual response is:
“If [insert beer here] had any flavor to begin with it wouldn’t need fruit or something to enhance it”.
In the defense of the orange or lemon slice, I’d say that there may be something to the idea of scents bringing out character in beer – perhaps to better synch your taste buds to your nostrils. This doesn’t mean that the beer had no flavor initially! In fine cooking, certain herbs are used for their “aromatic” qualities only, and may be on the plate just to enhance the flavors in the main dish. Why would this be such an odd notion for beer enthusiasts? Beer tasters aren’t afraid to use their noses when examining a beer. So why not use fruit to bring out more of a good thing?
It might be a good discussion starter at least or just plain something to have fun with. (After all, we wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t enjoying it, right?) A bar in Portsmouth serves blueberry beer with huge Maine blueberries in it, and half of the point is the fun of watching the blueberries dance around in the carbonation.
I’d say that if putting an orange on the rim of your blue moon gets you away from tasteless beer, then go for it! It’s a little bonus and something more fun than drinking out of a can (or whatever else you normally drink in the summer with friends.) Maybe I’m partial because blue moon was one of the first beers that I tried once I turned twenty one and really liked… but I say give the folks with the orange or lemon slices a break.
I’m personally in support of anything that will get people drinking good beer.
Thanks for listening – The Beer Babe