While beer has traditionally been made from just four simple ingredients — hops, barley, water and yeast — the addition of other ingredients can yield brews that are refreshing and unique. Fruit is one of the most common extra ingredients added to beer. While berries such as blueberries and raspberries are the most popular fruit additions, beer can also benefit marvelously from the addition of citrus, including lemon. Using lemon in beer is nothing new, but, perhaps because it is labor intensive and costly to add fresh citrus zest to a beer, it is still rare. The most straightforward way to brew lemon craft beer is to add a small amount of lemon juice to the beer during secondary fermentation. Although the sugars in the lemon juice will undergo fermentation, which will add complexity to the beer, the basic brightness of the lemon will remain present in the beer’s finished flavor. Another option for adding more subtle lemon flavor to beer is to steep lemon peel in the secondary fermenter. The lemon peel contains the fruit’s essential oils, which are very flavorful and will not be metabolized by the yeast. Our Craft Beer Crosscut 7.26.17: A Flight of Lemon features five beers with lemon flavor brewed lemon additions or citrus hops.
Kettle souring involves cooking the grist, but then allowing it to cool in the brew kettle where lactobacillus, bacteria found in foods like yogurt, cheese and sauerkraut, is introduced. After one to two days, the mash becomes sour and then the brewing process is restarted with enough heat to kill the bacteria, but leave a distinctive acidic tartness. Fort George Brewery perfected the process with its Sucker Punch Kettle Sour. It’s a thirst quenching sour with an in-your-face lemon-lime zestiness. Made with non-intrusive hops and malts, this tart drink screams summer.
Mendicino-based Anderson Valley Brewing’s G&T Gose is a “beer cocktail” with only beer — plus saltwater, malted wheat, lemon peel, lemon grass, juniper, cinchona bark, grains of paradise, cucumber and a touch of lactobacillus. Flavor starts moderately to heavily acidic, and then finishes moderately acidic and sour. Palate is light, watery, with a fizzy carbonation and a tart finish. A lovely gose that leans more on a Thai influence than a gin and tonic one.
As part of its Tank Farm series, Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Nadia Kali pays homage to the countries where hibiscus is grown. The pink-hued saison brewed with hibiscus, ginger root and lemon peel sports big floral hibiscus, some citrus, hint of the ginger and earthy malt grain in the nose. While the taste is hibiscus up front, through the middle and in the lingering finish, it’s brightened by lemon, ginger and earthy malt.
By using Sterling and Citra hops, with a dash of white sage, Stillwater Artisanal Ales created a very intricate saison bursting with flavors. It pours a beautifully big head, and immediately fills the nostrils with scents of yeast, lemon peel, pepper, grains and even spices. While the first sip will explode with citrus, the beer evens out with grassy and sage notes. Its light carbonation makes bubbles dance on the tongue, but it finishes with a nearly astringent feeling.
Brewed with barley, wheat and rice and fermented at high temperatures with a special blend of four different yeast strains, Great Divide’s Colette has moderate malty sweetness and fruity lemon character, with a dry, hoppy finish. The 19th century Belgian farmers would have loved this refreshing beer.