Ripe fruit has quite a community of yeast and bacteria on the skin, and therefore, it’s ideal for fermenting your next fruit beer, be it a standard recipe, a lambic style, or something you’ve been saving for that barrel in your homebrewing kit, says Jeff Melo of Nashville’s Bootleg Biology, a yeast lab.
Lambic is a natural thought, but for folks trying to use fresh fruit for the first time or for those who want to see what flavors and nuance the produce produces, Melo suggests gravitating toward a Pilsner or a wheat-malt base because it “gets out of the way and lets the fruit be really expressive.” When you look at lambic producers, they want a certain beer profile that will show off, not cover up, the fruit. The same is true with many of the commercial examples of fruited beers on the market today. When thinking about the fruits to use, try to match color with color, as best as possible. Cherries work well with darker-malt base beers. Peach and apricot complement a lighter malt bill.
What you see commercially will work for homebrewing. Look for fruits with delicate skins—blueberry, raspberry, and blackberries—and macerate them before adding them to the beer. Squishing and getting the skins broken are key so that the yeast on the outside can get in contact with the sugars on the inside.