To Fruit or Not to Fruit

To Fruit or Not to Fruit

Hello everyone. Jamie McQuillan here, former home brewer and for the past five years owner/operator of Cell Division, my tiny brewery specialising in farmhouse, sour, wild and funky beers.

The LoB team decided it would be fun to have me drop in from time to time with some words of wisdom about the beers I love to brew. This time, let’s have a chat about another personal favourite of mine – fruited beers.

Fruited beers, to the uninitiated, may seem like a cheap trick or a sickly sweet gimmick.  It is certainly true that there are beers out there that fall into this category. However, well-made and well-thought out fruited beers can display a wonderful marriage of flavours that celebrate both the beer and the fruit. In this article I outline some key points to consider when brewing a fruited beer, including base beer selection, fruit sourcing and preparation and re-fermentation on the fruit. 

Choosing a base beer/fruit: 

The number one rule with fruited beers is that you can’t throw fruit at any old beer and expect it to turn out well. While the options for base beers are virtually endless, you should think carefully about what type of fruit will complement your beer choice. Get to know your fruit. Taste it and think about the flavours and how they might come across with the sugars fermented out. 

It’s also important to consider how much fruit is needed in order to be noticeable but not to overly dominate. You don't want the end product to be a fruit juice with no recognisable beer character. An exception here might be a sour beer where you may want a fruit bomb. As a general rule, beers lighter in body and flavour will require a lighter touch. 

Fruit (especially the skins) will often add tannins which can also contribute to a dryer mouth-feel. Too many tannins can be astringent and undesirable - akin to sucking on a tea bag!      

Also keep in mind that most fruits will add acidity to the beer, as well as simple sugars that will dry out the final product. Some added tartness will complement many styles, but sour and bitter can clash. For example, a West Coast IPA can be delicious with well-considered fruit additions. Citrus and tropical fruits are obvious choices to complement the hop profile, but careful balance is critical as excessive acidity can clash with the bittering in this style. 

Stouts and other dark beers are excellent choices for fruiting and work particularly well with dark fruits such as red/black berries, plums and cherries. My own personal favourite is of course the family of sour beers and farmhouse ales. These beers are typically both dry and/or sour by definition and their fruity esters, funk and acidity work wonderfully well to showcase an endless range of fruits. The following table should help you get you started with readily available fruit and fruiting rates that have worked for me.


Flavour intensity in beer

Usage rate

Good examples to try



40-100 g/L

McLeod’s Hammock Solberry Saison (Solberry = golden raspberry)




80-200 g/L

Parrotdog Jillian – boysenberry stout


Light-medium/ strong (depending on variety)

100-200 g/L

Cell Division PULP – American Wild Ale (Look out for PULP 2022 later in the year)



150-200 g/l

- Wilderness Brewing Cerise -dark saison with sour cherries/ raspberries

- Garage Project Cherry Bomb – Porter with sour cherries



150-300 g/L

Craftwork Brewery Bruxelles Ma Belle – apricot sour ale



80-100 ml juice/L

- Garage Project Pernicious Weed Yuzu - IPA 

- Any grapefruit IPA you can get your hands on 



150-200 g/L

8 wired Wild Feijoa – sour ale

When and how to fruit:

I highly recommend waiting until the primary ferment is over before adding your expensive fruit as well as all those simple sugars. If you are confident that the fermentation has been healthy and the base beer is progressing as intended, one option is to gently add your fruit directly to the primary fermenter. If using frozen fruit, I strongly recommend thawing it and allowing it to warm to room temperature to avoid cold shocking the yeast. Purge well with CO2 and avoid splashing/oxygenation. Also be sure to ensure your vessel is large enough to take the added volume and has head space for what will often be a vigorous re-fermentation. 

Don’t worry about your beer sitting on the yeast for a month or so. Problems with yeast autolysis and off flavours in small scale brewing are really not an issue over this sort of time frame. Another option I like to use, especially for longer term aging of sour beers, is to wait until the beer is well-finished and rack it onto the fruit in a new fermentation vessel. Flat bottomed fermenters, barrels or similar, work very well for this. They make it easy to use a filtration device, such as wire mesh screen, when racking the beer from the fruit. Alternatively you might like to employ one of the many pressure capable fermenters equipped with floating pickup which will help you rack the fruit off the finished beer. 

I usually leave my clean beers on fruit for around one month. I consider this to be the minimum time for effective extraction of flavour. Beyond that the gains become smaller. However, complex sour beers will benefit from sitting on the fruit for 6 months or more, and can be followed by additional shorter term fruiting closer to packaging. 

Always make sure you have a stable finishing gravity prior to packaging, especially if bottling. One week without change for clean beers and a month for funky beers is a good rule of thumb. Rack the beer, preferably with some sort of screen to separate out the fruit, avoid oxygen uptake and package as you would normally. 

Sourcing and preparing fruit: 

Many larger commercial breweries use fruit purees. These are easy to use on a larger scale and quick to ferment out, but are very messy and more difficult to remove from the beer, especially without filtration. As a sour beer and farmhouse brewer I love having a connection to the land and fruiting beers with fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce. Fruit stalls and farmers markets have great offerings, but supermarkets can also have good seasonal produce. 

My preference is to use fully ripe fruit, regardless of the variety, with tree-ripened being the best. I am a diehard advocate of re-fermentation on whole fruit. I believe this brings the truest, freshest expression of the fruit to the beer. While fresh fruit is great, it is not always easy to schedule your brew around fruit availability. Luckily, freezing fruit is an excellent way of storing it until your beer is ready and it has the added bonus of breaking down the fruit’s cell wall, making the tasty contents more available to the re-ferment. The frozen food section in the supermarket is a good source of out-of-season/cheaper alternatives and the quality is typically very good (especially berries). Also, before using your fruit, ask yourself if it tastes good raw. If not, you may find that the fruit comes into its own after being gently cooked. 

Preparing your fruit prior to re-fermentation is pretty simple. Stone fruit works beautifully halved and the stones removed. If the fruit is large you might want to roughly chop it to help with maceration in the beer. Berries of all varieties work very well whole, especially after freezing (expect loads of juice to escape). Cherries are often used either whole or stoned, but will take longer to macerate if whole and you will extract more marzipan flavour from the stone. 

Citrus fruit works very well freshly juiced, but be mindful of the acidity. Juice can be added in stages until you achieve the flavour you want. If buying packaged juice (which I don’t necessarily recommend) be mindful of additives like preservatives. Fresh citrus zest is very potent and an effective means of adding zesty, citrus flavours. It can be added to the boil and/or post-fermentation. Avoid waxed citrus.  Use a zester or potato peeler and try to avoid the white pith under the zest as it can add a harsh astringency. 

Will I infect my beer?

I often hear concerns from home brewers about infecting their beer when adding fruit. Relax, don’t worry about it and if you do, I hope the end product tastes great! However, I have never knowingly infected a clean beer with souring or funk producing bacteria and yeast by adding fruit. Work clean, wash/sanitise and rinse your fruit if that makes you feel better. Cook it and you will kill everything. Freeze it and you will knock back a lot of what might be living on the skins. 

Drink and learn

If you think brewing a fruited beer sounds like you, the best place to start is to develop your palate by drinking some of the great examples suggested above. There are plenty more out there on the market. Then dive in and have a crack at brewing one yourself. To help you on your way, here’s a recipe kit for Cemetery Sunset, a boysenberry gose I put together for The League of Brewers. There is no need to fear my friend lactobacillus though, as this recipe is designed using Lallemand’s WildBrew Philly Sour™, a unique yeast species (Lachancea) which produces lactic acid during the ferment. It was isolated from a cemetery of all places! Slainte.

About the author


Jamie is an award winning home brewer and the owner/operator of his tiny, part-time Dunedin brewery, Cell Division. His day job sees him working as a molecular biologist and neuroscientist at the University of Otago.

You will find Jamie writing beer geek articles for us which will no doubt feature his love of farmhouse and sour beers as well as providing useful advice on things such as yeast, fruiting, and other brewing techniques. We also have him working tirelessly on new recipes, diving into styles not previously featured in our catalogue and we may even convince him to dust off one or two of his award winning recipes for us.