Fruit beer doesn’t get much respect because most of it is awful: sweet, syrupy, artificially flavored, and tasting more like cherry soda than beer. We went digging—scouring BeerAdvocate, asking beer-geek friends and beer-store owners—and then lined up a tasting of the recommended brews. Of them, these are the six that CHOW editors thought were the best summer drinkers, in no real order. Many of them are sour styles, which is good insurance against cloying sugariness—the yeast has already taken care of the sugar. Some of these beers are available at bigger chains like BevMo!; for others, you’ll have to go to your local specialty beer store.

New Belgium Eric's Ale

Cantillon Kriek

Dogfish Head Aprihop

Invercargill Boysenbeery

Cascade Apricot Ale

Brouwerij Fonteinen Oude Kriek

1. New Belgium Eric’s Ale
A self-proclaimed “sour beer for those who don’t like sour beers. And a fruit beer for those who don’t like fruit beers,” this special-edition ale from New Belgium Brewing was a hit with tasters. Part of New Belgium’s experimental line of beers, Eric’s Ale is made by mixing an aged sour beer with a higher-alcohol beer, then refermenting the blend with peach juice. The result is tangy and refreshing, making it crisp and revitalizing for warm-weather drinking, and a good sour beer for beginners. The peach presence is subtle and blends into the overall flavor, rather than smacking of a Fuzzy Navel. The only downside: The beer is 7 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) but drinks like it’s 5.

2. Cantillon Kriek
Cantillon is one of the finest lambic makers, so it’s no surprise that its cherry lambic topped our list. It pours an extremely bright red color (which looks unnatural, but it’s not) and tastes like sour cherries, with a darker, dried-cherry finish. The brewery ferments Kellery cherries in casks with lambic (wild-fermented beer). The fruit flavor really comes through and complements the tart beer. If cherries aren’t your thing, Cantillon makes an equally impressive raspberry lambic that we featured in last year’s summer beer roundup.

3. Dogfish Head Aprihop
While it’s technically a late-spring release for the Dogfish Head brewery, this IPA is spiked with summery apricots and is refreshing enough for hot weather despite a high 7 percent ABV. It’s one of our favorite fruit beers. While the apricot flavor is definitely there, hoppiness is the primary taste and aroma, which shouldn’t surprise fans of Dogfish’s other IPAs.

4. Invercargill Boysenbeery
This brew from Invercargill Brewery in New Zealand will debut in the U.S. in mid- to late summer. It’s a mild wheat beer with nearly 400 pounds of berries fermented in it for each batch of about 300 gallons. This gives it an intense red color, but it actually tastes more like a German wheat beer, not fruity or sweet. It’s dry and easy to drink.

5. Cascade Apricot Ale
We’ve featured the Oregon-based Cascade Brewing’s kriek before, and its sour apricot ale is another winner. More sour than its cherry cousin, this beer undergoes lactic fermentation for eight months, then ripe Northwest apricots are thrown into it for another three months of fermentation. The beer is very tart and refreshing, with the apricots showing up more in the aroma than in the flavor.

6. Brouwerij Fonteinen Oude Kriek
Another fine example of a kriek lambic, Fonteinen’s is funkier than Cantillon’s: a little more “horsey,” tasters noted, though they dug its complexity. That said, you definitely need to be a fan of sour-style beers for this to be your bag. One taster said, “I don’t have the taste muscles for this.” We’d say it’s the most challenging beer on the list, with a very sour, refreshing flavor and cherries showing up on the back.

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