Fruit in beer is all the rage these days. It has become increasingly popular in beers like pale ales and IPAs especially. Brewers and drinkers alike want to incorporate fruit into these hoppy flavor profiles. Using hops and fruits in certain combinations will result in very complex, layered flavor profiles. Knowing and identifying flavor and aroma profiles in different hops and fruits can give you an advantage. When combining these two ingredients there are several ways to approach it. You could go for something with all the flavors in balance. The alternative is going for something that is intense in a certain flavor. Going even further would be a layered flavor that has many different things going on, this would also be in balance. The trick is to find a middle ground between these approaches for a balanced flavor that is also intense yet complex. If going into a beer with some acidity this would be your first consideration. Perhaps leaning toward a fruit that will finish on the sweeter side to balance the acidity. Some examples below:
Combining Fruits with Hops
The same thing goes when pairing fruit with hops. There are certain hops that are more earthy and could be balanced out with a fruit that is pungent, sweet, tropical or all the above. With hops that are more tropical going with an earthy fruit like blackberry or red prickly pear. The idea is also to use two flavors that seem completely different that come together to form a different flavor all together in balance. Some examples below:
Sabro + Pineapple
Lotus + Curuba
Citra + Red Prickly Pear
Knowing and Identifying Terpenes in Hops and Fruits
Hops have always been closely related to fruits for many reasons. The obvious main one is that they are both plants. The second that relates to this discussion is they both contain terpenes. Terpenes are natural compounds found in plants that make them smell a certain way. There are 5 different kinds of terpenes. They will probably sound familiar. Myrcene is the most common in hops, it has an herbal aroma. Pinene is associated with pine needles and herbs like rosemary and basil. Caryophyllene has a peppery aroma and is also found in black pepper. Limonene can be found in citrus fruits and is described as having lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime aromas. Finally, terpinolene is described as fruity, it also is in tea tree oil, and cumin. So, after reading about all these different terpenes you are probably thinking that they all sound very familiar. In fact, you have probably tasted or smelled them in the beers that you have enjoyed or made yourself, perhaps both. Knowing these terpenes and identifying them in fruit and hops will give you the basic knowledge to start using them interchangeably to build recipes and create some truly unique flavor profiles.