prairie artisan ales’ pirate bomb! imperial stout photo by carmen troesser

Beers get tropical

Tiki trends are taking over bar and cocktail culture. Fun glassware, deliciously sinful spirits, juicy tropical flavors and island vibes can whisk you away from the real world, if only for a momentary vacation. But spirits aren’t having all the fun – the beer world is saying aloha, too.

Tropical nuances in beer develop through several different avenues. Rum barrels are now used for barrel aging, hop varietals and yeast fermentation can produce tropical aromatics and flavors, and additions from passion fruit to pineapple promote a palate ripe with island flair.

Big imperial stouts and other malt-forward styles like brown ales and porters are prime for rum-barrel aging. The barrels bring complex notes of char and coconut that shine through and balance out some of the aggressive bitter chocolate and coffee notes.

Yeast can drive fruity aromas and flavors in beer without adding any actual fruit. Banana and soft stone fruit notes are common byproducts of fermentation, while certain Brettanomyces yeast strains (like Anomala and Bruxellensis) produce beautiful, funky flavors and aromas of pineapple, guava and mango.

// illustration by vidhya nagarajan

Since hops create layers of complexity on the palate and nose, varietals heavy on tropical fruit flavors and aromatics (like Mosaic, Citra, Topaz, Calypso, Azacca and Galaxy) can make beer ready for a luau.

Sour beers are also primed for the tropics. Made by introducing bacteria to the fermentation process, their acidity drives a more juice-forward, lively flavor.

Fruit additions can enhance existing tropical notes brought from hops, a barrel, yeast or bacteria, or they can create an influence all their own. Pineapple, mango, papaya, passion fruit, guava or coconut can be added during or after fermentation, and typically result in a vibrantly fruity aroma and juicy palate.

If you want to up your tiki game in the beer world, check out these beach-bum beers.

4 hands wicked weed super flare // photo by carmen troesser

4 Hands / Wicked Weed Collaboration Super Flare
Brett IPA with mango and guava (7.5-percent ABV)
By far the most dynamic beer on the list, this hop-forward, juicy, funky IPA is a tropical mouthful. Galaxy and Mosaic hops and Brett funk drive the aroma, while succulent mango and guava round out the palate. This beer deserves its own giant parrot tiki glass. 

The Wine & Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.727.8788

Avery Brewing Co. Liliko’i Kepolo
Belgian-style wit with passion fruit (5.4-percent ABV)
This mildly tart, satiating wheat beer is chock-full of vibrant citrus notes, light black pepper, cardamom and juicy passion fruit. Medium-bodied, crisp and easy-drinking, your taste buds will dance the hula. 

Craft Beer Cellar, 8113 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.222.2444

boulevard tropical pale ale // photo by carmen troesser

Boulevard Brewing Co. Tropical Pale Ale
Pale ale with tropical hops and grapefruit zest (5.9-percent ABV)
Bright hoppy notes of pineapple, mango, citrus and grass are paired with passion fruit juice, grapefruit juice and grapefruit zest for a deliciously refreshing tropical twist on a pale ale. This former seasonal was so popular, Boulevard started brewing it year-round. 

The Wine & Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.727.8788

Mikkeller Spontan Series - Pineapple/Mango/Passionfruit
Lambic-style wild ales with fruit added (all 7.7-percent ABV)
Intense notes of barnyard funk and bright acidity brought on by spontaneous fermentation are highlighted by different fruit additions. Try the pineapple, mango or passion fruit versions of the Spontan series for a taste of the tropics. 

Friar Tuck, 9053 Watson Road, Crestwood, 314.918.9230

Oskar Blues Passion Fruit Pinner
Session IPA with passion fruit added (4.9-percent ABV)
I thought Oskar Blues Pinner couldn’t get any better; then it went and added a tropical touch. Still rocking the beautifully dry, crisp palate and nice body of the classic Pinner, this has a subtle sweetness on the nose and ripe passion fruit carrying out the finish. 

Fields Foods, 1500 Lafayette Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.3276 

Side Project Brewing Foedre Beer
Missouri Wild Ale (6-percent ABV)
Served on cask at 58 degrees, this juicy, sour blonde ale boasts vibrant clementine on the nose and a palate stacked with funky notes of pineapple and mango, all derived from the fermentation of local Missouri microflora. 

The Side Project Cellar, 7373 Marietta Ave., Maplewood, 314.224.5211 

Katie Herrera is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine and account manager at Craft Republic.