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The first beers to sell out at beer festivals often contain fruit or have the word chocolate in them. Has anyone else noticed this? Walking around GBBF on Thursday evening and seeing stuck-on sold out signs over lots of different beer names it became more obvious: Cherry Blonde, Chocolate and Vanilla Stout, Grapefruit Beer, Blueberry Bitter, Chocolate Cherry Mild (a double-whammy right there), Raspberry Wheat and Triple Chocoholic.

While some people at beer festivals (any beer festival, anywhere) know the difference between a UK and US IPA, know their brown ales from their porters, the wheats from the wits, I think many beer festival goers are just there because they couldn’t resist the big sign outside that says ‘Beer Festival’ and it’s an excuse to drink a lot. Most of them probably don’t even drink real ale as their everyday pint. They probably don’t even like it.

Seeing 100 different beers around a room is therefore pretty daunting. What shall we order first? Having beers with cherry, chocolate, blueberry or blackcurrant in them gives drinkers a point of reference which they know and understand and so feel more comfortable ordering them. There’s also an assumption that it’ll be sweet and fruity rather than dry and bitter, which is an attraction to someone new.

I know when I first went to beer festivals I’d scoop up these beers first and never did a beer with cherry in its name get by me; I didn’t enjoy bitter beers much so these fruity options suited me well. We would also always work up to the strongest beer there, though we’d often get there too late and miss out. So along with fruit and chocolate, the strong ones also empty quickly. Is this so that people can tell their mates on Monday that “I drank I pint of beer that was 8%!”?

I hardly ever order beers with fruit in their name anymore (usually because if it doesn’t say IPA or Hops in the name then I don’t order it), probably because the idea of an extract or syrup puts me off, though I definitely see the appeal and if I had a brewery then a cherry chocolate mild (rich and silky and chocolatey and just livened with a kiss of cherry extract – gorgeous!) would be high up the to-brew list.

Fruit, chocolate and the strongest beers usually sell quickly at beer festivals. They are approachable starter beers or bragable big ones. If these beers attract new drinkers then that’s a good thing because hopefully after their fruity fill they will try a few other beers at the festival or on the bar and maybe find that one beer that changes their drinking direction forever.

Are there any really good beers made with fruit in the UK? What are the top chocolate brews? (Saltaire’s Triple Chocoholic is good but I can only manage a half). Do you order them or stay clear of them?

Did you know that Wells & Young’s Banana Bread Beer actually contains fresh bananas? How about that. I’ve also just read Patrick McGovern’s Uncorking the Past and there is such a thing as banana wine. Banana wine! If I remember rightly it was mentioned on the same page as a sausage tree. A sausage tree! Imagine my excitement when I read that.