How Pineapple Became The Hottest Fruit Beer and Cider Trend of the Year

Like citrus fruits before it, pineapple is one of the hottest new ingredients in beer and hard cider, finding its way into everything from hazy IPAs to hefeweizens and farmhouse ales. What’s strange about it is pineapple was unheard of as an ingredient just a handful of years ago. While citrus fruits and even other tropical fruits like mango took the forefront, pineapple was waiting in the wings. At a recent seminar at the Craft Brewers Conference on industry trends, Jack Li of Datassential reported pineapple is the quickest growing fruit ingredient on beer menus nationwide, up nearly 100% over the year before. 2018 has been the year of the pineapple in beer and cider.

“Fruit was not very popular in 1986-88. People would drink a raspberry beer. Now with our fruit vendors bringing more options we have a lot to work with today and a customer base that is looking for a fruit beer experience,” says veteran brewmaster John Harris, owner of Ecliptic Brewing.

In 2014, Ballast Point Brewing of San Diego took its Grapefruit Sculpin IPA national and helped to bring fruit beers to the mainstream and fruited IPA as a major beer category. In early 2016 the brewery followed it up with Pineapple Sculpin IPA in bottles as the first major beer release using that fruit. Not long after, Portland startup contract brewery Pono Brewing launched with Pineapple Express IPA and helped make Oregon brewers an early adopter.

Two years earlier, Portland’s Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider went all-in on pineapple with the release then billed as Padre Nat’s ¡Tepache! This now popular seasonal isn’t even cider, but is instead a traditional pre-Columbian Mexican fermented beverage made from pineapple peels and rinds and piloncillo sugar and spiced with cinnamon. In Mexico, it’s often served with beer, like a Mexican-style lager, or the fermentation is even kickstarted by a (presumably live) pour of beer. Cidery founder Nat West first heard about the traditional Tepache drink from a 2008 article in Saveur magazine and was intrigued.

“I made it according to the recipe and it was awful,” says Nat. But years later after trying a version that a friend made, he gave it another go. Nat worked on the recipe for six months before dialing it in. “The recipe hasn’t changed since it was first released in 2013.” For Nat, part of the appeal of Tepache is “I love it so much since it’s so attached to beer, “requiring” the serving of it with beer.”

“The recent popularity of pineapples is directly tied to the introduction of the MD2 variety in the US,” says Nat West. After all, pineapples have been a popular fruit for a long time and not just in South America. Before the 1990s, most pineapple in America came from a can. In 1961 the Hawaiian based Pineapple Research Institute (PRI) was tasked with developing a new flavorful variety that could be massively produced in America to meet demand. The PRI concentrated on the then most popular type of pineapple, a variety called “Smooth Cayenne.” PRI never solved the problem and was dissolved in 1975. Still, the research was not in vain, and in 1993 a review of the institute’s findings revealed two hybrids with the potential to be better than Smooth Cayenne. In 1980 the two hybrids were released to Maui Pineapple Company and Del Monte for more research. One of the varieties, called MD-2, was shipped to Costa Rica in the mid-80s for further testing and breeding before it was eventually released to the public in the 90s. MD2 pineapples eventually supplanted “Smooth Cayenne” and became such a successful breed that it helped make fresh pineapples available to the world over.

“It is a sweeter, tarter, more flavorful pineapple than the previous champion, “Smooth Cayenne,” says West of  MD2, which is what most Hawaiian farmers grow. “Pineapples just weren’t that delicious prior to MD2.”

MD2 is still primarily grown in Costa Rica, but farming also occurs in Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Reverend Nat’s purchases all of their pineapples for Tepache from Costa Rica via Del Monte. They use whole, fresh pineapples that come with just the green spiky stalk heads cut off. “We grind up the whole pineapple, scales and all, and ferment it wild, then press the alcoholic pulp to make Tepache. Straight pineapples fermented to dry taste terrible, so we add back fresh pineapple juice to make Tepache.”

If the MD2 pineapples made the fruit popular, available, and delicious, in America, then it is processors/distributors like Oregon Fruit Products that brought the fruit into breweries. Unlike Reverend Nat’s, most brewers have no need for the full scaly skin of the pineapple, not to mention the extra work processing the meaty fruit. OFP produces aseptic fruit purees for brewing, processed and packaged without the worry of yeasts or bacteria contaminating a beer. Perhaps not coincidentally, OFP introduced a seasonal pineapple puree in 2016, around the same time Ballast Point introduced Pineapple Sculpin IPA in bottles.

Pineapples and Piloncillo sugar for making Tepache at Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider

pineapple meat pulp, post-processing at Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider

Sunriver Brewing out of Bend has been releasing two beers with pineapple to great effect. Brewmaster Brett Thomas says, “I think pineapples bring a good balance of flavor and acidity to beer.” Pineapple Haze IPA from Sunriver shows off that tropical tang of the juice in a suitably juicy/hazy IPA. Thomas says brewers have been onto pineapples for awhile but perhaps customers weren’t ready. “There seems to have been a shift in the American palate that is more welcoming of tropical fruit flavors, including pineapples.”

Lompoc Brewing and Ruse Brewing both have excellent tart Belgian-influenced and barrel-aged pineapple beers available right now. Lompoc Head Brewer made his Piña Wit during the total eclipse using pineapple puree and aged it in Chardonnay barrels. The beer came out excellent with mild tartness and sweetness from the fruit, bright, smooth creamy mouthfeel from the wheat and Belgian yeast and buttery oak tannins from the chardonnay barrels.

Ruse Brewing recently tapped the second batch of Turquoise Mountain, a tart, pinot barrel-aged farmhouse ale also with pineapple puree at about 2lbs  per barrel and added post fermentation. The idea behind this beer was to use the wild yeast strain Brettanomyoces Clausenii, famous for throwing off a lot of pineapple like flavors and aromas. Mission accomplished as this tart, semi-funky beer tastes remarkably like pineapple juice.

Ecliptic Brewing is gearing up to release a new collaboration beer with Modern Times Beer in bottles called Pineapple Hazy IPA. The idea to add pineapple was all Modern Times who had used the fruit in beers before. Similar to what Ruse did with pairing Pineapple with the flavors that Brett C. creates, Ecliptic and Modern Times paired the fruit with Denali hops that give off a fruity and slightly pineapple note. Pineapple Hazy IPA is one of the few pineapple beers to be bottled and will be released August 15th at ABV Public House and August 16th at Tin Bucket.

Hopworks Urban Brewery is releasing Excellent Pineapple Hazy IPA today at its pub.
Cascade Lakes Brewing released Pineapple Kush IPA last April.
2 Towns Ciderhouse added Pacific Pineapple hard cider to their year-round lineup in cans earlier this year.

And according to RateBeer.com founder Joe Tucker, here is just a partial list of some of the breweries who have made pineapple beers just this year:

18th Street Brewery
2 Towns Ciderhouse
406 Brewing Company
450 North Brewing Company
Abridged Beer Company
Almasty Brewing Co.
Alpha Brewing Company
Alt Brew
Alvarado Street Brewery
Amundsen Brewery
Arkose Brewery
Aslin Beer Company
Austin Brothers Beer Company
B. Nektar Meadery
B-52 Brewing Company
Bad Shepherd Brewing
Badger State Brewing Company
Barbarian Brewing
Barebottle Brewing Company
Barley’s Brewing Company
Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending
Bear Roots Brewing Company
Bearded Iris Brewing
Beaver Brewing Company
Belhaven (Greene King)
Bellwoods Brewery
Benchwarmers Brewing Co
Black Acre Brewing Co.
Black Hops Brewing
Blaker Brewing Company
Block 15 Brewery
Block Three
Blue Moon Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
Blue Pants Brewery
Bond Brothers Beer Company
Breckenridge Brewery (AB InBev)
Brew Rebellion
Brew Your Mind
Brewheadz
BrewT!
Brink Brewing Company
Brokreacja
Brouwerij Kees
Browar Maryensztadt
Brunswick Bierworks
BRUS
Brygghus 19
Button Brew House
Campervan Brewery
Cascade Lakes Brewing Co.
Catawba Brewing Company
Central City Brewers + Distillers
Cerebral Brewing
Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery
city'super
Combustion Brewery
Commonwealth Brewing Company
Craft Collective Beerworks
Cycle Brewing
Dangerous Man Brewing Company
De Steeg Brewing
Deep Creek Brewing Co
Dimes Brewhouse
Dionysus Brewing
Edmund’s Oast
Elevation Beer Company
Elora Brewing
Equilibrium Brewery
Exile Brewing Company
Five Churches Brewing
Flying Dog Brewery
Flying Monkeys
Foolproof Brewing Company
Forager Brewing Company
Fort Cerveza Artesanal
Fort Lapin
Fretboard Brewing
Friendship Brewing Company
Fringe Beerworks
Genys Brewing Co.
Gletcher Brewery
Golden Road Brewing (AB InBev)
Growers Cider Company
Halo Brewery
Hanoi Cider Co.
Harpoon Brewery
Hell’s Basement
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Hudson Valley Brewery
Hunga Dunga Brewing Company
Ilkley Brewery
IMBĪB Custom Brews
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery
Jailbreak Brewing Company
Jan Olbracht Browar Rzemieslniczy
Joyride Brewing Company
KCBC (Kings County Brewers Collective)
Kills Boro Brewing Company
Kilowatt Brewing
Kirkwood Station Brewing Company
Laylow Brewery
Lazy Beach Brewing
Le Saint-Bock – Brasserie Artisanale
Lead Dog Brewing Company
Left Field Brewery
Lion’s Tail Brewing Company
Listermann Brewing Company
Little Miss Brewing
Logboat Brewing Co.
Lone Pine Brewing
Lost Forty Brewing
Lost Industry
LTD Brewing Company
Ludington Bay Brewing Company
Luminous Brewhouse
Mad Fox Brewing Company
Malmö Brewing Co
MBG Global Brands
MERIT Brewing Company
Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
Mirror Twin Brewing Company
Mispillion River Brewing
Modern Brewery
Modern Times Beer
Moksa Brewing Company
Monument City Brewing Company
Moon Dog Craft Brewery
Motor City Brewing Works
Mountains Walking Brewery
Neches Brewing Company
Nerdbrewing
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
New England Brewing
Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
Nine brothers
Nine Giant Brewing
NOLA – New Orleans Lager & Ale
North Brewing Co
North River Hops and Brewing
Odd Side Ales
Odell Brewing Company
Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant
Olde Salem Brewing Company
Ology Brewing Company
One World Brewing
Other Half Brewing
Outer Light Brewing Company
Parkside Brewing (BC)
Pawleys Island Brewing Company
Pikes Peak Brewing Company
Pivovar Antoš
Pivovar Raven
Pizza Boy Brewing
Point Ybel Brewing Company
Pontoon Brewing Company
Proof Brewing Company
Quaff On! (Big Woods) Brewing Company
Red Dragon Brewery (VA)
Resurgence Brewing Company
Rinn Duin Brewing
Rivertown Brewery
Rock City Brewing Company
Rokko Craft Brewery
Roof Hound Brewing
Rouge River Brewing
Roughtail Brewing Company
Sacrilegious Ciderworks
Sadler’s
Sainte Crucienne
Salty Nut Brewery
San Francisco Brewing Company
Serpentine Cider
Shades of Pale Brewing Company
Short’s Brewing Company
Sinistral Brewing Company
Sketchbook Brewing Company
Skewed Brewing
Smokehouse Brewing Company
Snake River Brewing Co.
Sociable Cider Werks
Something Brewery
Sons Of Toil Brewing
Spirifer
Stamm Beer
Steamworks Brewing (Canada)
Stone Brewing
Sunbeam
Sunriver Brewing Company
Taiwan Head Brewers Brewing Co.
Tatsuuma-Honke Brewing Co.
Temescal Brewing
The Beer Farm
The Depot Craft Brewery & Distillery
The Garden Brewery
The Virginia Beer Company
Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
Thornbridge
To Øl
Trenciansky Pivovar Lánius
Trillium Brewing Company
Trophy Brewing Company
True North Brew Pub
Turning Point Beer
Twin Elephant Brewing Company
Uiltje Brewing Co.
Upland Brewing Company
Urban Artifact Brewing
Vanished Valley Brewing Company
Venn Brewing Company
West Palm Brewery
Whole Foods Market Brewing Company (Houston)
Wiley Roots Brewing Company
Woodland Empire Ale Craft
Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Wyndridge Farm
Xylem Cider Works
York County Cider
Zagovor Brewery
Zeroday Brewing Company

Does pineapple as a beer and cider ingredient have legs as a trend? It’s as distinctive and flavorful an ingredient as any fruit, so I predict it will stay around after the over-saturation of these entries slow down. What’s next? Superfoods.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

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