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What beer to drink with in-season Ontario fruit

Illustrated grid of pairings. Top row, left to right: blonde ale with peaches, nectarines and apricots; brown ale with raspberries; Bavarian-style wheat beer with a pear; English-style pale ale with an apple. Bottom row, left to right: Sour beer with rhubarb; witbier with strawberries; India pale ale with blueberries; pilsner with watermelon.

From tangy rhubarb to juicy peaches to luscious pears, Ontario fruit harvests are legendary. And these beers pair best with your fave in-season produce

Life’s pretty sweet for a local fruit lover in Ontario. You can get your hands on ripe little raspberries from Essex-Kent in early summer. Sink your teeth into a juicy Niagara peach during the dog days of August. Then, as fall approaches, crunch into a McIntosh apple from eastern Ontario (where it was first bred).

As you feast on local fruit during summer picnics and in backyard desserts, beer is there to enhance the experience. These two make a dynamic duo.

That’s because the chemical compounds that give fruits their distinctive aromas can also exist in beer. They’re called esters, and yeast produces them while beer is fermenting. For example, ethyl caprylate (which smells sweet and slightly anise-like) is present in a number of fruits and certain beer styles.

But you don’t need to know the science to love these pairings. Skip the test tubes and have a look at our handy visual guide instead.

Peaches, nectarines and apricots + blonde or golden ale

Classic North American pale ales usually get some stone fruit flavours from the malt that goes into them. Their gentle maltiness also complements nice, flaky pastry. So if you happen to be enjoying those fruits in a pie or tart? Well, that’s just peachy.

An illustrated glass of golden ale stands next to illustrated peaches, nectarines and apricots.

Raspberries + brown ale

Forest berries make a sweet contrast with nutty flavours. Brown ales often have a nut-like aroma and taste. That’s why some even call themselves nut brown ales. So this pairing is definitely all it’s cracked up to be.

An illustrated glass of brown ale stands next to illustrated raspberries.

Strawberries + witbier

Sweetness is good. But sweetness plus tang equals yum on a whole other level. To really bring out the best in ripe strawberries, pair them with fermented foods and drinks that are sweet but also contain lactic acid. Yogurt and witbier (Belgian-style wheat beer) give you the perfect sweetness, sunshine and thirst-quenching zestiness your berries long for.

An illustrated glass of witbier stands next to illustrated strawberries.

Apples + English-style pale ale

Let’s drill down on the chemistry here. British-style pale ales are full of esters, several of which evoke the aroma of apples. And guess what, friend? Apples also contain them. So grab your apple and pale ale, add some cheese, nice bread and something pickled. Now you’ve got a harmonious English ploughman’s lunch.

An illustrated glass of English-style pale ale stands next to an illustrated apple.

Pears + Bavarian-style wheat beer

How about another science-based pair — for a pear? German-style wheat beers and pears both typically give off a whiff of isoamyl acetate. That means that these two make perfect partners. Think of them as a complementary pairing. Or is that pearing?

An illustrated glass of Bavarian-style wheat beer stands next to an illustrated pear.

Rhubarb + sour beer

In early summer, tart local rhubarb is piled high at the fruit market, ready to star in something sweet. But what if you don’t have a sweet tooth? No problem. Savoury khoresh rivas, a Persian stew with lamb and rhubarb, is a sour beer’s BFF. The puckery zing of the rhubarb shines when it’s matched with sour beer’s funky tang.

An illustrated glass of sour beer stands next to an illustrated pile of rhubarb stalks.

Blueberries + India pale ale (IPA)

Saving that India pale ale for dessert? Smart. This style’s powerful, aromatic hops can smell as fresh as mint or as forestlike as pine. Good thing both of these scents make a mouth-watering match for blueberries. Not to mention that the malt really complements a crumble — so get baking.

An illustrated glass of India pale ale stands next to illustrated blueberries.

Watermelon + pilsner

Backyard hosts with the most will tell you: Adding something fresh and herbal to watermelon brings out the sweetness. And if you toss in a little mint or basil, the pink colour really pops. All you need to complete this picture of summer perfection is an ice-cold, refreshing pilsner. It’s chock full of green-scented hops that enhance those herbs and sweet, sweet fruit.

An illustrated glass of pilsner stands next to an illustrated wedge of watermelon.

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