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After fermentation, Calagione invited his housemates and friends to sample the brew. Among the guests was talk-show host Ricki Lake.

Calagione was supplementing his income with acting gigs, and had appeared on Lake's show -- an episode titled "Why Good Girls Fall for Bad Guys" -- impersonating a "a total misogynist scam artist."

The beer was impressive enough that Calagione, on the spot, announced his intention to open a brewery. Has he ever tried to duplicate his cherry brew? "Not yet, but someday," he replied.

In the meantime, fans of fruit beer can try his Fort . Based on the label's claim that the beer contains more than "a ton of fresh, pureed raspberries" per 100-barrel batch I expected something syrupy, intensely fruity, liqueur-like. Fort is just the opposite. It's fairly dry, with a subtle berry aroma and flavor, and lively, champagne-like carbonation. A slight alcohol burn in the back of the throat reminds you that this is a powerful beer -- just under 18 percent alcohol by volume, more than three times as potent as a Budweiser.

Calagione believes it's the world's strongest fruit beer.

It's too late to ring in the New Year with Fort, but this pinkish-amber ale might make a great nightcap for Valentine's Day. Be prepared for some sticker shock, however. A 25-ounce bottle cost me $17, a buck more than I would have paid for a five-liter mini-keg of German lager. Sometimes, I guess, love hurts.

Greg Kitsock is editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and senior editor of American Brewer magazine. He writes about beer once a month for Food and can be reached

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