A common reaction to those of us who enjoy a pint or two at the end of a long work day. Why would I want my already perfect, carbonated, malty adult beverage to be all fruity and sweet and smelly?! While this reaction isn’t completely unfounded, it may be a bit uninformed as to the results you can get using fruit to enhance the flavors, aromas, and of course appearance of ales. It’s a practice that goes far back in to the beginnings of brewing. There is evidence of fruit being tossed in to ferments with barley dating back to the 10th Millennium B.C. Of course, this beverage was probably only barely similar to what we now call beer, but adding seasonally available fermentable things was most definitely a common way to not only preserve the fruit, but add interesting flavors that would accentuate the terroir of the region as well. And… it made us all feel good too.
An often found misconception about beers with fruit in them is that they are sweet. In some cases this is true, such as Lindeman’s Lambic Framboise which is a Lambic Ale fermented with raspberries, pasteurized, and with more raspberry added plus some sweetener. Since Lambic Beers are if not always very, but generally quite sour, Lindeman’s found a way to compete with the tartness by essentially back sweetening their fruit beer. But historically these beers would have had all the fermentable sugars converted to CO2 and alcohol by our little friends, yeast and bacteria. Leaving only what was unfermentable; aromatics, color compounds, pectins, tannins and residual flavors. Take for instance Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ Peche and Brett which is a much sought after Peach Sour Ale. If you’ve ever had the fortune to try one of these you know that the peach is almost only barely detectable. But what it does to the beer is indelible. The Belgians have long mastered the craft of adding fruit to their beers. Wether it’s Cantillon, arguably the best at traditional wild fruited beers these breweries create highly sought after very specific and delicious beers.
This torch has been passed on to many breweries worldwide. The new-found popularity of “sour” beers, plus a desire to escape the entrapments of industrialization have sprung forth countless breweries trying their hand at old school traditional beer. From Jester King to Funk Factory Geuzeria in the U.S., to countless others worldwide. The boundaries are continuously pushed and new exciting flavors are found.
These traditional methods sometimes bleed in to more modern “conventional” brewing, where fruit additions may be frowned upon for the potential to cause bacterial infections that for Lambic producers would be considered an asset. For breweries like ours here at Gyppo, we cannot afford such things. If you’re a larger producer like pFriem Family Brewers or the Bruery you can afford to open a second brewhouse that is dedicated to such shenanigans. Leaving your “clean” beers safe from those nasty wild creatures. Or, you can do what we did and use fresh fruit that has been puree’d and rendered aseptic. This allows us to add the fruit to a fermentation with no risk of adding Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces to our beers or equipment. While in some breweries this can lead to very desirable beer (Jolly Pumpkin, for instance? )That is how you see beers like Lost Coast’s Tangerine Wheat or our very own Fruit Ale, which was (yes… was) essentially a blonde ale with a whole lotta raspberry puree added to not only give you a raspberry blast of aromatics, but that familiar tartness.
We are now offering up a new fruit ale, brewed here with seasonal cherry. A blend of Sweet and Tart Cherry puree was added to a base beer that had a malt bill very similar to what the traditional Belgian Brewers may have used, Pilsner, Vienna, a little bit of caramel malt and 22% raw wheat. Once that beer was finished in primary fermentation, we added the sweet and tart cherry, which kicked off a secondary fermentation. All but eliminating the sweetness and dropping the pH to a comfortable level of tart. Once secondary was finished, we dropped charred oak in there and dropped the temperature to just below freezing for just shy of one month.
The result? Cherry Oteri. A beautiful red, smooth, cherry ale coming in at 6.6% ABV. Come down and try one. If you think you don’t like fruit ale, this one may change your mind.