August 7, 2012

Easy Perry (no, not Katy Perry)

Perry, if you don't know, is fermented pear juice. It is almost identical to cider, but made with pears. The process is mostly the same, although for those of us using pre-made juices rather than beginning with whole, fresh fruit, the process is entirely similar. Like cider, perry is primarily an English beverage but it also has roots in Wales and France. For more background, the wikipedia entry is a good primer.

The most popular commercial version, at least here in the US, is Ace Pear Cider although as I understand it, it's actually apple cider with pear essence added. It's also reviewed as very sweet and not particularly great (although review sites are highly subjective and you should never take them as truth). Another common pear beverage is Woodchuck Pear. I've never had either but from what I gather on the internet, neither is a great example of the style.

I am a cursory consumer of ciders. I don't go out of my way to find them but I enjoy them from time to time. I have made a few straight ciders and some graff, although each came from generic grocery store apple juice. I had thought about making perry a few times but all the pear juices I could find seem rather pricey. One day I saw a good deal and snatched up a couple bottles. Specifically, I picked up R. W. Knudsen Family Organic Pear Juice. I've had good luck with this brand. They also make a tart cherry juice I had good luck using in my sour mashed fake kriek a couple years ago. The good thing about these juices is that they are what they say they are. No sugars, no preservatives added. Many pear juices I found from other companies were cut with apple or white grape juice.

Wanting to play around but not seriously commit, I bought two 32oz bottles at $2 each.

Rather than try to juice it up (pun not intended) with a high alcohol beverage, I decided to whip up something light in the session-region with light body to let the pear flavor come through with some cider-like quality. So, very simply, I added 64oz of pear juice with 64oz of bottled water. My expectation was something thin and apfelwine-like. Since I had just bottled my raspberry lambic with some EC-1118, I had plenty left over, so I used the remaining sachet of EC-1118 to ferment.

Fermentation was mellow and my the end a nice fruit cap had developed in the top couple inches of the fermentation jug. The cap stayed suspended by CO2 bubbles for about four weeks, then dropped out. So I decided to bottle. I bottled with 1oz of corn sugar for the gallon, which should give me a nice effervescence.

The perry was definitely not as I expected. The mouthfeel is fuller than cider, which tends to be very thin. I think there is still a lot of fruit particles in suspension, since I did not cold crash before bottling. I'm sure most of this will drop out in the bottle over time and once it is chilled before serving. The flavor definitely has a cider element but the pear aroma and flavor comes through very distinctly. Unlike a cider fermented completely dry, it is not tart. It is actually quite sweet. This is because pears have unfermentable sugars, such as sorbitol, and less of a tannic bite than apples. I'm sure the carbonation will help add some balance.

An addition of acid could help balance it out and bring out more tart, cider character if desired. However, as is, it is a nice, easy drinking beverage. It probably would not win any awards but could easily cross over to win the hearts of non-beer drinkers, especially those who primarily enjoy sweeter drinks. If you decide to duplicate this process, give the perry a taste before you bottle. You may be happy with it as is, but if you are used to more dry cider you may want to blend in some dry apple cider or acid blend to give it more of a dry flavor.

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