Last month I thought Embrace the Funk reached that noteworthy place with the two part interview of Troy Casey from AC Golden. (Part 1 and Part 2) AC Golden is a sub-brewery within the walls of the massive Coors' brewery in Golden, Colorado. AC Golden produces a small line of sour beers (and some other stuff). This isn't like Blue Moon beers designed to be approachable to non-craft drinkers or Lindemans-like backsweetened sour beers. These sour beers are sour and kept free from the mass-production strategy of the rest of Coors. I haven't had any myself but the beers rate quite well.
Casey discussed a really interesting point about using fruit in sour beer and that is his attitude that putting fruit into beer is a method of preserving fruit, much like canning. That's not an opinion I can recall ever hearing. Most people add fruit because it tastes good and that's the end of the story. Casey talks about the significance of adding fruit at it's freshest (which I understood to mean right at harvest) so you preserve the best flavor possible.Casey's position is that the best time to add fruit is right at harvest to coincide with the last 2-3 months of aging before bottling. For homebrewers I think we can extrapolate a few useful points:
- Sour beers are traditionally brewed in the winter and homebrewers often only drag out sour beers 12-18 months. If you are trying to get fruit into your beer right at harvest then the right time to brew, if you think your beer will be ready at a prescribed time, then it may make sense to brew at different times of year to hit the harvest a few months before bottling, especially if you are trying to hit southern hemisphere fruit.
- Home-grown or farmer's market-bought fruit may be obtained closer to harvest so preferred for homebrewing. Although I think this one is fairly obvious...
- Grocery store fruit may not be the best option, especially since the produce tends to be picked prematurely and not completely ripe. Again, I think this is fairly obvious.
- On the other hand I do not entirely agree that harvest time is always the best flavor you can find in fruit. It should be the time when the fruit has the right blend of flavor and texture but overripe fruit (of some fruits) often has a bolder and sweeter fruit flavor. Most people just don't like the texture of very ripe fruit. It's commonly used in other fruit preservative methods because you don't need a semi-firm texture to enjoy eating it. So it may be worthwhile to buy some fruit now and taste it as it ages (over days/weeks) to see when the flavor is best. Then you'll know how far from harvest you can find the best flavor.