Thursday, September 25, 2014

Membrillo (Quince Paste) Saison

Quince is a close relative of apples and pears. All three are in the Rosaceae family, but unlike the other two quince are almost never eaten raw. If you cook quince down with sugar the result is membrillo, a thick, floral, jelly. Dulce de membrillo is actually the correct term (membrillo is just the Spanish word for quince). This paste is traditionally served with cheese (often Manchego), and as a result can be purchased from many well-stocked cheese counters.

The only quince beer I can recall drinking is Jackie O's Quincedence (a tart, wine-barrel-aged, smoky wee heavy served as the base). In that beer the quince was a bit lost in all of the other flavors. Apples, pears, and quince all have relatively subtle flavors, so concentrating them or using a condensed form can be a good option.

I originally planned to add rhubarb to the fifth annual incarnation of the dark-ish sour-ish saison that Alex and I brew each fall, but when a sample revealed that batch was sour enough already, I audibled to 20 oz of membrillo. The rhubarb found a better partner in an under-soured Berliner weisse.

Saison de Membrillo

Appearance – Orange-red (cinnamon?). Not quite clear, a bit of that countryside. Pectinase likely would be needed if a clear beer was the goal. The buff head leaves sticky crescents of lacing behind as it gradually recedes.

Smell – Subdued aromatics. Hints of apple, well quince, but I’d forgive you if you didn’t know what one smelled like. Pear-like and floral, but with some distinct apple-sauce notes as well. Light clove-spice, and a hint of caramel malt as it warms. Certainly seems seasonally appropriate. Minimal Brett funk.

Taste – Pleasant, almost refreshing tartness. The acidity melds beautifully with the general pomme fruitiness. Less distinctly membrillo compared to when it was freshly bottled. Marginal saison character remains after the microbes and fruit, but the finish is long, dry, and spicy. Beautiful!

Mouthfeel – Crisp, but it could be crisper. Medium carbonation, and it could be punchier. I didn't want this beer to be Saison-Dupont-dry/sparkling, but the goal was saison!

Drinkability & Notes – I really enjoy this weird beer. It doesn’t exhibit the layers of complex Brett aromatics I hoped for from the ECY Bugfarm and bottle dregs, but it is nicely balanced with plenty of appealing flavors. For my first time tasting a beer brewed with membrillo, I think 20 oz in five gallons provided enough to taste, but not enough to dominate. Drinking this is getting me in the mood to brew dark/funky saison #7 sometime in the next couple months and add cranberries to dark/funky saison #6!

17 comments:

Shayn Sawchuk said...

Did you notice any tannins come through in the final product? I find that good quality membrillo always has a distinctly tannic black tea-like note to it that I really love.

lifefermented said...

I'm surprised you got so much flavor from quince. I ate one raw one time (not really recommended), and got a ton of pineapple aroma, but basically no flavor. Cool beer though!
- Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

Kevinplaystheblues said...

@lifefermented, quince must be cooked to release is flavour

Kevinplaystheblues said...

Great to see that someone is getting on the quince train. I cop so much crap about being quince obsessed in our brewclub.

I know what you mean about the subtlety and the need to train people's palates on quince. I've made quince lambic and quince hefeweizen and the common feedback is around understaded apple and pear flavours - that IS quince!

lifefermented said...

@ Kevin: Thanks! Next time I see one at the store, I'll have to pick one up and cook up a little paste. I haven't heard anyone mention the pineapple aroma I kept getting. Does this go away when its cooked, or was I imagining that? I'm still reeling from the cactus fruit beer from a while back (which I now understand also needs to be cooked), and I haven't been able to talk myself into another fruit beer yet. But, perhaps soon...
- Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No significant tannins, and the membrillo itself wasn't tannic in my recollection (sweet and floral mostly).

I'll have to play around with some actual quince next time they are in season to see how different the flavor is from the pre-packaged paste.

Prickly pear should be skinned at a minimum as well (the mucilage can ferment into methanol apparently). A couple brewers suggested prickly pear concentrate over the fresh fruits, but Freetail makes the fruit work well!

osh said...

Hi,

did you make teh original beer, and if so did you have the recipe on here?

cheers
A

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I always link to the original recipe from the tasting notes (in this case from "the fifth annual incarnation", although I probably don't make it as obvious as I could. Here is the direct link!

osh said...

Doh, my mistake - missed it!!

ta for the extra link

A

Unknown said...

You can make quite a fine Gose using Membrillo. I added 2 pounds to make a 5.5 gallons brew that iI soured with lactic acid.

skunk said...

Anyone have issus with the quince cheeses sodium benzoate? Iast year i made a batch with two blocks of the quince with vienna malt and pilsner with a bit of carafoam. Saaz and bellle saison. It was a great beer. As it aged the floral or flavor was muted. This month ill make the same beer but with the quince added after secondary fermentation and using oly-212 by Omega. Ill post how it goes.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Preservatives in a small addition like quince paste shouldn't be an issue once they are diluted into the beer, but a preservative-free version is always ideal! The one I used was only: quince, sugar, and lemon. Best of luck!

Michael said...

Do you need (or recommend) to add pectic enzyme when adding the dulce de membrillo in secondary? I have a quince tree that is absurdly loaded with fruits, and I have a bunch of dulce de membrillo that I plan to add to a Belgian-style blond that just finished primary fermentation. From your recipe notes, it looks like you just loosen it up with boiling water and add that.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I didn't, but for a pale non-sour beer, it might not be a bad idea if clarity is something you worry about!

skunk said...

The beer racked to 1.000 today. It tastes pretty great out of the fermentor. Ill post a pic after its carbed up.

Bill Riley said...

I have a quince tree and usually bake the fruit with brown sugar to make a great dessert. One day I will try it in beer. On the other hand, my neighbour gave me all the fruit from her Japanese quince bush, a short thorny shrub unrelated to the quince tree. The fruit looks like a small quince without the fuzzy covering and, if anything, it is even more bitter than the tree quince fruit. I have cut and frozen the fruit and plan to try it on a saison or wild beer at some point. Do you know anyone who has brewed with bush quince?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Hadn't even heard of it. Make sure to report back on the results!

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