Monday, June 28, 2010

Farmers Market Fruit and Homegrown Hops

Sour Cherries, Blackberries, and Black RaspberriesWhen it comes to buying non-traditional (odd) ingredients for brewing I tend to skip the homebrew store and shop at the places that specialize in them, spices at spice stores, weird sugars at ethnic markets, fruit at farmers markets etc...  Yesterday morning I walked over to the local farmers market (during halftime of the England Germany match) to buy some fruit.  The Takoma Park Farmers Market isn't as big as some of the other ones around DC, but located just a few blocks from my house it is more than convenient.  I've found that in terms of price and especially quality that buying fruit at farmers markets is the way to go over supermarkets.

I picked up 2 qrts of sour cherries, and 1 qrt each of blackberries and black raspberries. The big argument for purees/juice is that they are more consistent than fresh fruit, but when you taste beers made from fruit like this there is no comparison between it and the processed/packaged/pasteurized products.

Cascade Hop CloseupDespite buying all this fruit, at the moment I don't have any beers ready for it, so I froze it all.  A quick freeze is important if your goal is to preserve the delicate cell structure of the fruit, but when adding fruit to beer I actually want the cells beat up to give the yeast/bacteria easy access to the sugars within.  Vacuum-packing the fruit is the best option for long term storage in the freezer, but with such delicate fruit the pressure of the suction will actually squeeze juice out of the fruit if you don't freeze it first.  I also gave the fruit a quick rinse in cold water before freezing so it is ready to use after defrosting.

I'll probably combine the blackberries and black raspberries in a Flanders Red (the blackberry Flanders Red I brewed ~4 years ago is still one of my favorite batches).  Some/all the sour cherries might find their way into half of my Berliner Lambic in a couple months.  I try to buy all of my fruit for a year's worth of sour fruit beers in the summer, so I may have to go back and pick up some more in the next few weeks.

Cascade on the left, Golding on the right.On a different note my friend Devin just picked up 4 lbs of frozen soursop at a Asian market to add to the pale sour he and I brewed a few months ago.  I've never tasted it, but the Wikipedia description makes it sound like a great addition to the beer "A combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana."

Speaking of local ingredients, I'm also having great luck with my first year hop plants.  The rhizomes were given to me by Roy (a homebrewer who lives on Capital Hill).  Considering it isn't even July yet and they are just covered with burs and cones I'd say they are having a great first year.  They get much more sun than the 5th year plants that are still growing at my parents' house, so I am worried about how they will do in the high heat of the DC summer.  The cascade on the left is in the lead but the Goldings (I think that's what they are) on the right is doing pretty well.  Hopefully I'll get enough to do a fresh hop harvest ale of some kind in a month or two.

Anybody out there doing any fruit buying, or hop growing?


Beer Made Clear said...

About to purchase a 55 lb sack of 2row pale & a sack o' wheat. The wheat is essentially a "robust" jacked-up berry weisse and we are planning to use red raspberries as they are in season and the easiest (supposedly) to blend. As always, please keep us posted - especially on the harvest!

-Mike S.

Unknown said...

I haven't started using fresh fruit in my beers yet, I've only used purees before. I think this is the year to start.

Do you rinse your fruit before freezing it?

We picked up some Tayberries at the market this past weekend. I'd never had them before and they are awesome. I think they would be great in a beer.

Tom said...

My fiancee and I just picked 15 pounds of blueberries yesterday and I brewed a Berliner Weisse (using some techniques from your recipes), so I think a couple a pounds of blueberries and a couple a gallons of Berliner Weisse might meet in a week or so.

Unknown said...

I'm deeply jealous of the sour cherries at your farmers' market. Down here in NC it just seems to be too warm for local sour cherries, and I've just never seen them fresh, or even frozen, at any grocery store including Whole Foods.

Paul! said...


I have 1st year zeus and fuggle vines at about 5 feet high right now ( I have major vine envy after reading your post)
Sour cherry season is coming soon here in Oregon and I'm planning on getting about 8 pounds for thing's I have fermenting now and about 5 for things I have planned for next year.
I think being able to taste the fresh fruit gives you so much more of an idea of how much acid and fermentables said fruit will give to your beer, but more importantly I think that going and tasting/buying fresh fruit thats local to your area will also make you more consistent as a sour beer brewer. I find myself looking forward to and planning on my state's apricot/ cherry harvest.

Anonymous said...

I actually have some humungous Golden Raspberry and a bine of Mount Hood growing in my back yard here in Philly. There are a lot of urban gardeners here in my neighborhood and a really phenomenal farmers market on saturdays as well. A friend nearby is a beekeeper and an avid oddball herb grower. I've been trying to think up a recipe to combine all of the attainable elements. Golden raspberries are not quite the same as the red and black varieties, they are a good deal more tart, slightly sour and not very sweet, but delicious none the less, slightly buttery too if I may say. I considered a lambic, but, I want something I can get to drinking before the heat dissipates, ( shame too, as I think they make for a fantastic fruited lambic),. In any case, I was considering perhaps a berliner or possibly a fruited saison, with the honey and raspberries added to the secondary, with the possibility of picking out a complimentary herb from my friends garden. Anyone have any thoughts on this they'd care to share?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes, I rinse the fruit before freezing (updated the post to indicate that) no way to rinse it after it defrosts since you’ll be rinsing away all the juice that runs out.

Golden Raspberry Lambic sounds awesome, just start a batch now, and it will be ready for fruit by the time next summer’s harvest arrives. For this summer a Berliner would be a good choice for the golden raspberries, although a honey/herb saison sounds like a good combination as well.

Tasty ideas all around, good luck to everyone.

danger said...

i wanted to buy some golden rasperries for a sour blend later this year, but the only place i could find them was whole foods and that was like $4/6oz. f that. i didn't think sour cherries were out yet... gotta get to the farmer's market thursday. i bottled a kriek like a month ago made from last year's farmer's market sour cherries, but it's been shitty at carbonating thus far.

Anonymous said...

Mangoes are going to be ripe down here soon. Buddy has a huge tree and is doing a Mango IPA, I will of course being going the sour route and doing a pale mango sour (simple light grainbill I have not comepltely decided on yet).

Chris said...

OK, gathered the ingredients for a Berliner Weisse today, 50/50 pils and white wheat, German Ale, Lacto. I am a bit overwhelmed by the vast amount of varying info that is out there about how to brew Berliners. A lot of talk about pitching rates, ( 3 to 1 bacteria to yeast), when to pitch what, how long till pitching the other, acid malt or no acid malt, to boil or not to boil, decoction or no decoction, mash hops or no mash hops, bulk age or bottle condition..... what's a fella to do?!

So once I settle what method I'm going to go with, it still leaves the conundrum of what to do with the fruit. Should I wait till things get down to 1.03? Anyone care to chime in on this with any thoughts? How long to let it sit on the raspberries? Should I add any pectic enzyme?

Seriously, any thoughts from anyone would be greatly appreciated!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

For Berliners I've been very happy with mash hop, decoction, no-boil (but I heat to just below a boil before chilling), pitch lacto and a clean ale yeast at the start, plus more bugs after a bit. Make sure you have lots of healthy lacto cells going when you pitch or you'll end up with a clean wheat beer with a hint of tartness.

I like adding fruit in secondary for sour beers, keeps more of the delicate aromatics. If you aren't heating the fruit (which sets the pectin) I haven't found a need to use pectic enzyme. Just leave it on there till it tastes right, then prime/bottle.

Hope that helps, good luck.

Unknown said...

I just got a half-flat of Tayberries to use for future brews. Going to wash them and freeze them up in a bit.

I sanitized some tools and crushed up a few berries in a small jar. Checked the sugar content with my refractometer and it was 13 brix (1.051). Diluted with water a bit and covered it up. Will be interesting to see if the yeast on there will ferment it.

Royski said...

Glad the hops are doing well and regret not keeping better track of the other varieties. Today I brewed ten gallons of an IPA with all Centennial hops in the style of Bell's Two Hearted. Despite the recent cool weather, tap water was at or above 80F so I pitched really warm.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've never taken brix readings on fruit (seems like a great excuse to get a refractometer) but it always amazes me that people claim that adding fruit to an 11% beer will add alcohol (they seem to forget that the fruit adds water too and dilutes the alcohol already there).

When I can't get the temp down far enough with my I usually end up leaving the wort in the fridge for a few hours before pitching. I really should get a pump so I can recirculate ice water through my chiller. Thanks again for the rhizomes.

Chris said...

I brewed up that batch of berliner weisse the other day,No boil, all grain 50/50 pils and white wheat, 2 stage decoction mash, 1oz hallertau mash hops, built up starters of both wyeast lacto and german ale, pitched both at the same time. within 6 hours it was fermenting like a tornado, had to attach a blow off. OG was 1.35. I racked when it hit 1.03. Racked onto about 4 or 5 pounds of my frozen golden raspberries. ( need a better bottle, getting all that fruit into a 5 gallon carboy was a PITA.),. I shit you not when I say the smell coming out of the airlock is nothing short of straight up cotton candy, to a T. Now the question is, since I didn't notice much lactic tang, thinking about pitching some bottle dregs; cantillon? Orval? so many to choose from....

Unknown said...

A lot of homebrewers seem to be satisfied with the results of adding lactic acid to a lackluster Berliner Weiss. I haven't tried this, and it feels like "cheating", but in a well fermented beer with not much sugar left it seems like a good option and it will be ready to drink in the heat.