Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peach Beer - Yellow vs White

The aroma of a ripe local peach has few equals, but what kind of peach is the best choice to add to a sour beer?  Yellow peaches have a classic focused peach aroma and solid acidity, while white peaches tend to be less tart with a more intricate aromatic character.  Two-and-a-half years ago I brewed a sour honey ale, half of which was aged on white peaches, a year later I brewed a golden sour, a gallon of which was aged on yellow peaches.  Tasting these two beers side-by-side begs the question: which peach variety marries better to the complex character and added acidity of a sour beer? 

White Peach Honey Wheat

Appearance – Slightly hazy yellow-gold beer. A moderate pour inflates a fine-grained white head, but it falls after only a few minutes.

Smell – The aroma is saturated with fresh peaches, covering up most of the honey complexities that the peach-less version exudes (although as it warms some sweet-waxy aromatics tease out).

Taste – Enough lactic sourness that my mouth involuntarily chews a couple times after the first sip. The fresh peach flavor is the dominant character here again, nicely lingering into the finish (with the addition of a bit of coconut). The fermentation character is clean, with minimal Brett funk. 

Left - White Peach Honey Wheat; Right - Yellow Peach Golden SourMouthfeel – Crisp and light, with moderate carbonation. Refreshing, a good match for the peach flavors. 

Drinkability & Notes – A great beer that still hangs onto its freshness despite its advanced age. The white peaches are still so alive it is hard to remember they were picked two years ago. This beer shares a lot in common with Dogfish Head Festina Peche, although the DFH beer is less acidic/complex.

Yellow Peach Golden Sour

Appearance – Golden-orange and perfectly clear. The white head has slightly better retention, but it still sinks to a thin ring while I still have half a glass left.

Smell – Despite the fresh fruit added, it has a more singular “cooked” peach aroma (like a peach pie). The aroma also has some tart apples, a bit of malt, and Sweetarts.

Taste – The sourness is slightly softer and it has a more nuanced character (less lactic, more malic). The peach flavor too is subtler and allows some malt character to come through. The funk is mild, but present as additional overripe fruit and damp oak flavors.

Mouthfeel – Slightly heavier body, the carbonation is prickly. The mouthfeel goes well with the more savory less refreshing flavors this one possesses.

Drinkability & Notes – An easy drinking sour beer, but I think it could have used a bit more peach. The yellow peaches match well with the flavors of the beer, adding complexity without overwhelming. The peach flavor already seems to have mellowed from when it was bottled, surprising given how much younger this one is.

In the end either white or yellow peaches can work, it is more a matter of what what you can get fresh and what sort of peach flavor you are looking for.  If forced to choose I'd take the white peaches because they have more punch and depth than the yellow peaches.  That said, a blend of the two beers is wonderful, so mixing fruit varieties is another option worth considering.


beerpr0n said...

Just curious how many lbs of peaches you used per 5 gallons and how long did they sit in the beer?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The white peaches were about 2 lbs/gal, the yellow peaches were 1.5 lbs/gal (in both cases the fruit had the pits removed but the skins on). Both beers sat on their fruit for about 5 months before bottling. The recipe posts have more details on the process as well.

Ryan said...

Good timing for the post, peach season has come and gone down here in AZ, but I managed to get a hold of a ton of super ripe yellow peaches, Im planning on trying them in a sour soon, hopefully it will be better than my "clean" beer versions, Ive got high hopes after all the good luck you have had

I wonder, with the differences in bugs and lb/gal, do you think you can definitively say that the whites are more aromatic and flavorful than the yellow? Or could it be a bit more related to other factors? Id be pretty interested to hear your thoughts

Draconian Libations said...

This is good timing for me as well. When I get this Brett Saison experiment out of my system, I am considering a peach Berliner Weiss. White peach it is...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There could certainly something to the other differences between these two batches (they were not conceived for this comparison). I find white peaches in general to be more aromatic and better for eating fresh, so that makes me think I'm onto something. The fact that the yellow peach aroma has faded as well says that there is something different going on.

Sourness from a beer really helps fruit beers in my experience, fruit just doesn't taste right without the acid. Good luck to everyone on their peach beers.