One of my favorite fruits to add to sour beers is nectarine. They don’t dominate a subtle beer the way sour cherries or raspberries usually do. I’ve added them to a couple of pale sours, with beautiful results. When Jacob suggested them as one of the fruit choices for Empty Hats (Modern Times’ oud bruin) I wasn’t sure how it would work out. Nectarine is delicate for such a malty barrel-forward beer. Luckily the results are wholly different, but no less delicious!
There are some brewers who deem only their “best” sour beer suitable for fruit (given the increased price and manpower requirements). Others seem to be adding fruit to their worst beer in an attempt to cover-up wretched off-flavors. For me, the ideal barrels for fruit are those that are bland (i.e., those that lack bold and beautiful aromatics and/or adequate acidity). Dumping is the only real option for sour beers with strong off-flavors, no amount of fruit will cover them completely.
Modern Times Palace of the Cracked Heads
Appearance – Red headed towards amber. Hazier than the unfruited beer, but nowhere near murky or muddy. The head sizzles down within a minute, not leaving so much as a spec of foam.
Smell – Apricot fruit leather. Saturated stone fruit, but not so much that it dominates the beer-y nature of the beverage. Cherry-funk around the edges. At around one pound of nectarines per gallon, the rate lower than what I’ve used at home. Less fruit, combined with the more assertive base certainly changes the perception of the fruit, creating a more balanced profile (at the cost of the knock-your-socks-off farmstand aroma).
Taste – Big acidity, lactic and malic: bright, sharp, and quick. The nectarines are there, jammy, concentrated, but not juicy-fresh. I think the flavor melds better with the biscuity maltiness that the Vienna and Munich provided. The damp-barrel goodness is there, but the fruit covers up much of it. There is just a touch of acetic towards the back.
Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, it is lively without being disruptive. The mouthfeel is a little stickier than the base beer, full enough to support the big flavors.
Drinkability & Notes – Rocking beer. Nice blend of fruit, malt, acid, and funk. It’s the early leader in the clubhouse for my favorite of the five “first round” Modern Times sour beers. There are still a couple more to go though!