New beer alert:
The 2014 harvest in East Kent turned out pretty well; we got a good deal of great hops, the winemakers had a ball and soft fruit was piling up all over the place. Following a visit to the hop gardens, Brewer Sue persuaded us to relieve the grower of heaps of cherries and apricots, and make some beer with them.
Now brewing with fruit can be straight forward (and dull), or it can be a tricky, drawn-out affair. I chose the latter because it's more fun - it's a different kind of brewing, the kind where the beer itself takes control and we watch, and wait, and wonder if it will ever be tasty.
I dream of apricots
Our base beer was a mid-strength pale, very low on bitterness but with a generous amount of fruity hops on the nose. This sat on our apricots for a month or so, macerating them and absorbing their lovely flavours, and a little colour. We added brettanomyces claussenii (a yeasty type organism that works very, very slowly, giving a tropical fruit aroma) and lactobacillus brevis (a jolly decent bacteria that acidifies beer, and does us good). After nearly 18 months in the bottle the beer finally came into a magnificent balance: pale, with a lively effervescence and a pure white, lasting head; the aroma fruity, with apricots all over it, leading to a crispy, sharp flavour of apricots in the mouth. The finish is decent, not too long for this refreshing style of beer, but neither is it short. I'm chuffed with this one.
The same base beer was left to sit on cherries for a month or so, then bottled with brettanomyces lambicus (this gives a distinctive horse-blanket aroma - you may never have come across a horse blanket, I haven't, so just think sort of warm, and funky) and L. brevis, as before. I didn't use nearly enough cherries, so the beer is dominated by the brett. This is a full and funky beer (which I love) with a fairly short, sharp finish (and I spend the entire bottle musing over whether this a good thing, or not). If you like brett, you ought to try this one.
Next up, from the cellars of my mind, is a 3-yearold very gueuzie non-gueuze and a rather daft, 4-yearold super-sour, peaty stout, which needs blackberries.