I have a little bit of a… well… addiction. I’m an avid gardener, but more importantly I require that (nearly) all of my plants should produce something edible. I know, it sounds a little bit tyrannical to demand that my royal subjects satisfy their king by producing something for him, lest he lop off their heads and throw them on the compost pile! Yes, it’s a cruel world so you’d better step up your game!Now I have no problem with tomatoes, potatoes or some squash. I have no quarrel with a nice aubergine or a plump bulb of fennel. Even a chile pepper or two has been know to stoke my fires. But I hold in particularly high regard those amazing trees that produce all the myriad versions of…FRUIT.At last count, I have over 40 fruit trees in my yard. Sure, I’ve got some pedestrian (but delicious) fruits like tangerines, limes, oranges and plums. But the really fun stuff is the unusual, the tropical and the just plain weird.
Buddha’s Hand/Citron fruitAmongst the latter is an odd bird called the Citron or Buddha’s Hand. It’s a citrus, but just barely. It doesn’t have juice or pulp to speak of. But its rind is highly prized for its aromatic lemony/lavender essence. And of course the dramatic form it takes is welcome on any table.
Dragon Fruit, from the Pitahaya plantThe Dragon Fruit plants are also a bit of an enigma. The fruits are large globes, colored a fiery red shade but with a mild flavor that belies their appearance. The fruits grow from enormous, showy flowers that are the size of dinner plates and only bloom at night. The plant itself grows like a vine but looks like a cactus and seems to thrive in almost any conditions.
The Jaboticaba tree hails from Brazil but finds the Southern California climate acceptable. Its claim to fame is a small, grape-sized black fruit that grows only along its trunk. Best eaten out of hand, put one in your mouth and bite down on one and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of flavor as the fruit breaks opens and pours out its amazing vanilla and cinnamon-like sweet juice. The skin is thick though and they usually have a seed or two, so typically you just spit the remains out. But alas, what has all this to do with BEER? Well, nothing directly, but when you combine fruit with beer some delicious things can happen. Fruit and honey were likely the first things that early humans fermented (whether intentionally or otherwise) to produce alcohol, and brewers have since had a very long and colorful history of adding them both to beer during the brewing process, with fruit possibly being the most common one.The Belgians are the most famous beer and fruit brewers with their well-known fruit lambics — sour, wild-fermented beers that spend a lot of time inside oak barrels with fruits like cherries and raspberries. Not only do you get a little sugar from the fruit to kick off a secondary fermentation, but many fruits also add acidity and tannins which can help balance the flavor. And certainly early brewers were unaware of the huge army of wild yeast and bacteria the inhabit the skins of most fruits, though they did notice when their beers started to develop unusual flavors and aromas after adding them.At Duck Foot, we’ve brewed a number of yummy brews with raspberries, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, kumquats…the list goes on and on. And yes, sometimes the fruit from my yard does go into Duck Foot beer (kumquats mostly as I get about 60 lbs. each harvest).Sometimes brewing on larger scales demands practicality though, so we do occasionally have to switch to a commercially prepared fruit puree, but we of course make sure it’s only high quality fruit. And we don’t use fruit extracts!In just another couple of weeks, we’ll have another batch of Sour On Love — Cherry Edition on tap. Brewing this beer has been so much fun and the reception so warm that we’re going to try to keep this one going for a little while — but also switch it up a bit too. Rumor has it that the next Sour On Love release will be pretty peachy keen.Also appearing on tap with increasing regularity is our Honey Blu Blu, featuring “Drink This or the Bees Die” Honey Ale combined with the deep flavor and incredible color of blueberries.And, as if to answer the question, “What else you got?” we’ve re-started our beer slushy program for the season with a myriad collection of fruits on offer. Piña Colada and Mojito beer slushies have already made an appearance in the past few weeks, but not to worry as we’ve got lots of fun and fruity flavors planned as we go into summer.
Cheers and see you at the bar!Brett