Friday, November 25, 2016
Brewers can take the same fruit and do wildly different things with it. In different hands, for example, a strawberry can be be a perfect sweet complement to the tartness of a Berliner Weisse or the added lightener to a blonde ale that makes it saccharine and undrinkable. So, it's pretty difficult to paint a fruit with one description in regard to its presence in beer.
That said, a handful of breweries are proving in recent months that plum not only can be a special addition to zip up the flavor of an already strong base beer but that it might be one of the best additions discovered in a while in order to give a bullish, daring jolt to tart beers.
Maybe the most proving example of this theorem is Trent's Plums, which truly has become the stand-out offering of Beryl's Beer, the too-often-overlooked barrel-aging specialists in Denver's RiNo neighborhood. This is a beer that walks the delicate line between taste-bud-waking tartness and over-acidity. But somehow, it's the presence of the fruity, juicy plums, when added to this sour brown aged for two years in red-wine barrels, that cut back on the tinge just enough for you to be both shocked and pleased. And it's a beer (tucked somewhere in the three tasters pictured above) that will make you go out of your way to stop at the brewery and try it again.
AC Golden put forth a slightly more puckery, but ultimately very successful, barrel-aged effort this fall known simply as Colorado Native Plum. Though just 6.5 percent ABV, it's a big ol' mouthful of tart - astringent with just a hint of sweetness that is all natural and shows no hints of the granulated sugar that can mark other, lesser fruit sour efforts. It's a challenge whose aftertaste sticks around for quite a while, but it too is balanced just enough by the dark-fruit addition to this aggressive beer.
Those who attended the Great American Beer Festival this year may have been lucky enough to sample a wider range of plum beers - or they may well not have been. Plum lambic offerings from the likes of Reno's Brasserie Saint James and Arvada's Yak and Yeti generated big lines - and then ran out quickly.
Is plum the next hot ingredient? The tart beers employing the fruit certainly have a limited audience. But it's a group of drinkers likely to recognize the enormous taste in the previously untapped fruit and seek out other brewers who are willing to try their own versions.