Using Fruit in Beer at Mooselick
Mooselick uses whole fruit in two distinct ways while producing Mooselick beers: fruit enhancement and fruit forward.
Fruit Enhancement is the addition of fruit to a traditional beer style in order to add another flavor profile to the beer, in addition to enhancing the flavor of the underlying beer. Velvety Antlers uses peaches and apricots to add just a little bit of stone fruit flavor and aroma to a brown ale. Hoof Print Porter uses black currants to add fruit depth to the roasted grain dominance of a porter. Coffee, technically a fruit though not from our local farm, is added to WOW our stout. Even Dirty Old Moose has a small amount of raspberry. Fruit enhanced beers at Mooselick are processed as a traditional beer would be, about 2 weeks in the fermentor.
Fruit Forward beers are where the flavor and aroma is all about the fruit. The amount of fruit used per barrel is much higher than fruit enhanced beers. Red Berry Gulp uses red raspberries and red currants; Razleberry is raspberries and blueberries; Currant Trend is red & black currants; while Apple Rack is, well, bittersweet apples.
Picking the yeast strain, and time in the fermentation cycle can have a profound effect on the final flavor of a fruit forward beer. I use a specific yeast strain just for our fruit beers because I like the results with this strain. I give Fruit Forward beers 4 weeks in the fermentation tank to allow/force the yeast to go after the second level of sugar that is in fruit that is not in malted grain.
I strive for a dry fermentation which means that there is very little residual sugar, just like a dry wine has little sweetness. All fruits have an underlying tartness which is balanced by the sugar; some fruits lean towards being sweeter (blueberries, peaches) while others barely have any balancing sugar (red currants, gooseberries). When the sugar is fermented away, you are left with the tartness and flavors belonging to the base fruit. This is often quite a shock to our tastebuds as we are accustomed to expecting those flavors sweetened by the natural sugars. I feel this is why the first taste of a Mooselick fruit forward beer is often accompanied by a strange face which is modified during taste 2&3 as our brains start to process the underlying flavor as something that we do know.
Mooselick sources the whole fruit from Monadnock Berries in Troy, NH. We juice the whole fruit and add the juice/pulp stream to the beer. Sometimes we use the solids stream like a wine maker does; limiting the time the solids are exposed to our beer so only the easy-to-extract stuff is pulled from the skins/solids. We use red raspberry pulp, along with currant and blueberry skins. We do not use the skins of peaches, apricots, or gooseberries.
There is a relatively new phenomena in the USA beer scene called sours. Sours have been made in Europe for centuries (Belgian Lambic and German Berlinerweisse by using wild yeast/bacteria). More recently, brewers have added special yeast and bacteria to cause further controlled fermentation and the byproducts are more acids causing the sour sensation. Mooselick does not add any of these souring yeast or bacteria to our beers. All the tartness that you detect is from the removal of sugar from the fruit. The more complete the beer fermentation (drier), the closer to a natural sour sensation.