Between now Upright's third anniversary in late March, two new sour fruit beers will be released. The first, titled Fantasia, after the musical term (not the movie, even though I enjoy it somewhat regularly), is one I'm really excited about. The project started early in the summer of 2010 after meeting Trevor Baird whose family operates an orchard that produces stunning fruit, most notably peaches. It was a tremendously friendly Trevor who planted the idea in my head to make a peach beer, and so I set about to brew something totally different from anything I've done before. The process started in July when it was time to begin propagating some lactobacillus and brettanomyces, which don't reproduce all that quickly. I wanted a healthy and respectable pitch to get the flavors I had in mind, and by the time the peaches were ripe and ready, which landed the third week of August, the yeast and bacteria were plenty ready to go. The few weeks leading up to the brewday were also spent procuring some appropriate oak barrels, eight in total sourced from four different wineries here in Oregon. After finally getting the call from Trevor that the peaches would be ready on the 23rd, everything was in order and Gerritt fired up the brewhouse while myself and a few very hardworking friends unloaded 800 pounds of fruit and spent most of the day cutting them up and stuffing them into the barrels.
It took quite a while, and the wort enjoyed an extra long boil in the meantime much like traditional lambic worts. The recipe was pretty simple, all barley (unlike the wheaten lambic style), but employing warm aged hops from the 2008 harvest. By the end of the boil, all eight barrels were full of the fruit plus a mixture of saison yeast and the aforementioned lactobacillus and brettanomyces. The wort was then cooled and pumped directly into the barrels, all of them getting filled to roughly 2/3 or 3/4 capacity to allow room for the fermentation (one that was filled a little much clogged the breathable bung with peach flesh and blew it out like a shotgun during a bottling run, which created one of the most incredible messes in Upright history), which after a couple weeks was on it's tail end and the barrels were topped off with one of two beers; the Four and the Tokay d' Portland, a small batch barrel aged experiment of sorts. At that point, the Fantasia was ready for extended maturation in the casks, so it was hard bunged and set aside until the following August when seven of the eight barrels were blended and bottled shortly thereafter. Those bottles have been conditioning in the back of the brewery since, and as soon as we get it labeled later this month they'll finally be at the end of their journey and ready to enjoy or to cellar for even more time as I expect this beer to continue developing for two years. After that the fruit character will likely dull a bit even though the beer will still be tasty.
The Fantasia is very lambic-esque, despite the fact that it wasn't brewed strictly to style. I suspect the aromatic similarity is due to the primary fermentation being carried out not only with the three yeasts and bacteria intentionally pitched but also with who knows what the fruit had on it. Fresh fruit is notorious for carrying all sorts of "wild" yeasts, and the Fantasia certainly has a pleasant complexity thanks to that. The Four Play on the other hand, a brew that has been released twice by Upright now, has used a puree from Oregon Fruit Products. I use their fruit often for all sorts of barrel aged beers. They're packaged aseptically, so there's never any surprises; the flavor is always consistent and excellent, and they're pureed so no hours and hours of destemming and cutting. I know, sucking the romance right out of it, but next time I get 800 pounds of peaches or 400 pounds of cherries, etc., I'll give you a call and you can see exactly how romantic it is after half the day has passed.
The Four Play has been a bit of a cult beer for us. It's always generated a fair deal of hype (much to my dismay) and sells out pretty quickly. Basically a barrel aged sour cherry version of the Four, it has what I think is a perfect balance of funk and fruit. This separates it greatly from the Fantasia or even more so from red fruit lambic-style beers which can be so forward that the grain-based beer gets completely buried. Well, I'm stoked to say that Upright is taking its most popular beer and retiring it. The Four Play, whose release coincides with the brewery anniversary, is being turned into a similar brew named after a colleague and friend, Ben Love of the upcoming Gigantic Brewing Company. The new beer, titled Blend Love, is essentially the Four Play but with barrel aged Six with raspberries mixed in. The inaugural release, blended earlier today, used 25% of the Six. It's an evolution of the Four Play, giving it added layers - more malt, more alcohol, deeper color, and more fruit (but still in check with the malt profile). I'm into it, and hope that you will be too! For those that loved the Four Play, don't be dismayed as the brewery is securing more space for barrel aging and is strongly considering producing a couple batches of Four Play annually to keep on tap year round at the tasting room, besides making several more new annual releases, but of course that's ripe for a future blog posting.