In between our berry expeditions, stone fruit started coming into season. I have used this phrase before but, The Libertine has never met a stone fruit it didn’t want to put into a beer. Robert Kinports called me up and asked how I felt about Nectarines. (Love them, who the heck doesn’t?) A personal friend of the brewery, he knew of a small untamed orchard that was ripening and wondered if we wanted to check it out. Three or four of us stopped by Robert’s house, grabbed a ladder and some buckets and drove over. We followed him in the van, he drove like he was trying to lose a tail. We found the place though, down a long winding road in an area called See Canyon, in the hills behind Avila Beach. Gnarled Oaks formed a canopy over the roads and peacocks crossed our path as we pulled into what appeared to be an abandoned farmstead.
The property was polka dotted with miscellaneous trees with a hodgepodge of different fruit. They were unpruned and forgotten, but the fruit they still bore was delicious. Saturn Peaches, Nashi Pear, Pluots, Plums, White and Yellow Peaches and some of the plumpest Nectarines I had ever eaten. A small orchard, maybe 10 trees total, of nectarines and only half of those were ripe. We picked what we could and sampled everything they had, while we wandered the desolate trails leading to each patch of fruit trees. We thanked everyone and returned the van. We didn’t get a lot of fruit. Maybe enough for a wine barrels worth of beer to swim in.
A year prior we bought some Fuyu Persimmons from Step Ladder Ranch that we used in a beer called “Grab Him By The Persimmons”. Before we added beer to the fruit we let them go through a slight native fermentation in the pick bin they were stored in. They were a winter fruit and it was cold out which made their flesh hard and the meat difficult to process. The fermentation allowed us to half them easily, then let our culture macerate the rest of them. I bring this up because i recalled how much i enjoyed the flavors that came out during this process. I don’t think of persimmons as particularly aromatic but I can never forget that smell now. We spend a great deal of time working with wine makers; and the amount I have learned about fruit and fermentation from them could fill a book I shall never write because i still only understand half of it. Well, Halter Ranch taught us about the beauty of their hot room. Essentially a sweat lodge for fermentation that brings out intense aromatics in some of their wines. This got me thinking about these nectarines we had in the back of our company van, then about the persimmons of Christmas past.
I decided to let them open ferment in the pick bin inside the van over the weekend. (Covered both with a lid to keep out bugs and with our house culture to inhibit unfavorable growth like mold) It was warm but not hot and come Monday morning as I drove the fruit to Santa Maria some of the best things I have ever smelled was emanating out of the back of the van. It smelled hot (fusel) but the integrity of the nectarine itself remained intact. We only wanted to use a single barrel of beer to cover the fruit. We tasted through quite a few trying to find a nice match to the stone fruit qualities. During which, we tasted a barrel that we made with 8 Wired, an incredible brewery out of New Zealand. It was an accident, but what a happy accident it was. The flavor profiles matched perfectly. It was so good that I had to call Robert back.
We were crunched between the nectarines on the other side of the patch ripening and the ticking clock of Robert going on a cruise. We either had to risk it and hope for the best, or wait out ten or so days while he was gone when the fruit may be fallen, rotten or bird pecked. These trees were untended so nature gets the first crack and the last laugh. We found a time we could meet and scrambled to get a crew, which was pulled together thanks to Scott Chedester, our resident Sunday night Bingo personality. The rules were simple. Pick every Nectarine you could and any other fruit you wanted was yours to keep. My goal was a half ton, which we nearly met, so we could use all of our 8 Wired barrels for this brew.
Soren and David from 8 Wired were the next piece of the puzzle, but they were on board as our original plan for the collaboration had fallen through. Sometimes our grand ambitions lead to great things and sometimes small projects lead to great things. Somehow this became both, but with crossed intentions.
The beer aged wonderfully and we got some lovely peach pies and turnovers with the extra fruit everyone picked. Nec Beard comes out to our bottle club members in our July Shipment.