We are always looking for fresh fruit at the Libertine. We like it a little overripe, we like it local and we absolutely love it when it’s free. Sometimes we don’t know what we're in for. A farmer will call us out of the blue and ask if we are interested in something unique, maybe it is unusual, or unusable. The poor forgotten ‘Ugly’ fruit. There are so many different varieties of peaches some brewers will go so far as to name the type used and the farm in which they were grown. Terroir has come to the beer world, not in our culture and microbes but in where we source our fruit. This isn’t new, brewer’s have known and cared about this since we have been working with the stuff. We just didn’t realize how much you guys cared about it until recently, and we are as excited as you are. I’m going to take some time to talk about some of these farms, farmers and varietals over the next few blog posts and let you guys in on the secrets we have been trying to tell you for years. Where you get your food matters!
The first post I want to talk about 2 Peas in a Pod farm in the Edna Valley. Nestled behind Chamisal vineyard in the Edna Valley, we met Lori off a dirt road marked only by a boulder and a sign indicating that we were going the wrong way. Trusting our gut we followed her instructions and found a small patch of berry vines just off the side of the road. Zack, her son, had contacted me a year prior wanting to sell me some wet hops that he was growing on the same plot of land. We didn’t end up using those hops but when their Olallieberries started ripening both he and Lori pondered how they would taste in a beer. I couldn’t be happier that they called us to find out.
We chatted about how much we could get (not too much), how much they would cost (quite a bit), and when we could get them. They have workers that come out, and every few days when the berries are ripe they go to town picking them. This ensures that in just a few more days there will be more ripe berries to pick. A typical harvest can last a few weeks to a full month. I asked her if we could cut the cost down if i we picked them ourselves and she agreed. We went to work thinking we could pull in a few hundred pounds of berries in an hour or so.
Berries are very small. Berries also weigh very little. This was a task we were not prepared for, but regardless she set aside two rows of vines for us and we got to work. Kyle and I spent the better part of the morning out there. Her pickers a few rows in front of us, silently running through their crop while Kyle and I bellowed from ours. The first few times you get cut on a thorn it’s a surprise, by the end of the run it was like ‘cat scratch fever’ and I couldn’t remember a time where I didn’t have pain from microscopic non-bleeding scrapes all over my arms. Kyle and I decided that the next time we decided to do field labor for our craft we would employ more fools friends to help out.
Before we left 2 Peas in a Pod Farms with our Olallieberries we had very specific instructions from Lori on how to pick berries:
Do not leave any ripe berries on a vine
We had to get through all our rows or it would screw up her pick schedule.
Kyle and I were as thorough as we could be, too thorough it turns out. We were so worried about our workmanship that when we returned she said it was the best picked row. Granted it took us like four hours to do the work one of her pickers can do in an hour but hey, i’ll take it. We really wanted to make sure that we did a good enough job though, because as we were out in the field we sampled some of her Golden Raspberries, some Banana Raspberries and rows and rows and rows of good old fashioned American Raspberries. All we could think about was Framboise, and how cool it would be to pick the berries ourselves and use it for this years blend.
We picked our Olallieberries and headed to Santa Maria with our cache and fermented it with some Spontaneous Edna we had ready to go. We liked the way the way our Central Coast Saison played with Blackberries from 2017’s “Last Harvest” so we thought this would be a good fit. Berryfarmersonly.com will be available in our March Member shipment to Platinum members and available for individual purchase to both clubs.
Stay Tuned for Part II next week.