A Belgian Golden Strong with Homegrown Persimmons!
By Brian D. Wood
The first thing coming across my mind as we planted yet another fruit tree (can one have too many?) was, what can I do with a persimmon? Frankly, both my wife and I had never grown any persimmons before and never even tasted a persimmon prior to my good neighbor introducing me to the Asian originated fruit. Once tasted, the “wow” factor came in. What an awesome tasting fruit! I can only compare it to a taste that reminded me of a mixture of both an apple and pear. Then it hit me! I’ve brewed beer with apple and pears before, why not give this delicious fruit called a persimmon a try?
There are several kinds of persimmon fruits and they fall into two general categories, astringent and non-astringent. The two most popular seems to be the Hachiya, which is the astringent persimmon and the Fuyu which is the non astringent. Now, we have grown many kinds of fruit trees over the years, primarily citrus, some stone fruits and of course avocados. One can’t live in the San Diego County area without having easy access to the beloved avocado. Anyway, as I started to envision harvesting our persimmons and introducing the fruit to a beer, there were two things coming to mind. First, would persimmon even be a good fruit to brew with? And, second of course was, what style of beer would fit best and optimize what the persimmon fruit had to offer? So, after realizing a persimmon fruit has a HUGE sugar content of 21 – 25 grams, compared to a pear at 17 grams of sugar, or cherries at 13 grams, I concluded there are plenty of fermentable sugars capable of bringing a higher level of original gravity brews to the table, which typically I have a propensity to do. Also, knowing the Belgians have a history of brewing all kinds of concoctions with fruits, it made logical sense to use a Belgian Golden Strong as the style.
Over the years, I’ve brewed many Belgian styled ales, many of them have turned out fantastic. But I never brewed a Belgian with any additives, such as fruit. My challenge was, when would I and could I introduce the persimmons? And, how much of the fruit should I use in brewing my standard 5–6-gallon batches? As with all of us that have homebrewed, I defaulted to simply guesstimating the timing and the quantity. I have to say, this has never happened to me before while brewing, but my guess seemed to be spot on!
I had harvested our persimmons about a month prior to my brew day. My process was to peel the skin off the fruit, quarter them, then place them in Ziplock bags to freeze. The night before brew day, I took 3 lbs. of the fruit out of the freezer to allow them to thaw. How did I decide 3 lbs.? All I can say is, lucky guess. My thoughts were to not introduce the fruit in its frozen state to the boil as it would contribute more water than I would have liked to the wort. Not sure if this impacted the brew any differently, but I went with that thought.
After bringing my full grain mash into wort form and boil started, I dropped the 3 lbs. of cubed, skinned persimmons in the boil for the entire 60 minute duration. After boil, conducted my wort chill down exercise, racking into my primary fermenter, then pitched my Belgian yeast. After racking into secondary for about 10 days, then racking into my corny keg, I placed the homebrew into my kegerator and let it age for about 45 days.
The result? According to family and friends who had the opportunity to drink it, turns out this is the process I will use from this day forward. The beer was incredible! Now, this brew is not a lower O.G. beer brewed for drinking all afternoon on a hot summer day. This brew, with its 1.086 O.G., ending at about 1.012 F.G., resulting in actual ABV of 9.71% is a higher-octane level beer. However, not sure what the science really is going on behind the scenes, this beer didn’t let you know it.
The smell and aromas coming off that thick, white fluffy head at the glass rim as you raise it to your nose reminds you of a very subtle walk through an apple orchard on an early, cool morning, but sweeter. When sipping down the drink, all that fruit essence seems to disappear and the Belgian yeast kicks in a bit, only to have it finish off with a cinnamon-like after taste, but also very subtle, barely there. This was and is, a very drinkable beer, not too heavy, but has the taste of something hard to explain and just leaving you for wanting more. My 5-gallon corny keg lasted about 3 hours with a small household of family and friends one holiday evening. Needless to say, I have been encouraged to continue my experimentation with homegrown fruits in a variety of brews I will continue to make.
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