Napa Smith Shares Insights to Using Fruit Purées

California’s family-owned Napa Smith Brewery and The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley teamed up in 2019 for Brewmaster Stein Servick’s Fresh Picked Series of signature beers featuring fruit purées and concentrates.

The third beer in the collaboration was the mid-December release of Cherry Hill Porter, a medium-bodied porter with warm notes of cherry and smooth Tahitian vanilla that complement the beer’s rich, malty chocolate and cherry notes. The mild, clean, and floral aromas of Centennial, Mt. Hood and Sterling hops balance the deep red hues of the Cherry Purée and lend expression to the fruit and vanilla.

Servick has a scientific approach to brewing from years of working in labs as a graduate student and, based on his experimentations, says The Perfect Purée’s pasteurization technique optimizes fruit for brewing because it preserves the natural flavor and aroma of the fruit before it’s frozen.

“When designing Cherry Hill Porter and the other beers in the Fresh Picked Series, we wanted to promote fresh fruit flavors. Pasteurized products project fresh fruit flavors, where aseptic purées lend a cooked-fruit flavor,” Servick said.

Servick answers some common questions about brewing with The Perfect Purée:

How much purée or concentrate do you recommend using?

The amount of purée you use depends on the style of beer you’re making. An Imperial stout, for example, may require considerably more purée than a lighter wheat-style beer due to its dominant aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. In general, lighter styles lend expression to fresh fruit flavor. Fruit-style beers such as fruited Lambics and Kreiks may require significantly more fruit purée to achieve optimal flavor and aromatics.

What benchtop or experimental techniques do you suggest brewers use to determine how to apply purée/concentrate to a batch or style of beer?

Bench trials are the best way to determine how much fruit purée to use. Start with a small volume of a proxy beer then add a range of purée amounts that closely approximate the final product. Keep in mind when using a proxy beer that results may vary slightly from your final product, but when done correctly should be very close to the desired target.

What is the optimal stage of brewing to add purée/concentrate?

Adding fruit during the primary/secondary stage maximizes flavor and aromatic potential in the final product while reducing the threat of contamination.

What is the best way to add purée or juice concentrate to the batch?

The important part of adding purée to the fermentation vessel is mixing. At a brewery, add the fruit purée to an external vessel and recirculate the fermenter contents through the external vessel for approximately one hour. In a homebrewing context, add the purée and gently mix it by swirling the entire carboy/pail to limit exposure to air and minimize oxidation.

What is the benefit of using frozen pasteurized purée or juice concentrate vs aseptic product or fresh fruit?

The Perfect Purée’s flavors are pasteurized before freezing, which is gentler than aseptic processing and preserves the natural color, flavor, and aroma of fresh fruit. Because pasteurization reduces microbes to very low levels, there isn’t much concern with microbial contamination but the product is not considered sterile.

Aseptic purées, on the other hand, are sterile and may be stored at ambient or refrigerator temperatures. While that may seem advantageous, the process tends to darken the color of the purée and give the flavors and aromas cooked or jam-like characteristics.

Visit Brewing with The Perfect Purée for more of Servick’s detailed answers to common questions about brewing with purées such as:

  • What are pros and cons of adding fruit pre-fermentation, during fermentation or post-fermentation?
  • Does the acidic nature of purées affect the flavor of beer (not really)
  • Do the added sugars in some purées affect fermentation and flavor (they don’t)
  • How can haze be minimized? (via additives such as PVPP or silica or filtration techniques)

Brewers can sample The Perfect Purée’s robust flavor line-up of fruit purées, zests and blends through The Perfect Purée’s complimentary sample program.

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