Drake’s Brewing Finds Beauty in Ugly Fruit

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Fruit doesn’t have to be pretty to be used in a beer. That’s how Drake’s Brewing sees it when it comes to its small-batch Kiwi Oaklander Weisse, made with golden kiwis purchased from Imperfect, a local Community Supported Agriculture organization in the San Francisco area.

Imperfect buys fruits and vegetables that don’t fit the cosmetic standards of grocery stores and delivers them to folks in the Bay Area.

Drake’s barrelmaster Travis Camacho used these “ugly” kiwis to deliver a refreshing and slightly tart Berliner Weisse, the brewery’s first kettled soured beer, that was put on tap at the Oakland beer garden.

“We didn’t initially have anything sorted out,” he said of the partnership. “But it worked out well because we have Oaklander and it’s good for throwing fruit on and at the same time they had kiwis to have us use, so it worked out nice.”

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Camacho bought nearly 400 pounds for kiwis from Imperfect for the nine-barrel batch which was available only on draft.

“I like the idea in general and they get a lot of fruit and a lot of it is stuff that I couldn’t get or is better than what we can get in the grocery store,” Camacho said.

He noted that Kiwis can be tough to work with because of the sugar content.

“You really have to rely on the acid and the flavor of the fruit,” Camacho said. “It’s a very nice and light sour beer. It’s an easy turnaround for us since it doesn’t take time in the barrels aging.

It was Camacho’s first time working with kiwis. He said he has mainly worked with peaches, cherries, raspberries and plums.

He puréed the kiwis to open them up as much as possible and fermented them in portable stainless steel tanks.

“We pulled the Oaklander and put it with the kiwis and did a secondary with Brett and Lacto to get more funk and tart,” Camacho explained. “We pulled some flavor from the kiwi skin, it’s slightly woody which worked out nice. It lends a subtle earthiness to it. I was pleasantly surprised with the way it worked out. It’s mild, but it had a good tart bite and you could taste the kiwi.”

Sourcing fruit for beers can sometimes be a tough task with the best option, according to Camacho is getting the fruit direct from a farm.

“We try to go farm direct when we can, so this is the next best step and it makes us feel better about what we are doing,” he said.

It wasn’t the first time that Drake’s has put fruit in Oaklander, but it was the first time working with Imperfect. Camacho thinks that will change.

“They were excited to work with us and us with them,” he said. “The produce you buy in the store is not for beer making. The produce you get in a store can be under ripe and the stuff Imperfect can get us is ripe or just has cosmetic issues, which makes no difference to me.”

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