Fruity Esters in Beer
How often have you thought of peaches as an exotic fruit? That soft, fuzzy outer skin, bright with colors of red and yellow, begs you to touch it, to hold it in your hand. It is as if the fruit itself asks you to rub it gently, while aromas of sweetness waft through the air. Once you pierce the skin, the flesh gives way, dripping with juices, clear and sticky. You can barely resist the temptation to catch each drop on your tongue.
Genetic studies indicate that peaches had their origins in China, then moved westerly into Persia (present-day Iran), and were introduced into Greece during the reign of Alexander the Great. From there, they eventually moved throughout Europe and crossed the seas with explorers who were seeking trade routes that they hoped would bring them great wealth. It is through this long journey that we, in the United States, have peaches to use in everything from pie to Danish desserts, cheesecake, and even beer.
Craft brewers typically endeavor to create lighter styles in the warmer weather – beers that quench the thirst, but remain full of flavor. It is not uncommon to find beers that have had peaches added – particularly among lambic style or fruit beers. Other fruits – raspberries, cherries, plums, grapes, black currants or strawberries – may be added, as well, aging in the barrel or used as blends that result in champagne-like quality.
But not all beers that have fruit profiles are crafted using fruit. Many beers are endowed with esters that naturally occur due to the action of yeast. These esters form when alcohols and acids combine in the wort. German weissbier expresses flavors of banana and clove due to weizen ale yeasts that produce spicy and fruity character. If fermentation is not carefully controlled, these profiles will become overly assertive and throw the beer out of balance.
Baltic porter is a complex, dark beer with layer upon layer of flavors that include a whole palette of dark fruitiness. These may include plums, raisins, prunes, cherries, black currants, and figs. Other flavors are present also – those of licorice, molasses, caramel, toffee, dark, sweet chocolate and coffee – but fruitiness is a primary signature of these beers that grew from the regions along the Baltic Sea.
Belgian yeasts create fruity flavors when fermented at higher temperatures. Belgian Pale Ale displays orange or pear-like fruitiness. Flanders Red Ale possesses the fruitiness consistent with black cherries, oranges, plums, or red currants, while Oud Bruin more commonly displays flavors of figs, raisins, plums, dates, black cherries and prunes.
Along with their spicy, perfumy profile, Belgian Blonds usually have citrusy fruitiness, closely aligned with lemons or orange-rind. Belgian Tripels are similar in fruitiness, but may often have hints of banana in the mix. Belgian Golden Strong Ales typically have flavors of apples, oranges and pears, mixed with peppery phenols and a crisp dry finish. Belgian Dubbels and Quads are resplendent with dark fruits such as plums, black currants, black cherries, and figs.
Fruity esters in lagers are uncommon. Lager yeasts are bottom fermenting and work at much colder temperatures, resulting in cleaner flavors that show-off the bready or toasty malt characters of those styles. In some cases, fruitiness is a flaw, and not the nature of the style.
Nothing enhances the flavors of Belgian beer like a beautiful glass, specially crafted to concentrate aromas to the areas of peak pleasure:
Spiegelau Beer Classics Stemmed Pilsner Glasses, Set of 2 in Gift Box
Beer drinkers who are purists don't necessarily like the idea of adding fruit to beer, but many like the idea of an orange with their witbier. This fine cutting board is a necessary tool for your bar preparations
OXO Good Grips Cutting Board, Black, 7.5-inch by 10.5-inch
You Should Also Read:
Extreme Brewing at Home
Simplified Chemistry for Brewers - Brew Chem 101
Developing the Sense of Aroma
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Content copyright © 2019 by Carolyn Smagalski. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Carolyn Smagalski. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Carolyn Smagalski for details.