Howdy, Chris here.
I’ve written about how we make our fruit beers before. But at tomorrow tonight’s new menu debut party at Nakameguro Taproom, customers will be able to enjoy a sneak preview of this year’s Shizuoka Natsumikan (Summer Mikan) Ale. So this seems like a perfect time to write about the pain and anguish of making fruited ales.
We get most of our citrus fruit from our friend, investor and all-round excellent person, The Carpenter. It grows in natural organic conditions in the Heda area of Shizuoka, which is just south of Numazu along the Pacific coast (although technically it’s probably the Suruga Bay coast). Since he doesn’t use any pesticides, the peels of the fruit, in this case natsumikan, are easy to use in beer — no need to worry about nasty chemicals mucking things up.
Once the natsumikan are in the brewery, we lightly wash them and then get to work. The very outer part of the peels, the zest, is shaved off using vegetable peelers, then the fruit is cut in half and juiced by hand. To get the amount of peels and juice we want, we go though many many kilos of fruit — think around 60 kilos to get us our 20 liters of juice and 1.3 kilos of zest per batch. This year, we had a veritable assembly line going on day one of our double batch brewing: Sayuri and The Carpenter peeling while Taproom Draft Beer Specialist Chris juiced, and then later on everyone joined the juicing party.
The peels themselves are sun dried in front of the brewery, and man do they smell wonderful sitting out there in the sun.
The hard part is over for the time being. Now it’s up to the brewer to make the best beer he can. Near the end of the boil, we add around half of the peels to the boil kettle, then the second half of the peels and all of the juice are added to the whirlpool while the wort is still hot (near boiling temperature) and allowed to steep for 45-60 minutes. After that, it’s business as usual as the beer ferments, conditions and is primed for secondary conditioning/carbonation in the kegs and bottles. The next day, batch two is on the schedule, so a whole new team of peelers and juicers will take over and do their thing.
This year we fermented with our house Belgian yeast, and for an extra little punch, we added another third of a kilo of zest to each conditioning tank. The result is . . . sublime. Words are not enough to describe this beer; the only way to understand is to taste it.
As I mentioned above, tomorrow night (November June 14, 2012) marks the inauguration of the full pizza menu at Nakameguro Taproom. From 6:00 until 10:00, the full variety of New Haven-style pizzas will be flying out of the newly-installed pizza ovens. Customers can eat as much pizza and salads as they want for ¥3000 — beer is sold separately (but our 12-for-the-price-of-10 Nombeiken will of course be available). And what’s a celebration party without a celebration beer? As a special treat, a sneak preview of Baird 2012 Shizuoka Natsumikan Ale will be available for your drinking pleasure. We can’t think of any better way to wash down a delicious pizza than with a large glass of this wonderful brew. Hope (expect?!?!?) to see you there!