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March.

One of the things I was really excited to do with Floodland was to be able to work with farmers. It was something in the past that felt entirely out of reach, as in "when we have time we'll reach out to farmers, for now let's just get some boxes of puree." Running a small business can be like that, it often feels kind of desperate and half the time you feel like it's a make or break situation. Going out to meet a farmer and talk about fruit seems like a luxury when you have more pressing matters to make enough beer to pay the rent. Props to everyone out there putting in the time and effort to work with real fruit, it's a labor of love.

When I started Floodland I set up a big list and just started emailing farms about fruit. I got responses back from maybe 1 in 10, and most of those didn't want to sell in the quantities I wanted or didn't have fruit I was looking for. A few of them got back to me, some of those worked out, some didn't... it's an ongoing process.

The farms I was most excited to get fruit from were the ones I knew as being standouts at the farmer's markets, specifically I really wanted fruit from Collins Family Orchards. At the market they were always very gracious about giving out samples, and it was pretty obvious once you had those samples that they did this because their fruit was good and they KNEW it was good. 

You could stand there and watch them pulling customers like trout from a stocked pond. Their peaches were good, their apples were good, and they had all these crazy pluots I'd never heard of much less seen. I went into it thinking, "I like plums, but pluots are bullshit." They must have known this was an attitude people had, because if you looked skeptical when they asked if you wanted a pluot they'd get this expression like "this fat goth dude with the metal shirt on has noooooo idea what he's in for." And then you'd walk off with a huge bag of pluots and just sit around grinning with juice running down your chin all afternoon.

So in 2017 I took one varietal from Collins — the Hawaiian Punch pluot that we use to make Protection Spells. They were our favorite fruit to eat out of hand that year, my good friend Wes and I processed them and I think we ended up with a more moderate fruiting rate on that beer in large part due to how many of them we ate as we were putting them in the tank.

After the season was over I ended up getting to know Brian Collins, a fourth generation farmer whose father Calvin works the farm in Selah and planted many of the trees which grow the fruit we use. Brian splits his time between the farm in Selah and Seattle, where he manages the CSA and market operations. He can rattle off a crazy array of information on the fruit they grow, and the list of varietals is staggering. He's a great guy, genuinely passionate about the fruit and the farm, and totally invested in and excited about us using it in the Floodland beers. 

Some farmers just take your check and cash it, they'll shake their heads about the crazy Seattle weirdos making funny beer from their fruit, but Brian gets it and is psyched on it.

During the offseason we talked about the beers a lot and I told him I wanted to work with some of the other pluot or plum varietals they have. We ended up deciding on a varietal they call Honey Punch. While the Hawaiian Punch ripens early, Honey Punch comes late and they allow it to ripen on the trees for as long as possible, to the point that they yield much less fruit, but what they do yield is more concentrated and sweet. That kind of attitude, the focus on flavor and experience instead of just what makes the most monetary sense, speaks to me.

Brian likes the mixed culture beers, but he prefers them when they have a lighter acidity, which is obviously also to my preference. The thing with the acidity in the beers is that it's a moving target. There isn't much in brewing that is more difficult than brewing with mixed cultures and controlling acidity when doing a fruit refermentation. A mixed culture is already a wild and living thing that evolves and needs to be pushed in different directions to maintain anything resembling consistency to begin with. You can't just brew the same wort twice and expect it to ferment and age out the same way unless you are buying and pitching store bought cultures every time. Add to that what is essentially a dilution of the beer when you add fruit, on top of the yeast and bacteria that are already on the fruit, and you have a lot of variables in refermentation that are difficult to control.

That's a long way of saying that sometimes when you do fruit refermentations you are taking a shot in the dark at the finished acidity. Sometimes the beer comes out right, sometimes it reacidifies and you overshoot your mark. Sometimes you bottle it and 3 months later there is a pedio bloom and you have to wait until it clears and you end up with a face ripper instead of a delicate little crusher. It's all part of the game.

I sometimes fruit at lower rates, sometimes higher, it kind of depends on what I'm trying to do with the particular beer. When you fruit at a higher rate it's hard to maintain balance, you are going to naturally obscure other elements of the beer. This is one reason why lower acidity beers are more likely to retain more fermentation/malt/hop character, why face rippers with lots of fruit are usually one dimensional on the palate, and why over time in the bottle as beer slowly acidify you can lose subtlety.

In this case we fruited at a higher rate, not absurd, but I wanted to see if we could get deep into showcasing what the fruit was about. When the fruit came in it was beautiful, it's a deep purple with these starry sky like flecks. The "honey" part of the name is pretty self apparent once you bite in, it's a deeply honeyed candy character unlike anything I've had.

The obvious pairing with that honeyed character for me was a beer we had in a new Foeder Crafters tank which had taken on quite a bit of vanillin from the new oak, it was reminiscent of a vanilla custard. Totally dry but with a perception of sweetness and a great vanilla florality. It also had a nice dose of noble hops and was subtle after 6 months of aging with no real acidity yet. This formed the basis and we made the blend on top of that base from other barrel stock.

Luke, Aaron, Mike, Tony, and I spent many many hours cutting up and pulling the pits from the huge amount of pluots that went into this beer. It refermented and rested in the tank until ready, and was bottled in early December. We thankfully made enough of it, because we're all really pleased with how it turned out. 

Sometimes, as in the 2017 Nothing/All, plums can showcase an intense earthiness. In this case, it's that beautiful transmogrification that I always hope for, when the resulting flavors are entirely not literal. Like plums do at their best this beer is very strawberry forward, the honey comes through as does some Brett and an underlying creaminess and a clarifying and tempered acidity. It does all the things we try to do in Floodland beers, it is aromatic, it's pretty, it's spritzy, and it evolves and opens up and takes you on a wild trip if you sit with it for an hour or more.

To take a step back, I try not to do two things with the emails. 1, I try not to send emails to the news list about beers that are only going to Oakworks members, because it feels like rubbing people's nose in it about beers they may or may not be able to try. 2, I try not to talk about what's going into public releases before they are up for sale, mostly because I know people place value on the most limited beers, and that always strikes me as totally backwards as there is essentially no correlation between the size of a packaging run and the quality of the beer.

That said, this beer will come out to Oakworks members as a new white label eponymous "2018 Honey Punch" beer next month and then will be in the next public release, prospectively in late May/early June.

More information about the rad folks at Collins Family:
https://www.collinsfamilyorchards.com/our-story

follow them on instagram, https://www.instagram.com/collinsfamilyorchards/

There is no draught of this beer, but we did take a portion of it and blend it with young saison and put it in a pin cask that we'll be tapping at The Masonry at some point soon. It's an experiment in doing fruit beers on a hand pump, so if it tastes good we'll post when it gets tapped. We will probably also do some bottle pours when we do our next Goth Tiki night this spring, also at The Masonry (Fremont). This year we're going to bring a lot more beer to that event than we did last year so that we don't run out so fast.

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For those new or new-ish to this news list, I recently dug up a few links to previous emails that I thought were representative of what we're about, so I figured I'd share that list here.

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https://us14.admin.mailchimp.com/campaigns/show?id=407015
https://us14.admin.mailchimp.com/campaigns/show?id=529347
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