Dark Cherry Whatever

I dubbed this beer a “whatever” since It’s not really any particular style, maybe Belgian Dark would be the closest, but it doesn’t use a Belgian yeast. I’m not even sure it’s an ale since it fermented with wine yeast (though it did ferment at ale temperatures).

Here’s the story of this beer: There are a couple of cherry trees in the St. Francis Seminary and last summer (summer of 2010) the trees had a bumper crop of cherries on them. This doesn’t happen every year since they don’t prune the trees; this summer there were barely any. But last summer we filled 4-5 gallon ziplock bags with cherries and took them home and put them in the freezer. I’m not totally certain of the variety of cherry but they are bright red, about the size of a nickel and sour.

This spring I thawed the cherries out and made a cherry wine from them. When the wine had just about fermented out I pressed the cherries and saved them. I then mixed up a mead and added the pressed cherries to the mead. The yeast that was still hanging out on the cherries quite happily fermented the mead and then I pressed the cherries once again. And once again I saved the pressed cherries. Then I made some wort.

I used dark malt extract and some left over specialty grains from my Backyard Anarchy experiment. I used 4 ounces of hops, which makes this beer the hoppiest I’ve ever brewed (~41 IBU). The hops came from my friend Steve’s Cascade plant, which my own cascade plant is a child/clone of. I used a hop schedule of 2oz at 50 minutes, 1oz at 5 minutes and 1oz dry hopped. When the wort had been brewed and cooled I added the 1oz of dry hops to a muslin bag and then also added the pressed cherries to the bag and added it to the fermentor. I wasn’t sure how much cherry flavor would be left in the twice (soon to be thrice) fermented cherries but I figured it was worth a shot, even if no cherry flavor came through it’d still be a decent dark beer. After two weeks in the fermentor I took the cherries (and hops) out and pressed the bag (because why not?) in my fruit press, but I was a lot more gentle this time than I was with my other pressings of the cherries. Then I added priming sugar and bottled the beer.

I’m really pleased with how this beer turned out. It is dark, malty, hoppy, and cherry all at the same time. It is surprisingly well balanced considering I was working with some unknowns (how much cherry flavor would be imparted by the cherries, what sorts of flavors would the Montrachet yeast contribute especially after the ‘third’ generation, etc). I’m going to be very sad when this beer is gone because I doubt I will be able to replicate it.

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