If you walk into Crux Fermentation Project and ask, “What’s new?” odds are, you will end up with a snifter, or perhaps even a bottle, of Peach Farmhouse, one of their latest beers. This saison-style ale infused with peaches is the first in a new series of bottled beers from the 5-year-old brewery, which takes on a whimsical if informal name.
“The goal with this ‘What’s New’ series is to highlight the fun stuff our brewers are doing by releasing small amounts of different creations in 500 milliliter bottles throughout the year,” said Jason Randles, the brewery’s marketing manager. “Everyone always asks, ‘what’s new,’ so we thought that was a fun, straightforward name for the series without being too clever or obscure.”
You won’t necessarily see that name on the packaging, however. “It’s more of an internal name, not one we plan on being consumer-facing,” Randles said.
The first beer in the series, Peach Farmhouse, blends Oregon-grown peaches into what has become one of Crux’s signature beer styles, the farmhouse ale. Traditionally, farmhouse ales were rustic, light and refreshing beers brewed on the farms of Belgium and France to slake the thirst of the seasonal farmhands. These beers were unique from farm to farm, brewed with the local grains and spices available, and fermentation almost always included a wild yeast component.
Modern-day versions, also known as saisons, are driven by spicy and peppery fermentation characteristics and often incorporate spices to enhance that impression. Crux Farmhouse, their house saison-style ale found on tap and in bottles, avoids spices and relies on the Belgian yeast for “peppery, herbal and slightly tart attributes,” according to their description.
The Peach Farmhouse draws upon that house beer, but “is a unique recipe brewed with a different yeast strain than what we use for our Crux Farmhouse,” Randles said.
And of course, the addition of peaches sets the recipe apart, as well. Peach seems to be something of a popular fruit of late, showing up in specialty beers from McMenamins Old St. Francis School, Bend Brewing Company, GoodLife Brewing, and RiverBend Brewing. North Rim Brewing offers their Peach Pepper Wheat year-round, and last year Worthy Brewing introduced a peach saison of their own, Coeur de la Pêche.
Inquiring if peaches were the new “in” fruit, and the experience of brewing with them, Crux head brewer Cam O’Connor said, “It was just coincidental. I think it is a fun fruit to brew with. It does take a little more peaches to get the flavor to come through.”
“We like the idea of brewing with fruit grown here in Oregon,” Randles said. “Why import something tropical when we have all of this amazing fruit being grown over in the valley?”
I stopped by the tasting room recently to sample the beer and see how well the peach carried through. The version of Peach Farmhouse on tap will be a bit different from the bottled version, due to differences in the brewing process and scale from the original brewhouse to the larger production system, but I found a light and refreshing saison with fairly subtle peach character. The aroma is mild and driven by notes of peppercorn and light smoky yeast esters typical of the Belgian-derived style.
There’s a light kiss of the fruit in the taste that is delicate and reminiscent of peach skins and fresh juice, followed by a peppery spiciness and an impression of fresh-cut hay. It finished fairly dry and light-bodied with a bit of spritzy effervescence. Personally I would enjoy more peach character up front, but sitting on Crux’s patio in the sun with a snifter of the beer, I could appreciate the thirst-quenching qualities of the style for the seasonal farm workers.
“Ours isn’t over-the-top peach flavor,” said O’Connor, “just a nice addition to the beer.”
The bottles are available in the brewery’s standard 500 milliliter format from now through the rest of the summer. The next beer Crux plans to bottle in the What’s New series is Snow Cave, its annual winter warmer, slated to appear in October.
Pick up a bottle or visit the brewery tasting room for a glass of Peach Farmhouse and judge for yourself how well the ale stands up to the hot summer days.
— Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!