Crux Fermentation Project continues to stand out in a region with many great breweries even when releasing something as seemingly straightforward as a fruit ale.
The brewery’s latest limited specialty beer, Apricot Golden, is available now in bottles and was poured at the Bend Brewfest, which just wrapped up.
The trends with fruit beers these days veer toward specialty sours or barrel-aging or hazy milkshake-style IPAs, so it’s a refreshing change of pace to encounter an easy-drinking fruit ale that’s only frill is the fruit itself.
Crux kept a local focus in brewing this beer. The malt was sourced from Skagit Valley Malting out of Washington. The hops are from Goschie Farms in Independence. And the apricots came from an Thomas Orchards in Kimberly. The orchard is owned by the family of one of the brewers, Bianca Thomas.
Crux brewed 30 barrels of the beer and bottled 150 cases, with the rest available on draft. One hundred pounds of orchard apricots were used, according to head brewer Cam O’Connor.
“We de-pitted them, blended them up a little and put them in the hopback,” he said via email. The brewery further amped up the fruit presence with apricot puree from Oregon Fruit Products.
The brewery provided me with a bottle to sample, and I have to admit while drinking it I enjoyed a nostalgic flashback to Pyramid Brewing Company’s Apricot Ale. Pyramid Apricot Ale was my first ever fruit beer, and for me it still sets a high standard for the style. It’s a deceptively simple premise (start with an easy-drinking wheat ale, and add fruit) that is executed well.
Crux’s Apricot Golden pours a golden color with a noticeable orange tint, and is hazy enough to be opaque. I found a spicy Belgian saisonlike estery character in the aroma, along with apricot skins and a touch of juicy ripe fruit.
The flavor is more fruit-forward, with a strong impression of ripe, whole apricots, skins and all, not unlike biting into the freshly-picked fruit.
The saison influence I picked up in the aroma is present as well, with pleasant notes of hay and spice for a rustic simplicity.
The fruit tastes fresh and natural, with just a touch of tannin. It avoids the pitfall other fruit beers sometimes fall into, being overly sweet and cloying, which can come across as artificial.
The base style is described as a strong golden ale, and the Belgianlike inflection makes me think of a Belgian golden strong ale with some American accents. The style trends toward fruity aromas and flavors which can help emphasize added fruit.
However, the Belgian style can also have a fair amount of bitterness from the hops and yeast character. Apricot Golden reins in any wayward bitterness in favor of the fruit, coming in at 7% alcohol by volume and 20 IBUs.
With its limited run, Apricot Golden is a beer that will not last long. If, like me, you’re a fan of an old-school fruit ale, seek out this beer before it disappears.
— Jon Abernathy is a beer writer and blogger and launched The Brew Site (www.thebrewsite.com) in 2004. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .