What better way to spend spring than outdoors? How about outdoors amongst some of Little Rock’ prettiest flora – Dunbar to be exact – with beer in hand?
Get ready to check out Moody Brews newest release at Dunbar Garden this weekend.
Josiah Moody, local beer mastermind who brought us the Half-Seas Over, is more than ecstatic to release a beer that’s been over eight months in the making at the garden’s annual Pig Roasting Fundraiser on May 21. You won’t want to miss this event, your first chance to try the Dunbar Garden Wild Pluot Ale.
It’s pretty well-known that Dunbar is a hub for local Brewers – the garden has been growing hops for quite some time now. But where do pluots come in … and also, what are they? An apricot/plum hybrid, the fruit is tart, tangy, and full of natural sweetness. Thanks to Damian Thompson, who runs operations and education outreach at Dunbar, Moody was able to get about 46 pounds of the little beasts to make his latest creation.
If you know anything about Moody’s past beers, you know he loves Farmhouse-style Saisons. His most recent collaboration with Stone’s Throw’s Theron Cash resulted in a nice, dry, delectable Pear Cider. He’s also created a hibiscus and orange peel saison – Aria’s beer – and what even an aged saison in Chardonnay barrels – Katchiri’s beer.
The anchored thread in these beers lies in the yeast – the wild strain cultivated by Grant Chandler over a year ago, which Moody comes back to time and time again. The reasons are various, as he says, “The instant I tasted Grant’s Homebrew submission, I just knew it was a Saison DuPonte strain – my favorite saison, and I was obviously wrong about that – and I knew I wanted to brew with it. Oddly enough, I had been talking my thesis advisors at UCA about setting up a program to isolate yeast from Dunbar. Little did I know Grant was working in a micro lab and doing this work on his own.”
Plus, the strain offers Moody a bit of a challenge, which he likes. “If [the strain] sits too long without being active, I have to do some brewery tricks to coax it into starting up again. But I love the challenge, I love how the flavors the yeast puts out seem to evolve with successive batches, but those flavors are always complex and intriguing – as much as any other commercially available farmhouse yeast. This all dovetails perfectly with my ethos of making unique beer, challenging myself as a brewer, and helping to support my creative oasis Dunbar Garden,” says Moody.
The process for this most recent ale involved a lot of patience. Moody was particularly focused on keeping the fruit’s flavor intact – thus there was a lot of stewing, pitting, and pureeing. Then the fun started, as he put the pluot mixture – pits included – into a French Chardonnay barrel. Next he added in the Dunbar Gardenhouse beer – Moody’s take on a traditional farmhouse saison – and basically started the waiting game.
Talk about patience.
There was a lot of taste-testing along the way but Moody was after a specific taste profile – a little tartness balanced with fruit, a subtle oak taste, and a kick from the wine. Moody says, “I am so proud of the pluot beer. It’s very expressive in pluot aroma and flavor, fresh and almost jammy in that respect, despite being an 8 month old beer at this point. The chardonnay barrel provides some great oak structure to the beer and ties everything together into a traditional Belgian method yet expressively modern with the addition of pluots.”
Don’t miss your chance to try the beer. This weekend’s event includes a nice dinner provided by local chefs, music by the Catholic High Jazz Band and others, and of course, the new Pluot Ale alongside the Pear Cider. Happy sipping.