Fullsteam's persimmon beer, First Frost
Part 1: Introduction and research
Part 2: Harvest
Part 3: Brewing (today's write-up)
The first two blog entries on persimmon discuss our fascination with harvesting the fruiting wild tree. Part 3 discusses how we brewed the beer.
Historically speaking, it's debatable whether or not these "opportunistic" historical Southern persimmon beer methods would really be considered "beer." The conspicuous lack of malted barley and hops is the biggest clue. While beer can be made without hops (gruit), Sebastian from Natty Greene's puts it well: beer without hops is like soup without salt -- not impossible, but certainly uncommon. The obvious implication that something is rather missing.
Beer can be made with sorghum or other grains, not just malted barley. Often times the goal is to create a gluten- or wheat-free alterative for people with celiac disease or wheat allergies.
That said, a gluten-free was not our goal this time around. The homebrewers of a century ago fermented what they farmed. Two-row barley is a cool-climate crop. Hop bines grow well here in North Carolina, but are historically subject to powdery mildew. Around these parts, wheat and persimmons and green pine straw grow well.
But we rather like our barley and hops!
Our persimmon beer, First Frost, blends opportunist Southern fermentation with more traditional brewing methods and ingredients. It's a tribute to "Southern scrounge" brewing (dare I call it that?), but with a traditional English-style winter ale as the base.
Food-wise, the inspriation for this beer is the complex flavor of persimmon pudding. Though it's not about recreating the holiday dessert into liquid form; instead, we wanted a beer that expressed its essence with hints of cinnamon, raison, and the slighltly tannic, savory persimmon.
The base beer is a simple "carrier," which allows the persimmon to add depth, complexity, fermentables, and flavor. In this twelve-gallon test batch, we added two pounds of mashed permission puree at high krasen with a small addition of turbinado sugar. We hope that the persimmon flavor will carry through the beer without the need for cinnamon, molasses, or any other flavor additions. Early samples of the beer were very promising.
Illustration 44: persimmon beer