Note: I originally meant to post this many, many months ago.

One of the opening events to start Philly Beer Week was a New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red kickoff toast at The South Philadelphia Taproom.  SPTR has been a favorite beer bar of mine for several years now – I consider it the spot that truly introduced me to local craft beer in a relaxed, comfy atmosphere.  When my brother still lived in South Philly too, I’d find myself there all the time.  I always feel welcome, and these days, I always enjoy their vegan hoagie – a delicious mound of tempeh, marinated mushrooms, and slightly spicy homemade veganaise atop a lightly toasted hoagie roll, accompanied by fries and homemade ketchup.  How good is this stuff?  I usually like neither veganaise nor ketchup, but I love the versions served here.

Anyway, New Glarus is a [vegan] brewery in Wisconsin, who only distribute in Wisconsin.  Therefore – it is very very rare to find them on the east coast.  Since they legally could not be sold here – SPTR was giving away free tastings!

The Wisconsin Belgian Red is the #1 rated fruit beer on beeradvocate.com.  It is delicious.  Very tart, slightly sour (but not lambic or belgian sour territory sourness), midly cidery acetic, noticeably syrupy.  I liked it a lot, as did Beth.  When I suggested I could attempt to brew something similar, she was pretty excited.

After some research I found out that New Glarus uses roughly 2 whole pounds of fresh cherries per 750mL bottle.  Whoah.  For me to pull that off would be nearly impossible.  Not to mention – incredibly messy.  I stumbled upon an old issue of Zymurgy that suggested a cheaper, easier way to clone it would involve using a lot of high quality cherry juice – roughly 20% of the volume.  Here’s my attempt.

Belgian Tart Cherry

Single Infusion mash at 154.  Target 4 gallons of wort for primary fermentation.  When primary has slowed, rack on to the cherry juice (giving you 5 gallons total) and let condition for a few weeks.  The cherry juice is going to almost fully ferment in 2 weeks or so.  I did this in the keg and just force carbonated when it was done.

This beer turned out okay.  I don’t think juice is a suitable replacement for all of the fresh cherries that the Wisconsin Belgian Red uses.  The beer finished very very dry and the aroma was very one-dimensional.  Using fruit puree – like the sterilized cans of puree that Oregon Fruits produces, I think, would be a step in the right direction.