Fruit Melange | New Glarus
Fruit beers have come a long way. Used sparingly during the early days of craft brewing, fruit beers have seeped their way into almost all different styles of beer, ranging from saisons to IPAs to stouts. Now certain fruit beers are sought out and sometimes valued over their unfruited brethren. And New Glarus leads this fruited way. Their Wisconsin Belgian Red, Raspberry Tart, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Serendipity have won numerous awards (especially the Belgian Red) and have out of state people constantly asking for them to bring back. These fruit beers can sometimes get expensive to produce so why not release them as and R&D beer and call it Fruit Melange?
The R&D (Research and Development) beers give brewmaster Dan Carey a beer playground to do whatever he wants. Due to the small yield of these releases, most are things that will rarely (if ever) see a wide release, like their Bourbon Barrel Stout. A good portion of these R&D emanate from Dan’s Fruit Cave. The Fruit Cave houses untold amounts of barrels, a coolship and some foudres all in the original New Glarus brewery. (That brewery is literally down the road from the current one.) Giving an award-winning fruit beer brewer like Dan Carey a license to mess around usually results in some ambitious and delicious beers, including things like Sour Fruit (known as Very Sour Blackberry or VSB), Sour Brown (Very Sour Peach or VSP) and their now yearly lambic-style Vintage series. So an R&D Fruit Melange definitely intrigued me when I stopped by the brewery before the Great Taste of the Midwest.
The label itself actually looks like brewer’s notes, complete with brew date, bottle date, original gravity, final gravity and ABV (which never appears on the regular New Glarus beers). Pertinent to this review, Fruit Melange is an aged and blended sour brown ale with a “magical blend of pitted fruit.” It was spontaneously fermented over winter 2018 in oak vats in the fruit cave and then bottle conditioned. Fruit Melange comes in at 6.9% ABV, 14 IBUs, and 14 degrees Plato original gravity.
Fruit Melange pours an opaque brown or milk chocolate. Two fingers of khaki head initially form atop the beer and then slowly recedes. Subsequent pours have any foam fizzing away like soda. It’s a fairly dark beer and those milk chocolate hues only reveal themselves when held up to direct light. A murky thing, but what else would you expect from a fruited brown ale?
Fruit Melange does pack a fruited aromatic punch. Peach and apricot take the strong lead with big and bold nose flavors bursting out of the glass. Behind that some cherries and raspberries show up, reminding me of an oud bruin. A slight little amount of barnyard funk tickles the nostrils while some slight chocolate manges to gain some traction. Some perfume notes join along for the ride as well. While still being very stone fruit forward, it all combines to come off like a nice smelling antique store. You know, not the old, musty ones with the creaky floors – the non-creaky floor ones that have an air freshener or something there.
Unfortunately that complex aromatic profile doesn’t translate to the palate on Fruit Melange. Peach and apricot definitely show up but fruit-wise that’s it. The cherries, raspberries, chocolate and anything else on the nose disappeared. A tartness verging on sour replaced all those lovely things, really keeping this beer on the one-note train. After letting it warm up for a bit, more cherry and oud bruin started coming out, but it was still dominated by stone fruit and tartness.
Thankfully Fruit Melange keeps things moving with some very high carbonation. That greatly assists the tartness as it never stacks or becomes overbearing after repeated sipping. It gets right to that point of almost going sour but manages to stay in the tart realm. Really the only thing remaining after the sip is that tartness. Everything else has moved on.
Fruit Melange might be a victim of previous New Glarus fruited beer. It’s good, but there’s a whole stable of New Glarus fruit beers I’d rather have. It reminded me of a less complex, drier R&D Sour Ale (Very Sour Peach). While it nails the stone fruit and sour aspects, not much else comes out to play on the palate. The aroma also spoiled me, with all those cherry, chocolate, and perfumy things that didn’t translate to the palate. If you’re at the New Glarus beer depot it’s worth a purchase, but it’s not worth going out of your way specifically for it.