Fruit beers have become extremely popular in the Northwest and beyond. Here in town, we have Portland Fruit Beer Festival, a summer event devoted to fruit beers. At the recent Oregon Brewers Festival, fruit beers were among the first to be completely tapped out. Excluding IPAs and session beers, I'd venture to guess beers made with fruit are among the hottest growth areas in craft beer.
As a homebrewer, I know that one of the challenges of brewing with fruit is timing. While breweries make beer year-round, fruit is available in its peak form once per year at harvest. If you use fresh fruit, you need to be ready to brew at the right moment. Also, depending on where you live and what you want to brew, it's hard to find the right fruit in the middle of winter!
Oregon Fruit Products from Salem is helping breweries across the company to solve this problem. OFP is a leading supplier of aseptically packaged fruit to the brewing industry. Among the benefits of aseptic fruit is that it is preservative free, shelf stable, and ready to be used anytime of year. In mid-July, OFP invited me to tour their facility in Salem, Oregon during blueberry harvest. We started our tour at Oregon Blueberry Farms, an independent farm that supplies fruit to OFP.
After seeing how the fruit is mechanically harvested, we headed a few miles down the road to OFP's processing facility. I made a short video that shows the fruit harvesting, processing, and canning process. While mechanization is used, I was surprised to see that it's still quite a labor intensive process!
During the tour, we saw an order being filled for Tröegs Brewing from Hershey, PA. In the picture below, you'll see a huge mylar bag being filled with 275 pounds of dark cherry puree! I wonder if this will end up in a batch of Tröegs Mad Elf Ale? While that's a heaping helping of fruit, smaller breweries and brewpubs need not worry—they have smaller packages.
Beer consumers in the Northwest are spoiled with a wealth of abundance. Our great beer is the product of having access to the best and freshest ingredients. A majority of our nation's hops are grown nearby. It's also exciting to know that OFP, a local family-owned company is showcasing Oregon-grown fruit and supplying it to breweries around the world.