- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - Slanted Rock Brewing Company’s CEO and Brewmaster, Bob Lonseth, said that his rule with fruit in beer is that it still has to taste like beer.

Lonseth recently crafted a beer with a subtle peach flavor called “Señor Jalapeacho” using a dried fruit powder produced at Milne Fruit Products in Nampa, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/24snHkF). Slanted Rock, which is located on East Cinema Drive in Meridian, is the only brewery in Idaho, so far, that has used Milne’s powders to add fruit flavors to beer.

“It seems to be pretty popular with a lot of the consumers these days. They want a little bit (of a) different flavor, something new, something different, something they haven’t tried before,” Lonseth said. “Fruit is one of the ways we can change beer and make it appeal to a bigger audience.”

It’s pretty typical for brewers to use concentrates or purees, but using dried fruit powders is relatively new, said Woody Sobey, who hosts a radio show called “The Boise Brew Minute.” In an email, Sobey wrote that he has spoken with brewers around the Treasure Valley, some of whom make 10-15 different fruit beers, and Slanted Rock was the only one using Milne’s fruit powder.

At Slanted Rock, Lonseth said that he found Milne’s dried fruit products online when he searched for “puree” on Google. On Milne’s website, peach is among the flavors - blackberry, plum, cherry and more - listed for breweries and cideries under a section called “Innovative Ingredients for Brewers.” According to the website, the powders are 100 percent fruit with no artificial colors or preservatives.

Brewing with dried fruit powders

Lonseth added the peach powder to the boiler kettle at the very beginning of the brew cycle, around the same time you would add in the hops, he said. When water is added, the peach powder makes peach juice. He added in fresh, diced jalapenos, including the seeds, at the very end of the brew cycle.

The powders were easier to use, particularly from an inventory perspective, than the fruit juice concentrates that Lonseth used in the past.

“The powders are great because I don’t have to worry about refrigerating them; I don’t have to worry about them spoiling before I use them,” Lonseth said. The fruit powders have a minimum one-year shelf life, according to the company’s website.

Señor Jalapeacho ended up taking on some citrus flavors, and the peach was pretty light, Lonseth said. Among those who have tried the beer so far, Lonseth said they’ve rated it from good to excellent, and some have wanted to taste even more of the peach flavor.

Señor Jalapeacho and another beer Lonseth brewed with dried aronia berry powders, also produced by Milne, are not yet on tap at Slanted Rock; the beers are available only for brewery VIP members who pay an annual fee for exclusive tasting and events. Señor Jalapeacho will be available for the general public after the beer’s special release at an Oregon brewery festival this summer.

Lonseth said he expects the beer will be pretty popular, but mainly during the warmer parts of the year.

“It’ll be a seasonal; people don’t like to drink jalapeno beer in December,” Lonseth said.

As breweries and home brewers experiment more with seasonal beers, especially ones with fruit, Lonseth said he could see how a demand for dried fruit powders could take off.

A unique, ‘MicroDried’ approach

Katie Lawrence, who is an account representative at Milne Fruit Products, said the company is working on expanding its presence in the brewing industry. The company will be attending the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Philadelphia this year, where it will display a six-pack of fruit powders to interested brewers.

While the industrial ingredient supplier currently supplies fruit products to medium and large breweries, the company also supplies over 25 fruit and vegetable products to beverage manufacturing and health and wellness companies.

Lawrence said Milne uses “a new kind of drying technology that’s unique to the fruit industry right now.” Invented in Canada, it has been used in meats, but Milne is the only company in the United States to use it for dried fruits and vegetables.

Drying fruit with Milne’s “MicroDried” technology is a 2-step process that involves putting the fruit through a convention dryer followed by a microwave device that dries the fruit from the inside out, puffing it out slightly. Lawrence said that it keeps a lot of color and flavor in the fruit and is different from freeze-drying fruit.

“It’s low heat, but it brings it high enough so it kills all the (microbes),” Lawrence said. ” … Whereas (with) freeze-dried, they use a cold process to basically freeze-dry it to make it shelf stable.”

Milne produces all of its MicroDried products out of a 45,000-square foot Nampa location, where it employs around 50 people. The company’s Prosser, Washington, location, on the other hand, makes juices, concentrates and purees.

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, https://www.idahopress.com

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