The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Monnik Beer Co. of Louisville have tapped into Kentucky State University’s pawpaw research and resources for a new beer featuring the fruit as part of a Kentucky Proud product-infused limited-edition release.
On Nov. 2 in Louisville, Monnik and Paducah Brew Werks will unveil a pawpaw-infused Saison-style beer, an amber-colored, spicy elixir with a 6 percent alcohol by volume, as part of the collaboration between the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Guild of Brewers.
KDA and the brewers’ guild collaborated with 10 breweries and five farmers to create five unique beers showcasing the Kentucky craft brewing industry and Kentucky farmers. Releases and tasting events will follow in the next few months.
Brewer Scott Hand of Monnik and the ag department contacted Kentucky State University’s Sheri Crabtree, the university’s horticulture research and extension associate, who specializes in pawpaw research.
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Crabtree put them in touch with Versailles pawpaw producer Ilze Sillers. With Sillers’ pawpaws and KSU’s Land Grant Program supplementing pawpaw fruit from its farm, Hand and Todd Blume of Paducah Brew Werks started brewing three weeks ago with about 350 pounds of pawpaws.
KSU has a history of research on pawpaw trees and has worked to breed superior varieties. The collaboration, Crabtree said, helps growers connect to other market opportunities.
“Pawpaw trees are native to Kentucky, and we research it as a new crop for Kentucky farmers for diversity and as a niche crop,” Crabtree said. “There are several pawpaw orchards in the state. It tastes like a mango and a banana.”
KSU recently announced a new North American pawpaw variety, the KSU Benson, for grower trial at the International Pawpaw Conference in September.
For Blume of Paducah Brew Werks, it was a great chance to meet up with brewers from across the state.
Blume told The State Journal that the initiative between department and the Kentucky Guild of Brewers paired brewers with randomly drawn state-produced ingredients.
“I drove to Monnik (from Paducah) and did a brew day with them,” Blume said. “It was great to connect with other brewers in Kentucky. The pawpaw is not a fruit you hear a lot about. It’s just part of the South, and we figured out what beer would pair well with it.”
Hand said he and Blume brewed the wheat Saison together at Monnik and, near the end of primary fermentation, added the approximately 350 pounds of pawpaws.
“It took me six hours to peel them all, though I did have some help. No telling how long it would have taken without it,” Hand said.
“We added the fruit to the fermenter, and the additional sugars from the pawpaw kicked off more fermentation. We expect it to be a very dry and drinkable Saison, around 6 percent ABV, with a nice balance of Saison yeast spiciness and the mango-banana flavors of pawpaw.”
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said the five-beer Kentucky Proud product release is another way Kentucky farmers can find new markets for their products and work with the state’s flourishing craft brew industry.