Along, hot summer made for a bumper crop of Willamette Valley berries.
That was especially true of the golden raspberries at Corvallis' Denison Farms. Those soft, tiny yellow baubles are typically more rare and expensive than the red variety they derive from. Which is why you've probably never seen another framboise—the traditional Belgian sour-sweet lambic made with raspberries—with the soft, golden glow of Block 15's Framboise White.
"We purchase everything they can't sell on the retail market," explains Nick Arzner, who owns Corvallis' Block 15.
Block 15's delicate and unforgettable Framboise White debuted in 2011. The double-fermented sour tickles like Champagne but packs an unbelievably potent, rosy berry flavor in every sip. The 2015 batch was, we think, the best so far. Matured in barrels with fruit from 2014 and finished with 2015 berries, it's fresh and jammy but not cloying; somehow both robust and delicate.
As beers go, it reminds us a little of the first time we had Cascade's Oblique Black and White Coffee Blond Stout, which took the No. 2 spot in our 2013 Beer Guide. It's similarity is not because of the flavors, but because of the surprise.
"It's like a raspberry…but completely different," Arzner says. "You don't expect that when you look at the beer. And then you're like, 'Oh shit! Raspberries.'"
Arzner's deeply involved process starts with the brewery
fermenting two separate batches, one lactobacillus and one
saccharomyces. He adds golden berries and brettanomyces, then barrel-ages the mix in white wine barrels for up to three seasons. The final touch is blending that ale with even more golden fruit.
The one year Denison's fields didn't yield enough of the golden fruit—in 2013, Oregon produced 2,000 fewer pounds of the variety than usual—Arzner resorted to using blackcaps. The 2013 Framboise Black came out purple. It was a different beer altogether.
"It has to capture the character of the berry," he says of the golden version. "It doesn't taste like any other berry I've had."
If 2015's Framboise White tastes like a summer dessert, that's
not wrong. Arzner was making sorbet from golden raspberries
he bought at the local market when inspiration hit.
"We use those same organic berries in the beer now," he says. "The gentle rose quality wrapped up with classic fruit is a bit
of a mind-bender."