The newest creation from Door County Brewing’s Danny McMahon is a Belgian pale ale, accented with apricots, and it’s welcome as we change to warmer weather. “We took a really simple Belgian pale ale recipe and made a light beer that we can drink a lot of,” says McMahon. “With the flavors we get from the yeast and the hops, adding apricot seemed like a logical next step.”
What is it? Apricot Dude Ranch from Door County Brewing Company of Baileys Harbor.
Style: The Belgian pale ale is gold to copper color. It has hop bitterness, but it’s not an assertively bitter beer. The hops blend with the fruity aromas and spicy sweetness produced by Belgian yeast. The style is light- to medium-bodied and ranges from 4.1 to 6.3 percent ABV.
Background: Apricot Dude Ranch was a draught-only beer last summer in the brewery’s Baileys Harbor taproom. It features a combination of pilsner malt and a touch of wheat, for body, and is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain that dries out the beer and adds a hint of herbal, peppery spiciness. German Hull Melon hops are added, less to lend bitterness than for their light tropical melon flavor and aroma. Once fermentation settles down, McMahon adds apricot puree to the beer, roughly six pounds per barrel. The brew then sits for about a week, allowing the apricot, Belgian yeast and fruity German hops to meld.
For those who look for assertive American takes on the Belgian pale ale style — with its, bold earthy yeastiness and strong hop qualities — Apricot Dude Ranch might seem a little tame. It is, though, closer to the light, crisp dryness found in more traditional Belgian versions of the style. It should appeal to those who enjoy saisons and pilsners.
Apricot Dude Ranch finishes at 5 percent ABV and is on tap at select taphouses and sold in six-packs for about $10.
Aroma: Hints of apricot, with spicy, earthy and herbal yeastiness.
Appearance: Hazy, yellow-golden. A medium bubbly white head.
Texture: Light-bodied, bubbly and wonderfully dry throughout.
Taste: A crisp fruity yeastiness up front is followed by light hints of hoppy melon. The apricot is found early in the aroma, and a little later in the flavor and finish.
Finish/Aftertaste: Crisp with lingering dryness.
Glassware: This is a beautiful bright hazy yellow-golden beer that ideal in a tulip glass, which is also a great way to appreciate the fruity hints of apricot.
Pairs well with: mildly spicy sushi. Spring rolls work nicely too, or pad Thai. BLTs and turkey club sandwiches with a touch of spicy mayo would work well with the dryness of the beer, while the fruity apricot accents lends a crisp refreshing component.
The Verdict: I don’t usually give apricot beers a second glance. However, given Door County’s growing reputation for making interesting, quality, light-bodied saisons, close cousins to the Belgian pale ale, I was intrigued.
Apricot Dude Ranch does have some of the light, crisp, earthy qualities of a saison. It also reminded me of Door County’s Belgian IPA Sideshow, minus the fruity overtones. However, Apricot Dude Ranch is its own brew, combining dry yeastiness with hints of hoppy melon and fruity apricot. This is not a cloying fruit beer; it’s not even sweet. It all works by remaining light, crisp and dry.