In order to understand the history of Pêche, or any fruited Lambic, one must first understand the long, rich history of Lambic itself. What we know as Lambic likely evolved slowly from other spontaneously fermented beverages dating back to the ancient inhabitants of the Fertile Crescent. The Romans introduced the use of wooden casks around A.D. 21. Hops were widely accepted as the preferred spice in the 10th century. A beer that we would likely recognize as Lambic was being lovingly produced in Belgium as early as the 12th century. In order create the beer, the brewer, who was often also a farmer, built a mash consisting of 60% malted barley and 40% wheat. A minimum volume of aged hops was added to the boil solely for their preservative properties. Next, the wort was transferred to a coolship: a long, wide and shallow vessel, designed, as the name implies, to cool the wort. Brewers would often start early in the morning in order to have all of the wort in the coolship by nightfall, and therefore take advantage of the cooler evening temperatures. In through the open windows, along with the chilly Belgian breeze, came magic. Soon, the wort began to bubble and foam, the result (we now know) of the beginnings of a mixed culture fermentation. Finally, the slowly fermenting elixir was moved to oak barrels for maturation. Famed Dutch Renaissance Painter Pieter Bruegel faithfully portrayed rural Belgian life, complete with the Earthenware mugs of Lambic still popular today.
Adding fruit to traditionally produced Lambic is a significantly more recent development in brewing history, and likely began as a cottage industry. In fact, the first explicit mention we find of a cherry addition lies in the 1878 manuscript of tenant farmer Josse De Pauw from Schepdaal, Belgium. He writes: “Take good clear lambic, two years old, at least good tasting, twenty kilograms of good ripe cherries per one hundred litres of lambic. Press the cherries and add the stones (pits). Leave to rest, draw off until December and leave to rest for twenty to thirty days, then bottle, stopper, and lay down.” The fact that this tradition blossomed around the village of Schaarbeek outside of Brussels is no accident as the cherries of the same name were once abundant in the area. And while cherries were likely the first fruit to be combined with Lambic, they were certainly not the last. The resultant beers have traditionally been named simply for the fruit included. Traditional Pêche begins slightly later in the season, again with whole fruit, however the stones are not included.
pFriem Pêche began as fruited Lambics have for centuries. The malt bill consisted of 60% malted barley and 40% wheat. Aged hops were added to the boil. Rather than sending the wort to a coolship, we used a modern heat exchanger to chill before we deliberately inoculate with the same magical mixed culture that’s wafted through Belgian windows for centuries. Next, the beer matured in French oak barrels for six months to one year. Finally, our friends at Gunkel Orchards harvested over 3500lbs. of gorgeous, ripe, juicy, freestone peaches, from their iconic Maryhill orchards on the banks of the Columbia. We lovingly removed each and every pit, and added them to our established base beer at a rate of around 4 lbs per gallon. The fruit and the Lambic-inspired ale were then left alone to mingle for around 3 months before filtering off the fruit and bottle conditioning. They are now one.