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A Monastic Harvest for Ovila®

Flavors of raisin, plum, and dark fruit are typical of traditional Belgian malts used to make a Quadrupel (Quad). Our most recent Ovila release, part of our collaboration with the Abbey of New Clairvaux, actually takes the aromas and sensory notes a step further by incorporating plums from the monks’ 130 acres of trees. More than 300 pounds of plums went toward Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums, a dark and complex Belgian ale now available in 4-packs.

The monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux follow the Rule of St. Benedict, which directs them to live by the work of their hands. The monks operate hundreds of acres of working farmland and produce several crops, including oranges, walnuts, wine grapes and of course the plums highlighted in this new beer.

The harvest window for plums is generally mid-August until the first week of September, and the fruit for this beer fell from the trees late in summer 2012. The monks purchased two mechanical harvesters in the 1970s to knock weeks off the process, but it’s still an exhausting 10 to 12 days. Ten monks manage the annual harvest, and the bounty that results yields crates of fruit that can exceed 1,200 pounds each. To prepare the plums for brewing, we worked with the nearby Sunsweet® facility in nearby Corning (30 miles north of the brewery and just 10 miles west of the Abbey) to dry the fruit.

Brewer Scott Jennings, in an old brewery pick-up truck, visited the facility to retrieve the plums. While there, Scott walked among the fruit towers alongside facility manager Jim Larrabee, sneaking the occasional plum, and learned what makes them special. Most notably, unlike commercial “table” plums, which contain around 9- to 10-percent sugar, the Abbey plums averaged 29 percent, making them exceptionally rich and candy-like.

Scott’s drive back to the brewery was pretty smooth, with no fruit jumping ship onto the highway, which we filed away as a success. Our brewers promptly began exploring the recipe in our pilot brewery, ultimately creating three test batches before nailing it. Round one emerged slightly too dark and chocolaty. After tweaking those elements, round two appeared to be—or rather tasted like—a winner. Version three confirmed we had the right recipe.

We are incredibly proud of our latest Ovila collaboration ale, and we hope you enjoy it. If you’re culinarily inclined, check our blog again soon for a versatile vinaigrette that uses Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums. It only takes a bit of the beer, so savor the bottle’s remainder.