Wildflower St Thomas 2020 Cherry Australian Wild Ale
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St Thomas is an Australian Wild Ale refermented with cherries. While the beer is named for Chris and his wife's first son, the Saint Thomas Aquinas was an immensely influential 13th century philosopher and theologian. In 2020, it was made from amber mixed fermentation, barrel aged beer and 800kg of tree ripened, whole fresh Morello sour cherries from Thornbrook Orchard in Orange, NSW.
This year's edition of our annual cherry beer sees a synthesis of processes from 2018 and 2019 whereby the fruit was partially destemmed as well as allowed to carbonic macerate before being blended with beer. On the first note, we hand destemmed over 200kg of cherries to make St Thomas 2018 and it took us over three days to complete. In 2019, we had worked closely with Paula and her team at the orchard to organise and plan logistics as to how we could pick the fruit without the stems as they come off the tree. However, due to unseasonal hail in December in Orange that year, much of the fruit was dented and damaged which meant it needed to be picked faster and doing so without stems wasn't an option. Thomas 2019 utilised this stemmed fruit as we were also working with roughly 1 tonne of cherries because we committed to purchasing all the damaged fruit from Thornbrook. The resulting beer had a noticeable digestive, Fernet/minty flavour, which we enjoyed but did detract from the sweetness and flavour of the fruit. In 2020 (well the end of 2019 really) we were all set again to pick a portion of the cherries without stems but once again nature had a different idea. The cherries for St Thomas 2020 were picked on 22 December 2019, during the bushfires in the Blue Mountains. Not sure if you recall but the roads were being closely monitored and without warning shut to through traffic. As the Gosper's Mountain megablaze reached Blackheath, Paula and I became anxious that the Great Western Highway would be cut off and we wouldn't be able to collect the cherries in a reasonable amount of time. So, Paula made the decision to pick the cherries with stems, as is normal for them, in order for them to have a better chance of not rotting once they are off the tree. Removing the stem exposes a small lpart of the berry and risks ripping the skin which is why there was a logistics issue with collecting them as soon as they were picked.
So on 23 December, I made a quick one-day turnaround trip to Orange to collect the fruit. Through a lot of smoke and right through roadside back-burning operations in Blackheath, I was lucky to make it there and back in one go.
ABV 6.5% / 375ml
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