If the folks at The Bruery have proved anything, it’s that they relish the opportunity to push the boundaries of what a beer can be. Over the last decade the Orange County-based brewery has compiled a catalogue of over 1,000 beers deep with riffs on everything from pecan pie to horchata.
When the brewery’s sour offshoot Bruery Terreux recently launched the Bruesicle, a line of fruit-forward beers inspired by popsicles, it seemed like it would be business as usual but it quickly became clear that was not the case. This would be a game changer, a combination of locally sourced produce, vibrant colors, and sublime, complex flavors. To put it simply, California in a glass.
It all started in the Bruery Terreux cellar completely on the fly. Back in December of 2017, Ryan Dick was chatting with his boss, Production Manager Jeremy Grinkey, about the emerging trend of heavily fruited beers spiked with lactose giving them a rich, creamy mouthfeel. These “milkshake” or “smoothie” beers were all the rage at breweries like Tired Hands in Pennsylvania and Virginia-based The Answer but hadn’t really migrated to the West Coast. Dick wondered aloud why the Bruery Terreux wasn’t brewing something similar. Without hesitation, Grinkey grabbed the first fruit he could find—some pineapples, a bunch of oranges—and got to work.
“The next day we had that beer on in the taproom,” said Grinkey. “Granted, that was only one half barrel of beer, but that was the flashpoint for Bruesicle.”
From there, the wheels started turning. Two fruits turned into a mash-up of several. Dragon fruit, pineapple, mango, and blood orange. Prickly pear, watermelon, passionfruit, and guava. There was a peach pie version with cinnamon and vanilla. Even lactose-free options at the request of the brewery’s vegan employees. “These ideas come from cocktails, from food, from juice bars,” said Grinkey. “[They come] from everything that we touch in our daily lives.”
Over 50 different versions of the Bruesicle have already been brewed, each one lasting barely a week. Variants like Mango Fire with its rich Malibu sunset hue, and Dragon Fruit Guava, which appears to have dripped from the famed pink wall of Paul Smith’s Melrose boutique, were immediate Instagram favorites. “It definitely exceeded my expectations,” Grinkey said of The Bruesicle’s runaway success.
It’s no surprise that the man behind the Bruesicle got his start in wine. When Grinkey left his job as assistant winemaker at Jason Stephens Winery to oversee production at Bruery Terreux, he was well-versed in the evolution from fruit to bottle. While Grinkey isn’t opposed to using frozen or even dried fruit for the Bruesicle beers, the majority is freshly picked California goodness.
“My time spent as a winemaker got me in touch with the soil and the farmer,” said Grinkey, who over the years has developed relationships with several local farms. That’s especially important when it comes to the Bruesicle which can require a ton of fruit. Literally.
Take Rue Tang Clan, the citrus-centric Bruesicle variant that certainly brought the ruckus. According to Grinkey, the eight-keg batch included 800 pounds of blood oranges, 400 pounds of mellow gold grapefruit, and 300 pounds of three different kinds of tangerines. “It was quite an excessive amount,” Grinkey chuckles, before revealing that his team hand-juiced all of the citrus, a process that extended across four days.
Lime-a-Rita, this is not.
Grinkey is equally committed to the quality of the base beer in each Bruesicle. “This is not a ‘lipstick on a pig’ scenario,” he emphasized. Basically, it’s the difference between using Hendrick’s and bottom shelf swill in a martini. Keeping with the cocktail theme, Grinkey acknowledged that the base beer is constantly changing in order to provide the ideal pairing with the other ingredients. While Sour in the Rye is the ideal complement to a Bruesicle with honey or zest, a variant heavy on tropical fruits would likely be blended with a beer from Bruery Terreux’s Frucht series of fruited Berliner Weisses.
Since the Bruesicle starts with beer that is already finished, it only takes about a week to put together. This quick turnaround allows Grinkey and his team to constantly churn out new recipes with at least two new variants being added a week.
Although Grinkey has used everything from Buddha’s hand to soursop, there is one ingredient that continues to elude him: durian, the notoriously foul-smelling fruit. “I want to make it work,” he said. “And if it stinks, it stinks.”
For now, the Bruesicle is only pouring at the source: Bruery Terreux’s vibrant taproom in Anaheim, and at The Bruery’s satellite location in D.C. It’s available on tap or to-go via 32-ounce crowler cans so you can enjoy it at a backyard barbecue or a night at the Hollywood Bowl. Most importantly, it’s an ideal way to share a taste of California.
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Header image courtesy of Bruery Terreux/Facebook.