Smog City taps an unusual source for its kumquat beer

Gleaning group Food Forward provides the kumquats, Smog City makes the beer

The Torrance brewery Smog City turned to local nonprofit Food Forward to help source the hundreds of pounds of citrus required to turn the popular small-batch Kumquat Saison into a 500-gallon production brew, and you can get a first taste at Food Forward’s Spring Melt fundraising dinner. 

A part of Smog City’s Forager’s Series, Kumquat Saison was first developed back in 2013 as a way to use the dozens of pounds of fruit produced by brewery founders Jonathan and Laurie Porter’s backyard kumquat tree. Just a few kegs of the farmhouse ale were poured at the taproom in 2014, but the popularity of the brew sent Laurie Porter on a mission to source more of the tiny citrus for a much bigger batch.

She was disappointed by the overly sweet and mild flavor of all the commercial fruit that she sampled; the farmers market kumquats just didn’t have the tartness and bite of the fruit from the Porters' backyard tree. A chance meeting with Food Forward quickly turned into a partnership between the gleaners and the brewers. 

Food Forward, in addition to “rescuing” surplus produce from farmers markets and rerouting the food to feed the hungry, also facilitates hundreds of backyard harvests across Los Angeles every year.

Kumquats are a popular ornamental tree in the Southland, and they can produce a lot of fruit in a season (one tree harvested by Food Forward volunteers for Smog City yielded 250 pounds of the orange orbs).

After an announcement in its newsletter, the organization was offered access to 45 trees, and it wasn’t long before every freezer and refrigerator at both Food Forward and Smog City was stuffed with bags full of kumquats. After a freeze to help break down the fruit, it was pureed with an industrial-sized immersion blender and added to the 500 gallons of saison fermenting in Torrance. 

The brew will make its debut at Food Forward’s annual Spring Melt fundraising dinner featuring grilled cheeses from Clementine, cocktails from Matthew Biancaniello made with Greenbar Distillery booze, and wines from Parducci. Tickets to the April 25 dinner are available now. The Kumquat Saison will be available at the brewery in May. 

 

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:23 p.m. April 10: We've confirmed that a portion of the proceeds from sales of the Kumquat Saison will be donated to Food Forward, and that all volunteers and tree owners involved in the harvest were aware of the special nature of this one-off project to help raise operating funds for the nonprofit. 

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