When life hands you lemons make lemonade. That’s just what Fix Brothers Fruit Farm in Hudson did when they were faced with 1000 pounds of hail scarred Bartlett pears that they were unable to sell four years ago. Instead of lemonade they made Eau de Vie, an un-aged pear brandy.
The creation of the Eau de Vie, from pear to labeled bottle, was a collaboration between three farms. Fix Brothers initially approached Tom Crowell and Derek Grout of Harvest Spirits (the distillery at Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie) to see if they would be interested in using the pears to make spirits. Tom and Derek were interested but there was a minor problem – the apple cider press at Golden Harvest was ill suited for pressing cider from pears. So the pears were pressed at the Eger Brothers Orchard in Hudson where the press is better equipped to process pears. After the pressing, the cider was shipped back to Harvest Spirits where it was fermented and then later double distilled.
Tom Crowell says that to preserve the delicate pear aroma, the Eau de Vie was distilled only twice and to an alcohol level that was no higher than 85 percent.
“Our pear brandy is an American style Eau de Vie, an un-aged product that captures the delicate bouquet of Bartlett Pears. A true Columbia County New York State farm product, the pears were grown by Fix Brothers and pressed by the Egers, before being twice distilled at Harvest Spirits”.
It was a happy accident that seems to have worked out extremely well. The Eau de Vie received a bronze medal at the sixth annual meeting of the American Distilling Institute in Alameda California and has been in production at Harvest Spirits ever since. Recently Harvest Spirits has added to its product line-up Rare Pear Brandy, which is made by crushing locally-grown pears into a puree that is fermented, double distilled and aged for two years in new charred American oak barrels.