Bruce Surprenant does not like beer. But he loves jams and jellies that are made with craft beers.
Bruce Surprenant does not like beer. He doesn't drink it, and he did not buy his first beer until he was 54 years old.
But he does like jelly and jam, and the owner of Surprenant's Berry Farm in Mooers, N.Y., especially likes jellies and jams made with beer.
"You cannot pay me to put a beer in my mouth," said Surprenant, who has been making jelly and jams for a decade. "But I like putting it in my jelly. I do eat everything I make, every last one of them, and they are great."
Surprenant uses beers from a number of breweries, including Vermont breweries such as Otter Creek and Rock Art, as well as other breweries like Brewery Ommegang and He'Brew in New York.
Each jam or jelly that has a beer in it has the beer's label on it so you'll know exactly what you're getting.
Surprenant got the idea for beer jelly about four years ago. He said he used to bring his spicy pepper jams to beer festivals because "most beer drinkers like hot and spicy things," and they could not get enough of his products, so he decided to see how beer affected the taste of the jelly and jams.
Around the same time, he was doing a tasting in Saratoga, N.Y., and a woman mentioned the Saratoga Brewery was nearby.
Surprenant decided to stop in.
"At the age of 54, I bought my first bottle of beer (Saratoga lager). I turned it into a garlic pepper jelly, and it was a huge hit."
Although he did not try the beer, Surprenant bought more and more beer and tried different variations of the jellies and jams with the beers. He said he was not had a miss yet.
"They all work quite well," he said.
He started expanding to other breweries, including Lake Placid and Ithaca. He also asked about using their labels, and everyone was on board.
Now he makes 25 jellies and jams that use beer. In all, he makes 250 varieties, including some with wine.
Surprenant uses a variety of beer styles in his recipes, including lagers, porters, pale ales, India pale ales, wheat beers and even a Belgian-style quad.
Each beer, he said, brings a unique flavor twist to a jelly or jam.
And, he said, his product can be used in numerous ways.
"The jam is all natural and it can be used to cook with, as a glaze. It can be used for cream cheese and crackers and on toast," Surprenant said.
His jams and jellies are available in 8-ounce jars, and he also offers a gift tin with nine varieties in 1.5-ounce jars.
I picked up one of the gift tins and tried all nine varieties.
In the tin there are four pepper jams, all raspberry based made with Habanero peppers. The only difference in each one is which beer is used.
The beers used in the pepper jams were He'Brew's Messiah Bold, which is a brown ale; Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin, a saison; He'Brew's Coney Island Lager, which is an amber lager; and He'Brew's Sword Swallower, a pale lager.
You can definitely taste the different beer flavors, particularly in the first taste before the hot pepper flavor takes over. I'm a weak man when it comes to spicy food, particularly spicy peppers, and I was sweating tasting these. After the initial taste, the hotness took over and I couldn't taste anything except burning, which is not a taste but rather a pain.
The regular jams and jellies were more my speed.
My favorite is the raspberry jam made with Brewery Ommegang's Three Philosophers, which is a strong, Belgian-style quad brewed with raspberries. It's one of my favorite beers, and it blends perfectly with the jam. I plan on having this on a bagel one morning.
Another standout is Otter Creek's Stovepipe Porter raspberry jelly. A porter is a dark beer, with some roastiness. The roastiness is a nice contrast from the sweet jelly.
Other Berry Farm jellies and jams included in the gift pack include a jelly made with He'Brew's Origin, which is a pomegranate ale; a jelly made with Otter Creek's Pale Ale, which is a moderately bitter pale ale; and a jelly made with He'Brew's Genesis Ale, which is a slightly more bitter pale ale.
Surprenant's Berry Farm jams and jellies are available at surprenantsberryfarm.com.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.