Smiley says he needs to collect a minimum of 40,000 individual pieces of fruit to get enough fermentable sugars for one barrel of brandy, but he'll take as much as people are willing to give. "There's no such thing as too much," he adds. "If someone backs up a truck, we'll figure out what to do with it."
He got the idea when a neighbor with excess apples asked if they were fermentable. After filling two trash bags with his neighbor's apples and barely making a dent in what was still in the tree, the distiller realized how much free fruit was probably available. "What a shame," he says, "because this is probably happening all over the state -- to see all those sugars go to waste."
State 38 doesn't normally work with raw fruits; Smiley makes his spirits using 100 percent organic, fair-trade blue agave. But the process is similar, he notes, because agave is high in fructose, a difficult sugar to ferment, and low in glucose (the fermentable sugar in most grain-based distilling). Apples and pears need similar conditions to properly ferment before the alcohol can then be distilled.
Don't worry if your fruit is a little bruised or damaged, Smiley says; he and his team will be trimming off damaged areas before the fruit is subjected to boiling, fermenting and distilling at 175 to 212 degrees. State 38 will also take any peaches, grapes and cherries still in good condition -- but Smiley expects he'll get just apples and pears at this time of year. And crab apples are out: "They don't have enough fermentable sugar," he notes, "which is why they're so bitter."
Fruit can be dropped of at the Golden distillery between 4 and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.