This beer turned out great. It obviously needs to sit a bit longer to mellow out, but the couple of samples I tried over the holidays, it's already quite drinkable. This particular recipe is quite heavy on the malt side. I'd say it's similar to a belgian quadrupel with a bit less belgian "funk" (probably due to the usage of wyeast 1728 as oppose to a belgian strand). The hops are barely noticeable, but I find I don't miss them in this type of beer. The base is quite fruity and has notes of burnt sugar laced with raisins and plums. I was suprised but all three fruits contributed to the flavors. The raisins and the plums dominate, but the appricot is still discernable. The alcohol is quite hot and its presence reminds me of mellow red wine. Warming but not sharp. Also, the spices come through and I was glad to learn I didn't overdo them. Overall, the beer is very complex and is hard to explain all the flavors. It is however, very appropriate as a spiced ale or strong winter warmer. At 6 months, the beer is drinkable, but isn't quite rounded. I can detect a faint flavor of burnt malt which sticks out and also a mild tartness I expect is coming from the fruit. Both of those are nice flavors, but they just haven't melded yet. I expect this beer to be spectacular next christmas when it will have been 18 months in the bottle.
To answer your specific about the dried fruit, my experience with them is limited to this particular beer. However, I'm really impressed by what they added to the beer. I didn't expect that they would contribute so much flavor and yet they did and I was thrilled. If you want a guesstimate of the amount of flavor, I would say that the quantity I added (that is 3 lbs) is just right for the Old Ale I brewed. The flavors are not overwhelming, but they are a bit more than a simple accent. If you want just a slight accent, I would halve the fruit to maybe 1.5 lbs. Of course, the strength of the beer also determines how the fruit is percieved. 3 lbs in a 6.5% winter warmer would probably be over the top. I wish browsers were equipped with smellovision and tastovision. I don't have the right words to describe how this beer tastes.