Hey! There’s Wine in My Beer!

If you think that many of your fellow home winemakers are ingenious in making wine from pretty much anything they can get their hands on, well, perhaps you need to become acquainted with some home brewers who are making beer from wine (sort of). There are most likely many forms of the story I am about to tell, but here is one chain of events that perhaps led to the fusion of beer and wine.

In my story, Bubba, the home brewer, got to talking with Tony, the home winemaker, and learned that winemakers usually toss out the tannin-rich sediment known as lees following primary fermentation of red grapes. All of you know that the gross lees that fall to the bottom of the bucket during the wine fermenting process contain bits of grape skin, seed fragments, and dead yeast cells. Unless a home winemaker has a “copper still” that he can convert the lees and the large-volume pomace into high-alcohol grappa (a conversion process which is illegal for the home winemaker*), there is not much use for this byproduct of wine fermentation.

From what I have been able to learn about this beer-wine fusion, brewers pour these wine lees through a funnel into the top of either a glass carboy or an oak barrel containing either already fermented beer or currently fermenting beer. The beer and the wine lees then age together inside the carboy or barrel. The result is that the wine tannins in the lees, which give red wine its complex flavor, are fused with the beer. A more expensive strategy for creating the beer-wine fusion is to use pure grape juice in the brewing process.

Beer makers are now brewing with grape additives!

Beer makers are now brewing with grape additives!

Commercial brewers are currently selling this sort of beer-wine fusion with both red and white wine grapes. For example, Odell Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado has their Amuste Imperial Porter Ale, which is a dark brew that not only has Tempranillo grape juice added during the brewing process, but is also aged for two years in wine barrels and has an alcohol content of 9.3%. Similarly, Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware makes a number of these beer-wine fusions, including its Noble Rot Ale, which is a saison-style beer blended with Pinot Gris must, as well as Viognier grapes infected with botrytis (9% Alc). MillerCoors offers several of these hybrid beers through its Blue Moon Brewery in Golden, Colorado, including its Vintage Blonde Ale, which contains the juice of Chardonnay grapes, its Proximity Ale, which contains Sauvignon Blanc grape juice, and its Impulse Ale, which contains Cabernet Sauvignon juice, all with 8.5% alcohol. Beer and wine in one drink? Intriguing!

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