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 Filed as : Winemaking

Grapes Into Grain, Sacred Or Profane?

Apr 26, 2012
Grapes Into Grain, Sacred Or Profane?
New craft brews fearlessly blend wines into beer

wine_08We've all heard the phrase "It takes a lot of good beer to make good wine," a reference to winemakers' time-honored after-work refreshment. Recently, thanks to modern craft brewers employing old winemakers' ways—i.e. wood aging, wild yeasts, cork-and-wire closures—the line between beer and wine has gotten deliciously blurry. The best of these resulting brews? Dryer, more complex and sometimes appealingly acidic, counterbalancing sweetness…and overall, deeper in flavor.

That alone is a welcome angle. But now, a handful of craft brewers around the world are using actual wine grape juice in their beers. And why not? Ancient libations often blended grape and grain, among other fermentable natural fruit sugars and spices. Some of the most sought after modern versions are rarities brewed at Cantillon, in Belgium, hoarded in the cellars of celebrated beer bars like Brussels' Moeder Lambic and a smattering of secretive U.S. watering holes. But you don't have to fly overseas to try some of the best genre-busting brews. Read on for three of our favorite beer-wine hybrids, which range from about $15 - $20/750ml.

Noble Rot
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales / Rehoboth, DE
A pale but amply strong (9%ABV) and spicy saison style beer blended with juice of high-brix Pinot Gris as well as Viognier affected by a benevolent fungus called botrytis (a.k.a. "noble rot"). This noble rot, prized in dessert wine grapes like Sauternes, intensifies and dehydrates the grapes, resulting in lush flavors. (Dogfish Head)

The Vine 2011
Cascade Barrel House / Portland, OR
This sour 9.2%ABV ale derives from a blend of golden ales aged in French and American oak for an entire year, then fermented for an additional three months with the juice of white wine grapes which mellow and round out the tart aged beers. The varietal? A closely-held secret. (Cascade Barrel House)

Geuze Vigneronne
Brasserie Cantillon / Brussels, Belgium
Cantillon’s affable patriarch Jean-Pierre Van Roy began blending the classic tart Belgian Lambic style beer with white wine grape juice in 1973. Today his son and head blender Jean carries the torch. To make this beer each fall, the family imports 1,000 kilos of sweet Italian Muscat grapes to blend with organic Lambic beers aged two years in Burgundy barrels, resulting in a quaffable masterpiece of 5%ABV available in select U.S. markets (Shelton Bros.)

Have another wine-like beer that you dig? Share it with us below!

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