More and more breweries are exploring wine and beer hybrids.
American brewers experiment with anything and everything to create new styles and flavors, often with amazing results. A new trend – that also happens to be quite ancient – finds many brewers creating beers that are reminiscent of fine wine. Often times, it’s featured prominently as an ingredient, expanding beer’s very definition.
Wine and beer have long and storied histories, and these hybrids fuse together those things which make each beverage unique. So next time you’re torn between cracking a beer or sharing a bottle of wine, grab one of these hybrids and get the best of both worlds!
Known for its “off-centered” approach to brewing, Dogfish Head has let history be its guide. With their Ancient Ales series, Sam Calagione and his team have long been known for recreating ancient beers, which most often are wine and beer hybrids.
“One of our rallying cries at Dogfish has always been ‘analog beer for the digital age’,” says Calagione. “So many ancient beverages were hybrids, incorporating grains and grapes, as they complement each other so well. The combination reaches exponential levels of complexity. It’s possible to look backwards for inspiration instead of always looking to the future.” Midas Touch, the first of the Ancient Ale series, is brewed using ingredients found in a 2,700-year-old drinking vessel discovered in the tomb of King Midas. This 9% ABV ale, which exists somewhere between beer, wine and mead, has delighted Dogfish Head devotees since 1999.
More recently, Dogfish has crafted wine and beer hybrids of their own. Mixed Media, their “vino-esque science project”, is technically as close to wine as a beer can possibly be. “With 51% of the fermentable sugars coming from grain, and 49% from grapes [this beer] is a complex saison-esque ale brewed with a distinct Belgian yeast strain,” says Calagione. Mixed Media’s tart yet dry attributes enchant Pinot Gris and beer drinkers alike.
If Mixed Media is Dogfish’s “white” wine hybrid, their “red” version is Sixty One. This sweet and fruity ale is a blend of Dogfish’s best-selling 60 Minute IPA and syrah grape must from California. “A few years ago, I ordered a glass of my favorite red wine and poured a little into a pint of 60 Minute,” explains Calagione. “[With] the combination of fruity complexity and pungent hoppiness, the blend became a beloved tradition.”
Portland, Maine’s Allagash has been churning out unique, Belgian-inspired beers with interesting flavors that only this American craft brewer could devise. When it comes to brewing beers with a vino twist, Two Lights “lets us blur the lines between brewer and vintner,” says the brewery’s founder Rob Tod. Two Lights is brewed with Sauvignon Blanc must – the freshly pressed juice of the grapes – and is fermented with lager and champagne yeast to “create a tart, crisp, dry profile.” Sounds a lot like our favorite wine!
Tod’s aim for the finished beer was to have aromas of, “pear, grape and light hops pair with a flavor profile that’s a mix of tropical fruit and the snappy spritz of a freshly picked grape.”
This, of course, isn’t Allagash’s first rodeo. Their brewing history is replete with beers that straddle the line between ale and wine. Many have been available only at the brewery. Thankfully, Two Lights is the first of these beers available locally.
And then of course, there is Russian River. People line up around the block to drink this California brewery’s much revered hoppy beers like Pliny the Elder, Younger and Blind Pig. But it’s their wine barrel-aged brews that started it all back in the ’90s.
With stellar sours like Temptation, Consecration and Supplication, it should come as no surprise that Brewmaster and co-owner Vinnie Cilurzo has a background in wine. “The idea of using wine barrels was to take my favorite component of Belgian lambic beer, which is Brettanomyces yeast, and create a beer based around the flavors of the Brett,” says Cilurzo.
Many of Russian River’s famed sours spend 8-15 months aging inside wine barrels. Often times Cilurzo and his team add fruit to round out a beer’s flavor profile. “The whole idea is to match the flavors of the beer with the specific flavors of the wine that was once in the barrel, and meld them all together into one cohesive beer.”
The best part about these wine-beer hybrids? They pair perfectly with food! Try DFH Mixed Media with spaghetti carbonara or white cheese chicken lasagna. For Two Lights, shuck a few oysters or pair it with a Nicoise salad. And Russian River’s Supplication is divine with mussels or tangy cheeses.
For more tips on the best way to pair beer and food, head to CraftBeer.com to download their free manual.