Last year, when some friends and I embarked on our San Francisco beer trip to celebrate my 30th birthday, our first California brewery was Bear Republic in Healdsburg, CA. Beyond the extreme size of their taster tray, my strongest memory was of a beer they’d aged in Chardonnay barrels. The bartender spoke disparagingly of it, calling it out for an apparent infection (band-aid flavors, yuck), which I also picked up on. But it got my mind working. There was something to this beer and wine union.
Doing a little research at home, I learned this pairing wasn’t really a novel idea; the ancients had been combining the fermentables in barley with grapes’ natural sugars (and honey) since the beginning of civilization. Dogfish Head’s “Midas Touch” is famously based on an ancient Babylonian concoction that combines barley, grapes and honey with a special combination of spices, including saffron.
I made my own homebrewed homage to the Bear Republic example a few months later, calling it “Broken Shard,” a self-titled “ChardonnIPA.”
Cascade’s take on the wine/beer combo veers off in an entirely different direction, adding souring lactic fermentation to the mix, likely some kind of lactobacillus bacyeria that produces lactic acid during the aging process. It’s tasty, tart and relatively dry. I suspect this would be a good gateway beer for wine drinkers.
And speaking of wine drinkers … my choice of this beer for this day was highly intentional. I cracked this two-year-old bottle to celebrate the launch of 33 Wines, the newest in what I hope will be a long series of tasting journals, all of which began, appropriately, with beer.
Beer Name: The Vine
Brewer: Cascade Brewing
Sampled: March 27, 2010
Notes: Strong sweet tart flavor here, with pretty apparent yeast nose and flavor. Not sure I’d call out grape juice unless I knew about it. Very fine mouth.
ABV: 9.2% abv
Serving Type: Bottle.