James Ewen, Co-Owner and Head Brewer
Wooden Hill Brewing Company
Fruit beers aren’t anything new. In fact, I’ve personally brewed with
honeydew melons, strawberries, mangoes, raspberries, cranberries, and
peaches, to name a few. It’s both exciting and challenging to incorporate
different fruit into a recipe. Some purees like cranberry come through
strongly, and others, like peach or mango, are a little more difficult to bring to the surface. When brewing with a new fruit, it can be tough to predict exactly how it will end up.
So, when I was contacted by Yellow House Vineyard owner Cody Kaye in the early summer, I wasn’t completely sure what the result would be if I
combined his fresh grape juice with one of our fermenting beers. There are a few commercial examples of a beer-wine hybrid, but they generally use
grape must instead of grape juice.
But Cody can be pretty convincing. His knowledge and passion for his small
vineyard are clear the moment you meet him. Yellow House Vineyard is
located in Afton, MN. They’re not making wine quite yet, focusing instead on growing just two varieties of grapes and selling the harvest to local
breweries, distilleries, and other wineries. Their red variety, Marquette, is a hybrid itself developed by the University of Minnesota in 2006.
Fast forward a few months and the harvest comes: weeks of planning and a
freshly brewed batch of high gravity Saison waiting to be transformed. We
used 100 gallons of fresh Marquette grape juice, plucked from the vine and
added to the fermenting beer within a matter of hours.
Fermentation continues for a few more days, at first tasting sweet and slowly becoming dry with a warming finish - tasting the developing beer was incredible. And now, trying it kegged and on tap for the first time, it’s
amazing how many wine characteristics it’s taken on with the subtle Saison
esters in the background.
Given the scarcity of the ingredients and small batch size, we’re calling this
one Rare Vine. At 9.5% alcohol-by-volume, it’s a real sipper in our stemless
wine glasses. Try it soon, before this rarity is gone for the year.