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Wine-beer hybrids push fermentation boundaries and expand consumer choices

Wine-beer hybrids push fermentation boundaries and expand consumer choices

I have always held a strong opinion on wine “faux pas.” Many involve summer heat and optimizing refreshment. Dropping an ice cube into your wine glass, for example, is never OK. Ever. Cocktails made with wine that include ice are a gray area. Mixing beer and wine?

I must say I was intrigued.

The producers of these hybrids are going beyond wine-barrel aged beer and creating a new step in fermenting techniques that actually combines the two brews. Many of these recipes incorporate ingredients such as grape must and wine yeast to create a beverage that is part beer, part wine and uniquely tasty.

This labor-intensive process is not just a fad, Belgian brewers have been making these hybrids since the 1970s. The movement in the United States can be attributed to Dogfish Head Brewery. In the late 1990s the Delaware-based brewery teamed up with biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern to brew a beer-wine-mead hybrid. Midas Touch Ancient Ale is brewed with muscat grapes, barley, honey and saffron. The story goes it was inspired by ingredients found in a 2,700-year-old drinking vessel discovered in the tomb of King Midas.

These hybrids often take a lot of time and attention during production and blending. Most start with a sour ale as the base and the maker then chooses to co-ferment, blend and age these beverages. The crafters will macerate the beer on the fermented wine skins. The aging process can be lengthy with some producers aging the beer for one to two years in wine barrels plus an additional six months in the bottle before releasing to the consumer.

Several U.S. craft brewers now offer brews that bridge the grape-grain divide. The alcohol by volume of these drinks tends to be a bit higher than your average beer, but below most wines. These beer-wine hybrids offer unique beverage options with a variety of styles to appeal to a range of tastes. So, for a summer refresher you have several unique spins, but please, don’t put ice cubs in your wine (or beer).


  • Dogfish Head Midas Touch Ancient Ale (9% ABV), Delaware (about $14 retail, 4 pack)
  • Pacific Coast Apple Pinot Grigio Hard Cider (6.5% ABV), California (about $14 retail, 4 pack)
  • Rogue Rouge Brut India Pale Ale Pinot Noir Juice (7.5% ABV), Oregon (about $13 retail, 4 pack)

Beer drinkers’ book offers wines to test

The book Beer Drinker's GuideI just finished an interesting book for the die-hard beer drinkers out there: A Beer Drinker’s Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wine by James Laughren. The book encourages the beer drinker to embrace getting to know the other fermented beverage. Laughren clears a path through the wine world with tips “hidden among nuggets of beer lore, the secret tips for appearing extra wine smart while building your knowledge.”

I am by no means a beer expert, but with a little research and tasting opportunities I put together a few styles of beer easily complementing a wine style.

If you like pale ale you may like pinot noir. Pinot noir is a lighter red wine without the heavy tannic bite you usually get from fuller bodied wines. Also similar to beer, pinot noir’s light style makes it easy to serve chilled.


  • 2011 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2011 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $22 retail)

If you like light beer or American lager, you may like brut cava. Both are bubbly and refreshing and easily pair with a variety of foods.


  • NV Freixenet Brut Cava, Spain (about $10 retail)


  • NV Sumarroca Brut Cava, Spain (about $18 retail)

If you drink IPA (India Pale Ale), you may like carmenere. Carmenere has a balance of savory, bitter and fruity.


  • 2011 Root 1 Carmenere, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2011 La Playa Axel Carmenere, Chile (about $26 retail)

If you drink wheat beer you may like a buttery rich chardonnay. Chardonnay offers a quenching, refreshing taste that always has a creamy smooth texture similar to a wheat beer.


  • 2011 Butternut Chardonnay, California (about $16 retail)


  • 2011 La Crema Sonoma Chardonnay, California (about $26 retail)