The line between beer and wine has always been a little blurry here at Alesong. Yes, the primary fermentable sugar of all our creations is still malted barley, which categorizes it as beer. But after that initial brew day, the process starts to look like red wine production -- primary fermentation in stainless, then down to barrel for a secondary fermentation and maturation before we select barrels to blend together, package and age in the bottle until it's ready for you to enjoy. When we add fruit to the mix, the process even more resembles wine production -- crushing/destemming, punch downs, pump overs, and finally a drain and press.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I am inspired by wine production and that I miss it (well not the twenty 12-hour days in a row of harvest, but you get the idea). Since last year's harvest, my brain has been churning with ideas for wine-beer hybrids. By the time this year's fruit was ready, I narrowed my focus to three projects, one of which, now named "Saison du Vin," will be available at our November 19th release in bottles. The other two will be ready sometime next fall.
The inspiration for "Saison du Vin" (Saison of the Vine) came early on during my time at King Estate for the '15 harvest (maybe day 8 or 10 when I was still really excited when new fruit came in, compared to day 20 when I wanted nothing to do with grapes). We had just received a small truckload of Muscat from Sarver Winery here in the Willamette Valley. While unloading the trailer I saw my first glimpse of the fruit and was shocked. Muscat didn't look like any other grape I had seen before -- contrasting the white of the macro bin were these plump, vibrant-yellow grapes that looked like each one was about to burst with juice. I jumped off the forklift to taste some and was even more shocked -- the huge grapes were incredibly juicy and bursting with a wonderful tropical fruit flavor that reminded me of pineapple and stone-fruit.
Over the next several weeks I monitored the fermentation of this Muscat lot. Every time I opened the lid of the tank, a wonderful aroma ballooned out and reminded me of the botanicals that are kicked off a brett drei fermentation. That was it. I knew I needed to make a beer with freshly pressed Muscat.
Saison du Vin is a 100% brettanomyces drei and clauseni fermented saison aged in King Estate Pinot Noir barrels and conditioned with freshly pressed Muscat juice from Sarver Winery. This saison has a bursting aroma that reminds me of funky tropical fruit. It is slightly spicy and fruity on the tongue with a medium body that finishes dry. For the icing on the cake, we added a very high level of carbonation to be reminiscent of champagne for your holiday celebrations. Go ahead, replace your bubbly with beer. You certainly have our permission!
The other two projects will be in barrel for the majority of next year so I will only give you a teaser. The first is a similar project to Saison du Vin (hint, hint, maybe next year's version ;-)). The difference is we are adding the grape juice now and letting the beer go through a long secondary fermentation on the juice. The second project is a small one: only about 450L. For this beer, we bought a small open top fermenter and knocked out our Lambic-inspired wort (high wheat content and long mash) onto about 150lbs of Pinot Noir that I hand-picked the day prior at Benton Lane Winery. We relied on the natural yeast on the fruit to inoculate the batch and performed twice daily punchdowns until fermentation was complete and the beer went to rest into French oak.
Look for both of those fun projects later in 2017, but make sure you grab some Saison du Vin at our upcoming bottle release (November 19th) and take some home to share with family and friends at your holiday celebrations!