Grape Ale Experiments
“Hey Mike. What do you like brewing?”
This is probably the most common question that I get working in a homebrew shop (other than, "When are you getting more Oslo?"). My answer is pretty much the same as every other homebrewer's: whatever is tickling my fancy at the time. I am pretty lucky in that I get to try a lot of beer and have access to some great stuff, so I like to play with whatever my current obsession is when I set out to brew.
Although I do have a few beers that I will fall back on to make sure I have something on tap, most of what I make is either tinkering or playing with an idea. Some of this tinkering has led to some pretty terrible beer; some Brett strains definitely should be used as a secondary yeast. I've also had some rather explosive mistakes. If I haven't already shown you pictures, check them out below and ask me about my Kveik Imperial Stout explosion next time you're in. But, sometimes, I make a beer that I really enjoy.
This past summer, I wanted to make my own attempt at a Grape Ale. I was also interested in playing with wine yeast instead of beer yeast (or in this case, why not both?). So, that’s what I did. I am happy with the final product, so thought I'd share what I did:
The first thing I did was brew a simple Blonde Ale. The reason for this is because I also used K1-V1116 wine yeast, as it had the flavour profile I wanted, but it is a killer yeast (it produces a toxic protein that kills other yeasts) and I wanted to make sure I was able to ferment the beer portion out. Once the beer had fermented to where I was happy, I topped my fermenter up with 2.5 gallons of Rose Wine juice and pitched the wine yeast. After a few days, I also pitched some Berliner Brett from Escarpment (because why not?) and let everything ride out. Finally, to make things more difficult to replicate, I decided to blend some under-attenuated beer in at bottling time instead of priming sugar.
The beer has been packaged since late July and is starting to get a nice Brett character, but is leaning more towards the wine side of things than beer. I'm really digging it. This is definitely something I want to play around with more. My next one will likely be a co-pitch of wine yeast and Brett alone for a longer-term fermentation, but I also want to use some fresh grapes. I’ve also read some interesting stuff about lager yeast and grape juice. Stu brewed something up with the Gold Rush lager and grapes, but I’ll let him talk about that some other time. All-in-all, I had fun with this brew and enjoyed the beer. I don’t have any pictures of it, but I do a sweet exploded RIS picture, so please enjoy that instead.