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Brewing with Wine Grapes

The Bruery Terreux sour-beer facility has accelerated and expanded various beer projects using wine grapes. It continues to break ground with everything from imperial stouts cofermented with grape must to whole-cluster refermentations in barrels.

Jamie Bogner Mar 5, 2018 - 8 min read

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Brewing with grapes can be as simple or as difficult as one wants to make it. On one hand, it’s as easy as brewing with any other fruit—cut it up or crush it, throw it in a tank, fill the tank with finished beer, give it enough contact time for the beer to pull out the flavors you want, then pull the beer off and package it. Done. But that level of engagement isn’t what gets Jeremy Grinkey, production manager for Bruery Terreux, excited about making beer with grapes.

“When you put apricots in beer, you have an apricot beer. When you put grapes in a beer, what do you have? As a winemaker I know what Viognier [grapes] are, I know what Roussanne grapes are, I know what Marsanne grapes are, and I know what Chardonnay grapes are—I drink those wines, and I know what flavors the grapes convey. So when I go to put grapes in a beer, I pay respect to the contributions of the grapes themselves.”

That respect starts not at harvest time, but usually eight or nine months ahead of the grape harvest, when Grinkey conceptualizes an idea and approaches winemaker friends about it. Grape growers and wineries are partners in the process, so he’ll walk the fields and discuss how he wants the fruit farmed—whether to prune fruit from the vines three months before harvest to lessen the fruit load so that the vines can push more nutrients to the remaining fruit. Or he’ll determine which parts of the vineyard he’d like his grapes from—North slope–facing, South slope–facing. They discuss the desired level of ripeness for harvest and desired level of acidity (high or low), then talk through the sensory characteristics Grinkey would like to see in the varietal.

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].