With the craft beer scene booming, we’ve talked before about how some breweries are beginning to experiment with beer/wine blends. They’re trying all sorts of different combinations using a variety of techniques, but we heard about a new one recently on the NPR blog that has created a red wine and porter ale blend that has people buzzing.
If you’re familiar with winemaking at all, you may know about lees. Lees are what vino creators would refer to as “garbage” – they’re the tannin-rich sediment that falls to the bottom during the fermentation process, made from things like seed fragments, dead yeast cells and bits of grape skin. Mmm, yum.
Well, those lees are of no use to wine makers, but one D.C. sommelier and restaurant owner figured out that they could be the key to a really solid beer/wine combination beverage. Sebastian Zutant, owner of The Red Hen, talked to his friends at two different Virginia vineyards and got them to give him their lees. He partnered up with his friend Jeff Hancock of DC Brau craft brewery and the duo set out to create a really unique drink.
By pouring the lees through a funnel into the top of an old wine barrel, the wine and beer were able to age together inside. The tannins, which are what give red wine it’s complex flavor, were pulled into the beer to make the end result a chocolaty porter ale with a touch of Bordeaux.
Zutant told NPR that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, saying “It was definitely a crapshoot. We rolled the dice, and it seemed to work out nicely.” Hancock added, “The further your competition grows, the further you have to distinguish yourself.”
We think Zutant and Hancock have the right idea in realizing that with all of the craft brews out there, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out with a unique idea. It seems like they were successful because their idea wasn’t just unique – they also thought about a really genuine, interesting way to make a beer/wine blend that didn’t just involve mixing wine and beer together and serving it to the public. Going that extra mile proved to be well worth it in the long run.