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Craft Beer Times | Beer Meets Booze: Wine and Spirit Influence

Beer Meets Booze: Wine and Spirit Influence

Beer Meets Booze: Wine and Spirit Influence

The Rise of Wine- and Spirit-Inspired Beers

As a beer lover, you may have heard of bourbon barrel-aged stouts, but have you tried a beer that tastes like your favorite wine or cocktail? Today, breweries are incorporating wine grapes, spirits, and botanicals into their recipes, creating a new class of beer: wine- and spirit-inspired brews. Let’s explore the latest trend in craft brewing – beer with a boozy twist.

The Wine-Beer Connection

The line between wine and beer is increasingly blurred, thanks to brewers experimenting with grape must and skins. “Grape must” is what is left over after the pressing process. Since grape must has fruit sugars that can be fermented, it can be used as a sweetener in beer. An example of this is Dogfish Head’s “Noble Rot”, a saison brewed with grape must that tastes like a dry white wine. Some breweries have even gone so far as to dehydrate and crush whole grapes and add them right into the brew for an extra burst of flavor.

Spirit-Inspired Brews

Brewers aren’t stopping at wine; they’re turning to spirits for inspiration, too. Some brewers are aging beer in barrels that previously held whiskey, rum, or even tequila. Urban South HTX’s “Calcasieu Parish” is an imperial stout aged in rum barrels which gives it notes of vanilla and caramel, which you’d find in a typical rum. Another way that breweries are channeling spirits is by adding botanicals. This botanical brewing is not unlike the gin-making process. Botanicals like juniper berries, coriander, and orange peel give beers strong and distinct flavors, echoing those found in gin.

Standout Brews

Some standout brews highlight the ingenuity and creativity that goes into making wine- and spirit-inspired beers. Allagash’s “Curieux” is a Belgian Triple aged in bourbon barrels. It is a rich and complex beer that has notes of vanilla and bourbon that work well with the spicy notes of the Belgian yeast. Mikkeller Brewing’s “Spontanyuzu” is a sour ale aged in oak barrels with the added twist of adding yuzu fruit. The result is a tangy, tart beer with flavors of grapefruit that nicely complement the sourness of the beer. And finally, we can’t leave craft brewing without mentioning Prairie Artisan Ales’ “Bomb!”, an imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, coffee and chilies. The result is an incredibly complex beer that brings together notes that you’d typically find in a Mexican mole sauce.

Final Thoughts

From dry white wine-like saisons to tangy citrus sours, the world of wine- and spirit-inspired beers has opened up. It’s not just about replicating the flavor of a vintage cabernet or a classic whiskey sour but bold ideas pushing the boundaries of what we typically put in beer. Even if you’re not a fan of wine or spirits, you just might find a beer in this category that will appeal to your palate. So, go out and enjoy the great wine and spirits inspired brews that today’s craft brewers are crafting.


Dustin is a writer about craft beer and a professional brewer in the city of Chicago. He has written for several magazines and has over a decade of experience in the beer industry. He is currently working on a book about the history of beer in Chicago.

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