Harvest for the TX wine industry starts a little earlier than the West Coast and we are deep into it now. Reds and whites have been picked, crushed, maserated, racked and saigneèd. Some fruit is still hanging on the vines and some is already resting in barrel. It’s an exciting time full of untold possibility, blisteringly long hours and an almost nervous celebration of black-handed winemakers. As consumers of the wines, we sometimes forget how much thoughtful effort goes into taking a fruit on a vine and turning it into a glass of passion and introspection. Harvest season brings that reminder into stark focus.
Except for the otherworldly heat, this is one of my favorite times every year. My cider buddy Jeff jokes that the New Braunfels Brewing Company is a brewery that thinks it’s a winery. And there are a few tons of truth to that. Almost immediately after opening we started a small bottle club. I’ve always loved the story of annual releases and the variations inherent to only producing something every 12 months. I have been known to spend entirely too much time and effort producing something that only yields a few cases and barely sees the light of day. My palate is attracted to a dry body and big, bold flavors. And just being in a winery, in the vineyard, talking to a winemaker or sipping from a glass does something to my soul I can barely articulate. But if I find poetry in wine, then I find heavy metal in sour beer. More specifically a deep, rhythmic and throbbing prog metal with complex song structure but a linear progression that heaves you along.
Over the years I’ve made quite a few beers with wine ingredients and wine processes. I love the intersection of the two worlds and I feel like only recently I’ve come to understand how to blend the flavors artfully. It can be a challenge to balance the light body of beer with the big body of wine. And when you incorporate the carbonation and the way it lightens the weight on your palate while at the same time blooming the aromatics it has taken many experiments to dial in on a style I’m proud of. For 2019 I’ve pared down our wine/beer hybrid releases to just 4 variations and instead of 1-3 releases of each every year there will be only 1 per harvest season. I also used to use lees and wet barrels to lend the flavor and personality of wine. While I think I've managed to see some great results, I now use pomace exclusively to craft these beers. Pomace is the skins, seeds and stems left over after the winery presses all of their wine out. There is still flavor, color and even wine in the pomace, which is what makes these beers truly unique.
These are the wine harvest beers I currently have in production:
Das Lokal Blend7
For 2019 I sourced Tempranillo pomace from Lost Draw Cellars in Fredericksburg. This is a wine that they’ve consistently released solid vintages of and I’m thrilled to be able to use the pomace from this year’s harvest. The fruit was grown in the Wildseed Vineyards outside of Fredericksburg and was pressed on August 15. That same day I selected two barrels of Blondine and racked them directly over the pomace in addition to some freshly fermenting Blondine. After 9 days the beer was pressed off into a stainless steel tank and allowed to mature.
We bottled this one September 4. Blend7 will be available in 750ml bottles for 11.75 exclusively to our Sour Junkie Society members and in 4-packs of 12oz bottles for $13 for everyone else. Only a few kegs and 20 cases of 4-packs will be distributed around TX.
Release will begin Thursday Sept 12 in our downtown tasting room and draft pours will be 6.75. Blends 6 and 7 will be available on draft all weekend and Road Dogs food truck will be here Friday the 13th.
Jose the Rose Gose Blend4
For 2019 I changed the process for how we arrive at our rose gose a bit. While Blends 1-3 made a fantastically unique blend of wine and beer, the costs associated with it made it too special for ‘regular consumption’. So I'll be using red wine pomace and refermenting with a clean, crisp and salty gose. This year I actually took a few cellared kegs that we had from Blend3 and refermented them for 6 days on the Tempranillo pomace after I transferred Das Lokal to steel. I used roughly 1/5 the beer to pomace ratio for Jose that I did for Das Lokal. The result is a more tannic, much deeper-colored beer that expresses it’s wine heritage like a 16-year old getting her first piercing. Which is to say with angst and passion. I also added a bit more salt to balance the bigger flavor and I’m proud to pour you a glass of this one. The concept for this release was inspired by Crowson Wines’ Saignee Rose, which is a truly fantastic dry rose and one of the only rose wines that would win in a fistfight against barbecue ribs, in my opinion.
We’ll be bottling this one September 10. Jose Blend 4 will be available in 500ml bottles for $10 exclusively to our Sour Junkie Society members in their October allocation and in 12oz 4-packs for everyone else. I don't anticipate this one seeing distribution.
Release will begin Thursday Sept 19 in our downtown tasting room and draft pours will be 6.75. Blend 2, 3 and 4 will be available on draft all weekend and Road Dogs food truck will be here Friday the 20th.
Very Seldom Naughty Blend8
For 2019 I sourced Malvasia Bianca from Crowson Vineyards in Johnson City. This grape, while not widely produced, is maybe best-known for the sweet wines produced on the island of Madeira. What makes this beer truly special is that Crowson, along with La Cruz de Comal and Southold Farm and Cellar, are the only TX wineries that I know of that ferment their grapes exclusively with the wild yeast and bacteria living on the skins of the grapes at harvest time. Malvasia is a grape most people don’t have a lot of experience drinking which makes for an exciting new flavor journey I get to take you on with this beer. I selected a single barrel that had previously held Self Medication to rack over the pomace on August 22.
I transferred this beer off the pomace on September 6 and we will bottle 750ml bombers exclusively for our Sour Junkie Society's October Allocation on Sept 17. We'll fill a few cases of 12oz 4-packs and a few kegs for distribution the following day.
Release will begin Thursday Sept 26 in our downtown tasting room and draft pours will be 6.75. I have saved a case of each Blend from the first and will include a guided tasting flight all weekend.
Sangre de Shiva Blend11
For 2019 I’ll be sourcing High Plains Tanat pomace to referment with our barrel-aged dark beer, Cosmic Dancer. We have a total of 6 barrels, some of which will be blended for Cosmic Dancer with the remainder being used for Sangre de Shiva. I expect to have that pomace in the second week of September and can share more details after I assess what I have to work with. But Tanat is, in my opinion, the closest thing TX climate produces well to a big, tannic red like Cabernet. This will be the first Sangre to use pomace and the first beer yet to use Tanat exclusively so to say I’m looking forward to this one like I’m looking forward to that date-night my wife is planning for us.
This one will be released in 750ml bottles for 14.25 and on draft for 10.
As you know I hate to waste flavor so I’ll be reserving the white and red lees in the tanks after bottling/kegging for use on future projects. And no, I don’t yet know what those will be. But yes, I am already grinning thinking about them.