Drink This  The Denver Tasting Lab

Does the world really need the beer/wine hybrid?

Jeremy Short · June 19


Hybrids are cool. Right? You mix two cool things together and you get one awesome thing? Right? Well that's the idea. And because hybrids are so popular many breweries have decided to brew up beers that in many ways can be considered a hybrid of beer and wine. Awesome. Right? Or maybe the math of cool + cool = awesome doesn't always add up? To find out I tried several of these hybrids out with my fellow drinkers at the Denver Tasting Lab.

Winebeer #1

Wait, I just realized there's no good name for this concoction of grapes and barley. Winebeer, um, doesn't seem quite right. Beerwine seems lazy. Bine? Weer? Well nothing is landing for me yet, maybe I'll figure something out by the end of this post.

First up is Noble Rot from Dogfish Head. Spoiler alert! This is the best one. Yeah, I just said spoiler alert in a post about beer. Well it is my favorite of the bunch. Although the rest of the group prefered the Ska. Oh man, another spoiler in this paragraph. I don’t even know if you need to keep reading. Oh well. This beer comes closest to finding the harmony between grapes and barley. It also has some funk for an added layer of complexity. It isn’t over the top. It isn’t trying too hard. It’s just drinkable and surprisingly refreshing for a potent 9% beverage.This beer reminds you of an interesting glass of sparkling white wine. Which is nice because unlike other wines sparkling wine has bubbles, of course. This makes this hybrid a bit truer to both beer and wine.

Beervino #2

Ok, beervino is terrible. I can admit that.

Anyway, our second beer is Amuste from Odell. The well-designed label has this informative description:

Must is to wine as wort is to beer; the primordial ooze, the source and foundation that feeds the process of fermentation we all love so much. Amuste is the culmination of a two year endeavor to marry these two field in the same fire. An Imperial Porter aged in oak wine barrels accented with juice from Tempranillo grapes grown in the Western Slope of Colorado, this harmonic combination is truly, a must.

Haha, you see what they did there at the end. Blah. Where do people come up with a "primordial ooze" that is also a "fuel?" It's almost as silly as calling the thing an Imperial Porter but whatever. All that truly matters is how does it taste. Was this "marriage of fuels" worth the "two year endeavor?" No, it wasn't. Odell makes an excellent IPA. Please pick up a few six packs of that instead. Actually Odell makes a lot of great beers and this isn't one of them. Okay, I am not being helpful. Let’s start over. This is a fine beverage. I think you will find many craft beer drinkers that will fawn over its "intangibles" while a casual drinker will find it "interesting." Not many people are going to dislike the fact that it’s a bit muddled and it isn't quite sure what it is. And when you drink Amuste you get the feeling that a bipolar/split personality monster has been unleashed and with each sip it argues, “I am a wine” while shouting "NO, I am a beer!" What is it? Only God can say.

Beer Wine Hybrid #3

Look, I have no idea what to call these things so we’ll just get generic here and stick with beer wine hybrid.

The last of our taste test is Vinifera Stout from Ska Brewing. Instead of getting all fancy pants in their description Ska kept it nice a simple: “oak-aged foreign-stout brewed with Malbec grape juice.” This, of course, was the only one that came in a can instead of an over-priced bomber.This is a complex and interesting stout where the grapes play a nice supporting role and add some depth. Plus they tossed in some oak. Lot going on here. But it wasn't particularly memorable all-in-all. The group preferred this one the most out of the three. I thought it was a pretty solid second. And in retrospect it seems a bit more forgettable than I would have thought from the tasting.

In Summary

Does the world really need one? I appreciate the experimentation.I think hybrids spur great things. Like my dog. Or the smart phone. But sometimes creating a hybrid out of two great things leaves the world with one mediocre thing. There's not a chance for one  thing to shine. Instead you reduce two great things into two lesser things. I've written the word thing far too many times in this paragraph. I admit, it’s hard to judge a concept by only trying three examples. And I am sure there are other great examples. But for now I am in no rush to find a beer made with a dash of grape juice.


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