Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Barrelworks Terroir Project invites brewers from all over the world to create beer wine hybrids

Rebecca Rose

Here on the Central Coast, every sip of wine or beer bears a hint of the region that produced it. So what happens when you combine them both?

Garage Project brewery co-founder Jos Ruffell came all the way from New Zealand to showcase two beers as part of the annual Terroir Project. The event on Sept. 29 is hosted by Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks brewery in Buellton and features beer-wine hybrids.

Don't go dumping your beer into that glass of chardonnay because that's not what I'm talking about. Beer-and-wine hybrids are making a name for themselves all over the world, as beer makers look for more and more ways to stand out and create unique beers that push the boundaries of their craft.

Hybrids are nothing new; they are typically born out of a mix of wine grapes and the grain used for beer fermented together. Often brewers will combine the must–the seed, skin, and stem of the grape–as well, creating beers that incorporate the refined flavors familiar to wine lovers everywhere with the more rugged and raw spirit of beer making.

I recently had a chance to learn more about the world of beer-and-wine hybrids, thanks to Firestone Walker's Barrelworks brewery, which hosted the annual Terroir Project on Sept. 29. The Buellton-based brewery invites brewmasters globally to participate in a project that highlights hybrids and brings beer makers and beer lovers together to celebrate the product of their region.

Beer-wine hybrids feature a unique opportunity to see the world of brewing and winemaking come together. Barrelworks’ annual Terroir Project included DiBusseto out of Italy, who created MMXV Settembre, an ale fermented with Malvasia grapes.

Jeffers Richardson of Barrelworks describes the project as a "collaborative experiment" in beer-wine hybrid making. "Terroir" means a sense of place, and the project aims to highlight the local regions that are home to the brewers who participate. 

Some of the of the parameters of the terroir experiment can be quite challenging. In order to produce a distinct hybrid for the project, brewers were asking to meet three different stipulations. They had to use the same grain bill, the same maturation time in barrels, and the same co-fermented percentage of wort and grapes. Sounds easy, right? One last rule was that all the grapes had to be sourced from no more than 100 miles within each participating brewery.

Beavertown Brewery in London was one of seven breweries taking part in Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks annual Terroir Project event, which features beer-and-wine hybrids.

That made it a bit of a challenge for Boston city-based brewers such as Trillium. JC and Esther Tetreault presented a beer called Rkatsiteli 2017, a new product from their brewery, for the project. The couple sourced Rkatsiteli juice from a winery in Westport, Massachusetts, in order to highlight their New England roots.

"We are very lucky that we have a small vineyard and winery [near us]," JC Tetreault said. "Rkatsiteli is a super obscure variety. The winemaker offered it to us because I was looking for something with high acidity and high sugar content ... I always like the obscure stuff. I knew if nothing else it would be interesting."

The Tereaults describe the beer as rustic with funky aromas in a champagne-style essence. When you taste the beer, you really get a sense of oakiness from the barrel aging but it remains very crisp on the palate. 

Beavertown’s Far From the Tree is made using apples sourced close by their London facility.

Trillium also shared their Cuvee de Tetreault American Wild Ale at the event, one of my favorite glasses poured that day. The brewery uses cabernet sauvignon grapes and black currants in bourbon oak barrels, producing a dynamic and smooth beer ripe with the flavors of cherry and black currant in an ABV that's as high as 11 percent. The couple has been making cuvee together since long before they started Trillium

New Zealander Jos Ruffell, co-founder of Garage Project, was also on hand at the event, pouring a beer called Savoir Faire. 

"We really decided early on to use sauvignon blanc," he said. "We have some great growing areas within the region."

The grapes were put into a 250 pound clay pot and allowed to ferment with the wild yeast they come in with. Then the wort is put on top, fermented, and then bucketed into a basket press and pressed the grapes and the wort. It was the first time Ruffell's team had tried the method, which he described as somewhat challenging. The mixture was then placed in oak barrels and aged for 15 months.

Another beer Ruffell poured was Wildflower Elder, a spontaneous wildflower ferment, made with New Zealand elderflower foraged near the brewery. 

"We submerge it in the wort," Ruffell explained. "Whatever native yeast and bacteria that comes off those flowers is the ferment. We age it in barrels for about a year and then go forage elderberry and condition it on that. So it starts with wild elderflower and finishes on wild elderberry."

For more information on Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks annual Terroir Project, visit firestonebeer.com.

Ruffell said that with live brewing, such as the kind that produces Wildflower Elder, there are very few controls and no test batches. He said it can be nerve-wracking but the process can help sharpen your mind as a beer maker.

Barrel program manager Jonathan Hamilton from Brewery in London said that the brewery used grapes sourced from a Chapel Down winery, located less than 75 miles from their brewery. Their terroir beer contribution was called A Sense of Place, made with pinot noir juice from the winery's press. The brewers next blended the juice from Chapel Down winery with skins from Forty Hall vineyard just down the road.

In addition to the Sense of Place, Beavertown shared their beer/cider blend, Far From the Tree. The cider hybrid is aged with apple pomace, sourced from a farm in Kent.

But it wasn't just the international hybrids that shared the spotlight. One non-hybrid beer served at the event was Russian River's Beatification. The beer is entirely spontaneously fermented; no yeast is ever added to the mixture. The brewed beer is placed into what is known as a "horny" tank in the barrel room, where it sits overnight, collecting a funky mixture of bacteria and yeast from the room itself. Then the brewers transfer the beer to oak barrels to age for several months, producing a weirdly delightful sour and funky beer.

The aim of the project is to highlight not just what fancy tricks brewers can do to their beers to extract unique or quirky flavors, but to showcase the regionality of each brewer. From apple cider ripe with the flavors of the English countryside, to New England brews that call up hints of East Coast seaside life, the project shows that the best beers all have an element of individuality. 

 Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is a barrel of laughs. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.


Smoked Brisket

• Yes, I'm back, and I'm here entirely for the meat dishes served up at The Bear and Star in Los Olivos. During a recent chef's dinner with Cultura Carmel Executive Chef Michelle Estigoy, chef John Cox unveiled a version of machaca served with soft scrambled eggs and a smoked brisket (pictured) that might be the best brisket I've had in my life. To learn more about the chef's table dinners at The Bear and Star, visit them online thebearandstar.com or at 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos.

• On Oct. 13, the Veterans Memorial Center in Santa Maria hosts the Filipino Bario Festival in celebration of Filipino American History Month. Check out food and live entertainment from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. at 313 W. Tunnell St., Santa Maria.

Roasted Pepper Sauce

• Stomp your feet at the Solvang Stomp Festival in downtown Solvang on Oct. 13 from 2 to 5 p.m. with more than a dozen local wineries. The inaugural festival is a celebration of the annual wine harvest and features food, wine, and a Lucy or Ricky Ricardo look-alike contest. For more info, visit solvangusa.com.

Pappy's Restaurant is everything a truck stop diner should be and more. The chicken fried steak is a masterpiece, but everything goes to a whole new level when paired with the venue's signature Roasted Pepper Sauce (pictured). Pick up a bottle of your own at 1275 E. Betteravia Road, Santa Maria.

• I met an emu who hated me at Koehler Winery (don't worry, they aren't running wild or attacking innocent bystanders or anything). The emu obviously needs more time to get to know me and my charming personality, but you on the other hand should get to know Koehler's superb 2017 grenache rosé, for only $25. Visit them and a cranky emu (who I will win over one day) at 5360 Foxen Canyon Road

Weekly Poll
What do you think of PG&E's "public safety power shut off" plan?

The outages will be annoying and dangerous for customers.
The outages are vital to preventing wildfires.
PG&E should do more to fix its actual infrastructure before cutting power.
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