When we took our beery road trip to Northern California last month, one of the most unusual beers we sampled along the way was an oak-aged Hop Rod Rye at Bear Republic. They’d taken their standard brew, and cellared it for a bit in some old Chardonnay barrels. The bartender didn’t like the beer (said he was ashamed to be serving it), but I found it pretty interesting. The tartness of the chardonnay and big oaky notes paired well with the fruity, somewhat dry Rye IPA.
Yesterday, I brewed my own version inspired by the Bear Republic one. I considered a few options for getting Chardonnay in the beer:
- Chardonnay juice added to cooled wort: this is the option I eventually went with. It seemed like the most true to the idea of a hybrid wine/beer. I would have preferred un-concentrated juice, freshly pressed, but I don’t know of a good source for that. Perhaps another time.
- Bottle of Chardonnay added to fermented beer before bottling. This seemed like a good option, as I could have a high degree of control in the blending, but it seemed a bit like cheating.
- Age beer on Chardonnay-soaked oak chips. I’ve tried this successfully with Maker’s Mark Whiskey before in my “Bourbon Spice Mystery Ale,” and been pleased with the results, if not the timeline. To retain the source flavor (whiskey), the chips need to be soaked a long time, perhaps 2 months or more. Didn’t have that much time this time.
- Adding a bottle of non-alcoholic Chardonnay to wort before fermenting. I don’t know enough about how NA wine is made to know if there is fermentable sugar in there, and wasn’t willing to take the risk of a too-sweet IPA. Perhaps another option if this attempt doesn’t work well.
Here’s the full recipe:
- 2 lbs. 40 L caramel malt
- 1 lb. 80 L caramel malt, steeped with the 40L at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes
- 7 pounds extra-light malt extract added just before boil
- 3/4 oz. Cascade hops, boiled 60 minutes (I thought the citrusy flavor of this hop would pair well with the Chardonnay, and used lightly, adds a “basic” bitter element)
- 3/4 oz. Cascade hops, boiled 15 minutes
- 2 oz. Amarillo hops, boiled 5 minutes (Amarillo is my favorite aroma hop for IPA, with a ton of floral aroma)
- 2 pinches Irish Moss for clarity (don’t see too many cloudy wines)
- 2 pinches Wyeast Yeast Nutrient (since I’d be asking the yeast to do double-duty)
- 1/2 46 oz. can Alexander’s Pinot Chardonnay Extract, added to cooled wort
I pitched Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale once the wine extract had been mixed into the wort, which I selected based on the manufacturer’s description: “Fruity nose and palate, dry, tart finish.”
I plan on oaking the beer in secondary fermentation with some new American oak chips, for perhaps 2-3 weeks. I don’t want it to be tooooo oak-y, but that would be true to the Chardonnay spirit, so we’ll see.