Take a stroll through a brewery barrel cellar or foeder forest, and among the bourbon and whiskey barrels aging all manner of stouts and porters, you’re also likely to encounter wine barrels—especially if the brewery has a wild-and-sour program.
Wooden vats that once held whites and reds are now imparting new flavors to ales and lagers. This is what most of us think of when the term “wine-aged beer” is tossed around, but for one brewery in Massachusetts, the wine-infused beers actually contain grape must, and the base style is the ubiquitous IPA.
For its third anniversary, Trillium Brewing Company decided to make a wine-infused beer, an attempt to make something special that brought out complementary flavors of both beverages while still staying true to the spirit of the beer. They named it Dialed-In.
“We used Sauvignon Blanc wine must, and it was the effective replacement for what you’d use for a simple sugar addition in an IPA,” says Brewer and Owner JC Tetreault. “The first time, it didn’t have dextrose, so we bumped up some of the malt to accommodate that. For hopping, we used a base of Galaxy and then added a complementary hop, Nelson Sauvin. It was a bit of an obvious thing to do but that’s okay. Obvious is delicious.”
The brewery followed up with a Pinot Gris and Eldorado double IPA and one with Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer generously hopped with Galaxy, Citra, and Columbus.
“We’ve found that adding juice—sterile must—cold side, at the tail end of fermentation just before the dry-hop addition, helps to make a clean beer,” he says.
The beers use the standard house yeast, helping to give them a distinct Trillium character. By avoiding the addition of dextrose (the simple sugar that is found in many of the brewery’s IPAs), Tetreault says Dialed-In is the better for it.
“We found that dextrose can disrupt the reliability and the dry hopping toward the tail end of fermentation. It just generates too much CO2, and the wine and the delicate hops aromatic are impacted.”
He knows that these beers can be polarizing but that beers like this soothe the brewer’s appetite for creativity and new flavors. Plus, he adds, there are always consumers who will line up for the next new thing.
So far, he’s focused on double IPAs as the base beer—the chewy, fruity nature of the style best lends itself to the grape addition. The wine character is a complement, almost a spritzy wine cooler with a hop back. Tetreault knows there aren’t a lot of other breweries doing this kind of brewing but hopes that others get involved because it’ll lead to more information and new flavors.
After a few iterations, Tetreault says he’s hoping to experiment more when he can find the time. He’d like to experiment with Lambrusco, and “rosé is definitely on the list.”