February 8, 2018

Cervino Update

Two years ago I started an experiment of blurring beer and wine together, dubbed Cervino, by blending Chardonnay juice with spontaneous beer.  This last year's season we continued it by trying a couple more grape varieties, but by also focusing on incorporating wine techniques and was very encouraged by the evolution of Cervino.  For these larger batches, we blend barrels of already aged spontaneous beer together, and then add either whole grapes, or the juice after pressing grapes.  (Ferment the beer, add grapes, secondary ferment.)

I've wanted to experiment with the timing of fermenting the parts versus when they get combined.  What impact does it have to ferment the grapes alone and then blend it with fermented beer?  Or what about adding grapes to wort and doing primary together?  There are endless iterations of the same ingredient combination, and that's what excites me the most about the Cervino project.

This last season we were able to test out a few areas on interest.  We sourced 4 different local grape varieties and built a punchdown barrel for each of them.  The punchdown technique has been amazing in our fruited lambics.  Given that it's a wine technique, it only makes sense to bring that into the Cervino series.  To make the punch downs legal, and to help kick off fermentation, we added 5% Meerts beer to each barrel.  Punching the grapes down twice daily during fermentation brought out so much flavor, aroma, and crazy color for the two reds.  After fermentation we tasted each, experimented with blends of each other, with blends with spontaneous barrels, and in the end dumped one barrel and blended and packaged the other three.  Bluebell was the grape variety we dumped.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't something we were excited about.  The other three were blended with 18 month old spontaneous barrels and bottle conditioned.


The three pictured above are the 3 we packaged.  La Crescent is "White".  King of the North is "Red".  Frontenac Gris is "Rosé" because the grapes themselves were a pinkish color.  It's really hard to explain the richness and complexity of flavor in these Cervinos.

After the Cervino Sangiovese, we expected the King of the North variety to result in a similarly rich and bold beer.  To our surprise, it drinks closer to the profile you'd expect from a traditional white wine.  It's quite delicate, but has the tannins you'd expect and a bright fruity flavor.  The Frontenac Gris resulted in a super funky and fruity aroma, and the flavor is very bold.  It's one part tropical fruit juice and another part this marriage of oak spice and rich earthy minerality.  The result of the La Crescent surprised us all in how clean and sophisticated a beer can be coming from a raw and seemingly uncouth fermentation process.  A clean, pure brett funk with strong citrus and floral notes.

I speak about Cervino as a project and one that is evolving.  This is certainly the next evolution. Unfortunately, these pilot batches are quite small and so bottles will only be available to the public for on-premise consumption at the taproom.

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