Fort Point Brewery Nouveau - Wine/Beer Collab
Nouveau is a bright, effervescent Farmhouse Ale inspired by the grapes brought in this past harvest. Ricetti Vineyard's Mendocino Zinfandel lends a punchy juice aroma, while the beer’s well-structured body finishes with floral notes from the biere de garde yeast. This is a beer for celebrating your favorite traditions, big and small. Limited and available to taste and purchase at our tasting room or online through Fort Point Beer Co.
Q&A with Chris Brockway
How did you first meet the crew behind Fort Point?
They started buying our wines at Mill Valley Beerworks, both in keg and in bottle.
Why were you interested in doing this collaboration?
Always interested in a beer/wine hybrid after meeting Mike we had been discussing it for a few years and timing finally worked out. It took us time to figure out what exactly we wanted to do.
How did you get into winemaking?
I studied Philosophy in College – enough said.
What’s your winemaking philosophy? What’s the experience you want drinkers to have with Broc wines?
A non-egotistical view towards winemaking. The experience we want is that our wines pick people up – making them feel alive, excited and curious. We want that physical feeling of being picked up, not weighed down from drinking our wines.
What about Fort Point’s beer philosophy resonates with you as a winemaker?
Purity and transparency, especially with the KSA. It’s such a pleasure to drink, with nothing to cover up with its purity.
Is there a Fort Point beer you particularly love?
How did you and Mike approach this collaboration? What was the process?
Mike reached out about picking up this idea to collaborate before harvest. He brought over a good amount of beer/wine hybrid samples that we tasted together to see what other people were doing. It wasn’t to mimic, but to narrow what we did like and what we didn’t want to do.
What are your thoughts on the differences (and similarities) between wine and beer?
Tough one. I think it goes back to how you can do a lot to either beer or wine to cover things up, or you can let the ingredients (grapes, hops, etc) show through. It’s all about the ingredients, but very different.
What is the background of the Ricetti vineyard? What fruit do you source from the vineyard and why?
Ricetti is an old vine and dry farmed vineyard in Mendocino that we like to source Carignan, Zinfandel and Valdiguié from. The grapes provide the backbone to our Love Red.
They say it takes a lot of beer to make good wine, what are some of your go to beers during harvest season (no wrong answers)?
KSA, Trumer, Modelo and Kirin.
What’s the key to making a good wine-beer hybrid? Best place to drink Nouveau?
Bringing out some nice punchy fruit with a red grape. Drink it outside at a Fall BBQ.
Favorite food and wine pairing? (Fancy)
Selosse and turtle soup from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. The sherry in the soup with the oxidized Champagne was a memorable pairing.
Favorite food and wine pairing? (Gas Station)
Fried Chicken and Muscadet.
You’re stranded on a desert island, which bottle are you taking with you?Tavel Rosé by L’Anglore. We love this wine made in Tavel, France by an ex-beekeper.
What does it mean to be an urban winery? Why make wine in Berkeley?
It means you get to be around the people that buy our wines. Food in the Bay Area inspires the wines and how it’s prepared – it informs me in a way of what to do. Berkeley has perfect cellar weather, with the Bay keeping it nice and cool. Berkeley also has some home winemaking history here.
Q&A with Mike from Fort Point Beer
Why did we make a collaboration with Broc Cellars?
It came about really naturally. I’ve known Chris, the owner of Broc, since Mill Valley Beerworks days when we had them on the menu there. I always really liked their wines and they were into our beer, so we got to know each other over the years. Their team has been out to Fort Point for a big tour and tasting, and I’ve been up to their events a bunch. We’ve always talked about doing a collaboration together, but with the Limited Series, finally had a good opportunity to work one in.
What is Broc all about?
I think there’s some similarities to Fort Point — they have a really distinct aesthetic that’s simple and ordered, and they make wine that’s balanced and approachable. They’re definitely not as natty as some wines labeled natty, which should probably be labeled vinegar. He does a great job of keeping things on an even keel while still making creative, expressive wines. He’s released some rare varietals like Cabernet Pfeffer, which is really cool, and they reimagined the much-maligned White Zinfandel into a wine that was pretty delightful. They make a piquette, which sort of inspired Nouveau. You add water to the grape skins, seeds, and stems, then ferment that. It’s lighter in alcohol, effervescent, and refreshing.
How did you and Chris decide on a direction?
We started with a tasting together of a bunch of beer-wine hybrids to find out what they were all about. The majority were sour, which wasn’t something we were super interested in. Some were messy — overwhelmed by barrels or just lost the varietal character. There was one by Stillwater that was pretty nice, and retained the nuanced flavors of the grape. There didn’t seem to be one that was clearly a beer, but had elements of wine in it, combined into a nicely balanced package. We aligned on making a clean, dry base beer, with the inclusion of grape that would give it color, flavor, and aroma, but not dominate.
Can you talk a bit more about the base beer?
Funny story, the base beer was inspired by this time we accidentally fermented KSA with the biere de garde yeast, and no one realized for a while. We tasted it, and were like “this is funny” — but it was really good! The KSA grain bill is straightforward and the yeast added its dry, subtle yeast character, little bit of floral. I’ve always remembered that, so the Nouveau base is Pilsner and Vienna malt which you’d maybe call KSA light.
Any natural yeasts from the grapes?
We’re fermenting with the biere de garde yeast, but there will be some natural yeasts and bacteria in there from the fruit. The idea is that the biere de garde yeast will outcompete all the others. So there’s the potential for something spontaneous, but it has direction and control.
What hops did you use?
I didn’t want to go the direction of using big, fruity hops to match the fruitiness of the grapes. Just didn’t seem balanced. We had tasted Alpenglow and Chris really liked the aroma, so we used the same hops — Saphir and Hallertau, which are more subtle, grassy and earthy.
How did you choose the grapes?
I left the grape sourcing up to him. It was harvest time while we were doing this, and he had this Mendocino zinfandel that worked out well. We’re using juice, rather than whole fruit, but it’s very unprocessed — there’s still skins and stems in it. It’ll add some depth and character to the wine. The juice tastes great — it has bright fruitiness, some dried fruit character, but also a really nice structure to it.
So what’s this beer going to look and taste like?
It has an orange-pink color, which is pretty distinctive. The aroma is big, punchy sweet grape fruitiness. The grassy hops are much more in the background right now, but might come forward over time. It has a really long, drawn out finish that changes from sip to swallow. It starts out with good structure, then a floral bouquet opens up right after you swallow. It’s really fun.
Where did the name Nouveau come from?
It refers to California Nouveau, which is wine that is made right after the grape harvest and is really fresh. The idea of trying to capture that moment in time every year sounded fun. Breweries tend to do that with hops, adding fresh hops straight off the vine into the beer. But I thought this concept would be a cool way to cast a wider net on harvest, and would be a fun way for a winery and brewery to celebrate this season together. One thing to note too is that winemakers are drinking a lot of beer around harvest time. Usually cold, light beer after a long day's work.
Can you talk about why we’re calling it a Farmhouse Ale?
Yeah, it fits within the larger category of beer-wine hybrids, but the important thing is that it’s primarily a beer, with the added flavor of wine. The base beer doesn’t fit neatly into a specific style, but since we’re using a biere de garde yeast and it has a pretty simple malt bill, the farmhouse term works as a catch-all. The important thing is that the base is pretty clean, it won’t be funky or sour like some people might associate with Farmhouse.
How does Nouveau fit in the Fort Point lineup?
It’s a nice option for people who like fruitier beers, which we don’t make a lot of. There’s some similarities to Strawberry Darling, but obviously it’s not sour. But it might be something nice for fans of that beer. It also has the feeling of being “special”, so great for those small, meaningful moments.
What makes this a Fort Point beer?
The innovative approach of using wine as an ingredient, while containing it within our parameters of balance, nuance, and drinkability. It would be easy to make something really big or extreme, but we’re always hyper-focused even when doing something new. And we’re using the biere de garde yeast, which we use for Park, and is something of a special ingredient for us.
Who else is making beer-wine hybrids locally?
Woods is probably the pioneer of this style, locally, with the Divine Origins series. They make beer and wine, so it was natural for them. Theirs are 50-50 wine and beer, so a lot more wine-heavy than Nouveau. They’ve won awards, so have gotten some great reception. Nationally, breweries like Cascade and Dogfish Head have made some good ones.
What’s the ideal occasion for Nouveau?
It’s the beer you’re drinking all day while you’re making Thanksgiving dinner. It has that wine element, but isn’t as big of a commitment as drinking a whole bottle of wine before dinner. Some of the same flavors, but in a lighter, more refreshing package. It would also be great along with the meal itself.