Local Collaboration Blurs the Line Between Wine & Beer
Breweries have collaborated with each other for years now in order to make fun one off beers and to build a sense of community. Two great local businesses however have used yearly collaborations to bring two local industries together. Creating something unique and innovative as well as doing good by the environment while they are at it. Thursday, December 12th marked the release of North Brewing's annual collaboration hybrid ale with Benjamin Bridge winery of Gaspereau, Nova Scotia. These releases have coincided with Battery Park beer bar's birthday the last four years. It has always been one of my favourite beer releases of the year that I look forward to every December.
The History of the Collaboration
The first of the yearly collaborations was 2016's Saison de Pinot featuring Pinot Noir grape must. Must being freshly crushed grape juice still containing the skins, seeds and stems of the grape.
2017's release was a portion of 2016's Saison de Pinot tucked away in a red wine barrel for 4 months and then bottle conditioned. If I recall correctly, this sold out in hours.
A couple weeks later they released their 2017 Saison de Pinot which featured Pinot Meunier grape must.
2018's release featured a barrel-aged version of the 2017 Saison de Pinot featuring Meunier grape must this time spending 11 months in barrel. On top of that, they introduced a new offering this time: 2018 Saison de Chardonnay. You guessed it, made with Chardonnay grape must.
This year's offerings are a barrel-aged 2018 Saison de Chardonnay and something totally new, Saison de Petite Pearl, a first for North Brewing using whole Petite Pearl grapes. Crushing them in house and adding them to their base Saison. If you are not familiar with Petite Pearl it is a red grape varietal that is built for colder climates like Nova Scotia and offers a more balanced makeup with higher tannin and lower acid than some of the other red hybrids we are used to here like Marechal Foch and Marquette.
Reviewing the 2019 Releases
2018 Barrel-Aged Saison de Chardonnay:
It pours a beautiful gold with tiny, tightly packed off-white bubbles that stick around awhile. The bouquet is full of pear, lemon, orange zest, hay with some barrel character coming in the form of vanilla and tobacco. On the palate, the barrel character is prominent while it is cold. Subtle vanilla and wood smoke. As it warms though the orchard fruit and signature saison funk comes shining through. This beer's bottle conditioned carbonation gives it a creamy, soft mouthfeel but is still bone dry and slightly tannic. This is a beer that I will continue to mull opening for Christmas dinner or holding on to for 6 more months.
2019 Saison de Petite Pearl
This hybrid ale is where North is truly blurring the lines between wine and beer. Using whole Petite Pearl grapes really changes the dynamic of this beer. The bright red hybrid ale was juicy with a nose of cherries and cantaloupe. On the palate, it was strawberries, cherries, and melon with mild acidity and a nice tight carbonation that complimented the dry finish. They were right in saying it was their most wine forward collaboration yet. To those of you reading this that may be wine drinkers; this beer reminded me of a dry and carbonated Beaujolais Nouveau. This is something I enjoyed fresh, but will be cellaring for a while to see how the yeast changes the wine-beer character balance of this bottle of goodness.
Other Collaborations with Benjamin Bridge
Blanc, a Grisette fermented on Sauvignon Blanc skins. Grisettes, for those of you who may not be familiar, are a subset of the Farmhouse ales from France and Belgium. Sharing the same history and refreshingly dry characteristics of Saison, Grisettes were popularly served to refresh miners in the area, whereas Saisons were a farmhands drink. Blanc stays true to the style and is light-bodied, citrusy and dry. It also has a vinous quality from the Sauvignon Blanc skins that perfectly compliment the base beer style.
Musqué DIPA is an Imperial IPA co-fermented with Chardonnay Musqué grape skins. Chardonnay Musqué is an aromatic mutation of the Chardonnay grape that is pungent with the familiar Muscat aromas of tropical fruit and white grape. This translates directly to the beer having a very aromatic tropical fruit note with a muscat-like profile. This beer, having some white-wine like acidity, goes down surprisingly smooth considering it is an 8% DIPA. You have been warned.
Along with getting to drink fantastic and unique hybrid ales you get to feel good knowing $0.50 from each can of both Blanc and Musque will be donated to NS Nature Trust as part of the North Brewing Conservation Initiative.