OK, buckle in. These beers are getting a solid 500 words.
I always enjoy it when head brewer Liam Jackson shares behind-the-scenes details on the process of his beers with me, so I’ll share them with you:
“It's always exciting when it comes to planning our co-ferments. To a large extent it is completely out of our hands – and dependent on what grapes come in, and how much of them we get for the wine. Then depending on what the winery† is happy to share, we go about selecting.
"This year, the Nebbiolo was the pick. Starting off as most of our reds do as a whole bunch wild ferment, the juice that started coming out of the grapes had a really delicate cherry flavour going on, quite exquisite. Because it was so light in character, we decided to take the path of using a Belgian yeast to ferment it for a more beer-y/lighter version of co-ferment.
“[The Shiraz Co-ferment] is an example of the different path we may take, in contrast to above, which is a straight out wild ferment. Given the intensity of this grape, we paired it with a dark malt wort and allowed it to ferment wild. We then selected a barrel for it to mature and funken up in.”
It may seem surprising after what Liam said, but at first the Nebbiolo Co-ferment seemed to me like a fresh and fruity little wine. The first sip was deceptively light and effervescent, and offered up florals and strawberry candy: not really sour, not really sweet. But as I drank the flavour kept opening up, and the saison yeast pushed through the grapes. Once it was there, it gave a lovely ongoing farmhouse character to join the Nebbiolo: a dry tartness, and fruity esters that included tangy apricot notes in the back of the mouth. It made me want to stroll through the Belgian countryside, picking fruit and putting it into a basket.
As for the Shiraz Co-ferment - WOW. It’s hard to communicate how much was going on here, and how well it all dovetailed together.
The aroma was the distinct sweetness of Red Rippers (The Lollies Formerly Known As Redskins) with the savoury earthiness of Brettanomyces. How do those two aromas go together?! But somehow they do. Then once it’s in the mouth, there’s exponentially more. A funky mustiness. A lasting impression of chunky rye sourdough bread. Berry sweetness. A touch of roast. Waves of chocolate… no, not chocolate, but the dark, bitter, savoury cocoa character you get in a Mexican mole sauce. An exhale of cherry cola. So smooth. So complex, but not at all muddled. For all the wildness that went on in the production, this tastes like a very purposeful beer.
And don’t even get me started on the colours of these beers. The Nebbiolo sparkles with the peachy hues of a Bellini, but translucent. And the Shiraz looked like a normal dark beer under a downlight, but when backlit it with a candle, it glowed a radioactive purple. Absolutely insane.
†If you didn’t know, Cupitt’s Estate has both a brewery and a winery. You can read about two other recent releases – a Barley Wine and hazy IPA – here.
- Wine Co-ferments
- 6.0% & 7.0%