With the popularity of rosé wines growing over the past few years, especially in warm weather, it seems almost inevitable that craft brewers would try to capture a portion of the market share for refreshing pink beverages.
This summer saw a marked increase in the number of brews marketed as rosé beers by California breweries. As summer fades into fall, it’s not too late to try some pink beers, which represent a wide variety of styles.
San Leandro’s 21st Amendment Brewing added Sparkale to its year-round lineup in 2019. At 5.5% alcohol by volume with minimal bitterness and reduced gluten, the beer is designed to mimic some of the drinking characteristics of cider. Pouring a clear strawberry-blonde color in the glass, the beer was very effervescent – the low white head from the initial pour dissipated almost immediately, but the beer continued to form a tight head as it bubbled away in the glass.
Surprisingly, the aroma was distinctly yeasty, with mild sweetness and subtle fruity notes relegated to the background. The brewers included peach, apple, cherry and cranberry in the beer, but the apple and peach notes were much more prevalent in the flavor, while the cherries and cranberries primarily contributed to the pinkish hue. With the apple-forward flavor that continued through the semi-dry finish, and the bright carbonation, the beer was reminiscent of Martinelli’s sparkling nonalcoholic cider.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico released its Saison de Rosé for the first time this spring. The base beer is a lighter take on a saison, with hibiscus and grape must (the juice from freshly crushed grapes, still containing skins, stems and seeds) from Cabernet, Zinfandel and Chardonnay added. Pouring a strawberry blonde color in the glass with a tall, frothy head of white foam, the aroma was actually similar to some rosé wines, with floral and mineral notes, followed by the distinctive zip of saison yeast.
The flavor was very light and crisp, with the focus remaining on spicy phenolics from saison yeast. While the grape must and hibiscus contributed to the complexity, they were pretty subtle additions to an otherwise traditional saison. Highly carbonated, light, dry and refreshing from the initial sip through the finish, Saison de Rosé may have been the most straightforward substitute for sparkling rosé wine that I tasted.
Modern Times Beer from San Diego has done several variations on its Fruitlands gose, a lightly sour, salted base beer with a variety of fruits added. The Rosé Edition, first released in the summer of 2018, featured cherries, raspberries, cranberries and lemons. The beer had a pinkish-orange, nectarine-colored body with a tight head, white with a pinkish tint, that faded quickly. Fresh, sweet-tart raspberries dominated the aroma, with the other fruits contributing pleasant complexity.
The flavor showcased lemony tartness and just a touch of the salt for which gose-style brews are known, with the fruit playing more of a background role on the palate. With moderate carbonation, a relatively light body and a crisp, tart finish, the beer was pleasant and enjoyable.
Since 2017, Bruery Terreux in Placentia has brewed its Goses Are Red gose-style ale with Syrah grapes. Deep orange-amber with pink highlights, the beer had a tall fizzy white head that faded quickly. The first sniff of the glass made it clear that the tart acidity of this brew would not be subtle, with a substantial aroma of horse-blanket Brettanomyces wild yeast funk backed with a lemony tartness. The oak foeder aging contributed much more to the flavor than the grapes themselves did, and the additions of salt and coriander were definitely noticeable.
With strong carbonation and a crisp, puckering finish, this is a fine summer brew for those who like their sour rosé ales more aggressive than the Fruitlands.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.