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What is an Oenobeer?

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

Firstly, that word is pronounced {N-O-Beer} The OE bit is a Latin "eh" sound.


If you look on the very last page, in the Appendix, of the Brewer’s Association’s guide to beer styles you will find Italian Grape Ale. This relatively new creation has finally gotten noticed, but the definition is a rather narrow view of what is possible. This style is partially defined by what the U.S. tax man says, which has been true of many beer styles over the centuries.


According to the U.S. tax man you can have up to 49% of the fermentable sugars come from sources other than grain, like grapes. A home brewer can add as much as they'd like, but a production brewery can't cross over the 50% threshold.


The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) defines styles in terms of judging, not brewing. So, if you put fruit in a beer it falls under the Fruit Beer category. But, anyone who drinks craft beer knows a Fruit Beer can potentially be anything under the sun (imperial stout, pilsner, sour blonde, IPA, etc.). So the BJCP definition is in place for judging purposes and, in this case, credits Italy for being where the style of Grape Ales originated, though that’s not exactly true. Cantillion produced the first commercially available grape beer in the late 1980s with the release of Vigneronne. Dogfish Head produced the first year-round commercially available grape beer in 2000 when they released Midas Touch.


Overall, the BJCP definition is vague and best characterized by this: “Flavor: Many interpretations are possible.” Ha, that's something we can embrace! The judging definition of Italian Grape Ale serves a purpose, but it’s really just a sketch. It’s sketchy for a variety of reasons, but we can certainly start with the name, Italian Grape Ale. Why just Ales? Why not Lagers as well? Oenology is the science of wine and winemaking. Since this is a combination of those two beverages, why not blend the words, right? So, let’s start by calling them Oenobeers.




After that, all we can say for sure is, in the U.S., an Oenobeer is a beer with up to 49% of the fermentable sugars coming from grapes, or a grape product.


So, that’s it. That’s all that is known at this time. The definition says nothing about hops, color, ABV, sour, sweet. light, dark, etc. It’s all fair game.


Our aim is to see where this leads us; to explore, discover and learn. It’s a blank canvas and that’s exciting. We know great flavors are out there waiting to be found. And that’s what it’s really about, right?


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