Why Put Grapes In Beer?

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

I don’t know why anyone does anything, but I can say why we’re doing it. We’re all seasoned veterans in this building. Our head brewer, Bob, has been brewing professionally for over 25 years. I’ve been brewing professionally for a long time, surely less than Bob but in a different way. Many years ago we began by home brewing, testing our skills and learning. But now we have a wealth of knowledge behind this new challenge.

From when I first started my tastes have evolved. Not necessarily in a better way, just in a different way. You have your moment when you’re only drinking lambics. You have your moment when you’re only drinking IPAs. I definitely had my moment where I was trying to drink every Imperial Stout I could find. The same goes for Barleywines. And these moments can be years. But, eventually, you sort of find your spot.

To be honest, everything in beer has pretty much been explored these days. People have really pushed the boundaries. I’m not saying it’s been pushed too far, but pretty much everything has been done. I mean, there’s been a fried chicken beer, a cockroach beer, every-kind-of-pastry-you-can-think-of-beer, there’s been a freakin’ ferret shit beer, heck, we now have glitter in our beer! On the other, more reasonable, side of inventiveness we have New England IPAs which were a great discovery and kudos to the brewers that figured that out. The more recent Brut IPA is another interesting development with the IPA style. But those are variations on a style. New things in beer are now a niche of a niche of a niche.

The passion that got me into beer was exploration and adventure. But now, everything has pretty much been explored. There was an army of explorers that went out with the internet, Beer Advocate and Rate Beer and so on and found everything and mapped it out for those who followed. If you get on your phone with Rate Beer (who has been bought out by AB/InBev) you can immediately see what’s on tap, where the place is, etc. There’s no discovery any more. It’s not like when I first got into beer. I mean, I had a folded road map in Flemish I used while trying to find breweries in Belgium, with no GPS or anything like that. I was speaking with people who didn’t speak English trying to figure out where they were and what they made and how they made it.

Oenobeer has offered the unique possibility to explore from the inside. There are some people that have made interesting and valuable efforts in this area, but I think there’s a lot more to be found. I think the techniques you can use, the challenges you can face, the processes and the ingredients here are vast. There’s so much to explore.

Honestly, part of the reason we’re doing this is because it’s an opportunity to start again. It’s about the passion, maybe sometimes an overused word nowadays. My thirst for adventure in beer exploration kicked off when I was in my 20’s and this is something I haven’t been able to feel in years. The last time was about 10 years ago on a trip to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Most places there weren’t really on the map and you had to seek them out. It’s been a thrill to recapture those feelings and those thoughts.

When it comes to Oenobeers there isn’t a recipe to follow from a book, There is no literature to instruct us. If you want to brew any existing style you can find recipes somewhere so you have an idea of where you should be going. And you know what the result should be because you can taste commercially available examples of the styles you’re trying to recreate.

With Oenobeer there are moments of, “what the fuck is this?” In other moments you get, “Eureka!” There are so many strange things around every corner. As we will discuss in future posts, there are so many variables at play here. We really need to explore this scientifically where we change one variable at a time so we can understand what is really going on. It is painstaking, but this is the only way to truly understand Oenobeers.

No one has told us where we are going and those moments of “Eureka!” are powerful feelings of adventure and discovery. You have to find the answer to something that hasn’t been solved. You have to figure it out. And that’s a real discovery. This has such a vast amount of ground to cover. You could spend a lifetime on this. You are constantly in a foreign environment dealing with new challenges. We’re just scratching the surface here. I kind of feel like it’s rewiring my brain; how I think when I’m thinking of brewing. The beauty is we can take everything we already know with brewing, that solid foundation of professional work and good practice, and build off of it. It’s a mutual feeling for me and Bob; we talk about it quite a bit. And we can see it often when someone from the brewing world comes to visit and we explain what we’re doing. You can see the lights going on.

And it’s a rare thing in brewing these days. And that’s why this is so emotional. Although I’d really love to experience it, I think it’s going to be very hard to have another opportunity in my lifetime to experience these feelings of adventure again in my beer world.

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