Like a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, rosé beer combines two great tastes you know and love into one delightful package. A beer with the flavors of rosé wine is perfect for summer sipping, but unlike a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, there’s not yet a catchy song about it. Sadly. However, it is a beer trend that’s worth investigating, so we spoke to two brewers and one craft-beer legend to learn why their breweries are brewing rosé beer, what they taste like, and which exemplary rosé brews to look out for the next time you’re at the liquor store.
What in the holy heck is a rosé beer?
Last year, there were 102 major beer styles judged at the Great American Beer Festival, but exactly zero of them are rosé beer. What gives? “There’s not a style named rosé beer,” explained GABF beer judge and Brewery Ommegang brewmaster Phil Leinhart. That said, the beer does fall under the umbrella of a hybrid beer.
“We look at it as a beer/wine hybrid,” said Adam Avery, founder and CEO of the venerable Colorado brewery Avery Brewing. “It’s the use of grapes as a fermentable to produce a beer.”
That doesn’t mean breweries have begun making wine and are blending in a drop of beer to make rosé beer -- grapes can only be 49% of the fermentables to still be classified as a brew, Avery said.
The beer/wine hybrid is not a new phenomena. Delaware’s Dogfish Head has been brewing them since the late ‘90s, with fan favorites like Noble Rot that use must (unfermented grape juice) to create a beer with wine characteristics. And those hybrids are not limited to stateside breweries, as Leinhart notes that Belgian beermakers like Brasserie D’Achouffe (also owned by Ommegang’s parent company Duvel Moortgat) brews one hybrid using grapes from a Burgundy winemaker. Oh là là!
Wine and beer combine to make something new
With the seemingly infinite popularity of rosé wine, it was only a matter of time before breweries hopped on the trend. But it’s not just a quick money grab. Avery admitted brewing a rosé beer is a natural fit. “Blending beer and wine -- the two things I really love, my passions -- just makes sense to me as a brewer,” he said. “I look at the grapes as I would look at ingredients like spices or anything else. It’s an adjunct.”
And grapes are one ingredient that widens the scope of what it means to brew a beer. Sam Tierney, a brewing manager at Firestone Walker, echoed Avery’s thinking: “You’re taking two of the most popular beverages in the world and combining them to make something that, if done correctly, brings the best qualities of both and makes something delicious that you can’t get from either one.”
It’s built for summer
While most beers are delicious year-round, only masochists are dying to grill outside with a rich, creamy milk stout in hand. Much in the same way rosé consumption spikes when the weather gets nice out, rosé beer is fit for a hot summer’s day. “It’s lightish and fruity,” said Leinhart. “It’s not dark and heavy, or something you’d drink in the colder months. And I think people associate rosé wine with more lighter, summer drinking fare. Something akin to a delicate white wine.”
You’ve read enough about rosé wine for one day, now all that’s left to do is drink it. Here are five fantastic examples of the beer/wine hybrid you need to pick up from breweries all across the country.