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Idea for a Chardonnay Infused Beer

Last weekend I visited one of my favorite local breweries where they had a recently released Dark Belgium Strong ale which was aged for 11 months in a Chardonnay wine barrel. I am not a huge wine fan, but I absolutely loved this beer. First sip gave you the sweet Chardonnay taste and a nice, smooth finish. I enjoy beers that are very unique and creative, so this was a nice find.

Since then I have tried to think of ways to somewhat replicate this type of recipe. Im not too picky about the beer style as long as it would go well with the wine addition. I was thinking the regular Belgium Strong kit might be a good choice, but I would be open to suggestions. To add the wine flavor, I was thinking of soaking oak cubes in wine and adding to secondary, similar to the instructions on the Bourbon Barrel Porter. I have yet to add oak cubes to any beer, so here is where I turn to those with more experience:

-Any recommendation on a style of beer that would go well with a Chardonnay (or similar) wine?
-Would this method work?
-What type of oak cubes would be best? I see NB has several types available and although they appear to be for wine making, Im guessing one type might work for this.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Light toast oak cubes or an infusion spiral would be best. I’d recommend boiling cubes first, then dumping the water and adding the cubes in secondary. For the wine, just add it to taste at bottling. Not any benefit to aging it with the wine unless you’re doing a mixed fermentation, and this gives you the best control.

Belgian styles would be great for this… Maybe even a saison with a simple grist. This kind of beer makes me think farmhouse.

Locally, a brewery does a saison with Sauvignon Blanc grapes that seems to be well received. Neither are my thing, but it seems like a natural pairing. I’d do a light oak, like @porkchop says. I used light French oak in a cider and got plenty of flavor after a few weeks.

I too would use light toast oak. Be mindful that light toast will give it more oak flavor rather than the vanilla, smoky flavors. Therefore I would taste it often do you don’t over do it.

Hmm. You’ve given me an idea . . . I’m going to get a one-gallon Master Vintner Chardonnay kit and add it to the secondary of a Belgian strong, along with some toasted oak chips.

Tim, that’s a great idea! I actually have one of your Pinot noir kits in my basement, waiting to go into a BDSA. I’d love to hear your results from it! Wine plus beer can be a wonderful thing.

If they could blend finished wine into it, I’m sure they would prefer to do that! Unfortunately, as homebrewers, we just don’t have access to the quality of wine grapes that a brewery can source. Finished wine is a really great option since the quality is so high versus the concentrates we can get.

I know that farmhouse isn’t your style, but some day it might click for you, and you’ll be soooo glad it did!

I revisit styles that I don’t like once in a while. I’d say I’m usually 1/10 in my ability to enjoy them. Luckily (or unluckily), the stuff I tend to avoid usually is the costly stuff. Good in that I’m not breaking the bank on rare Cantillon, but not good in that it’s hard to justify trying another weird thing that I’m pretty sure is going to have a phenolic, clovey, barnyardy yeast character I won’t like. I’m always open to opinions/suggestions on inroads though.

Thanks to everyone for the advice. Seems like the general agreement is using light oak cubes, which I would need to pick up elsewhere since it appears NB does not carry that exact type.

Based on @porkchop’s recommendation of just adding the wine at bottling for flavor, anyone have an idea the approximate amount to use? I have used the fruit flavorings in the past which are 4-6 oz. I know it all depends on personal preference, but would say adding roughly 4 oz of wine be a good starting point?

Check out The Mad Fermentationist’s website - he’s done a few beer/wine hybrids. Based on a full 5-gallon batch, going off of memory I believe he used a whole bottle in one of his saisons, and thought it could have used a second bottle. Wine has a pretty subtle flavor, and a 750 ml bottle is really just the equivalent of 1 22-oz bomber, so still a pretty low percentage of the whole batch. Not like adding bourbon to a batch. I’d plan on using a full bottle, especially one with a mild flavor like chardonnay. But let your taste buds tell you how much to add.

Medium toast French oak would probably be fine, but just make sure you boil it first to extract some of the harsher tannins.

That makes sense regarding the amount to wine to use. This should make for a great experiment this summer. Thanks again @porkchop!

use spirals not cubes

And pour 4, 2oz samples. Add a measured amount of wine to each sample. Then scale up from there. So for example:
Sample 1: 2 oz beer, 5mL wine
taste it. If it needs more bump it up. Less, adjust it.

Grizfan, did you ever try this? One of my favorite beers is Goose Island’s Sofie, which is a farmhouse ale aged in white wine barrels, so I’ve been experimenting with adding different white wines to my saison (NB’s petite saison) in the glass. I would like to try the wine addition at bottling, but wondered if it would effect carbonation.

I find Porkchop’s advice to be spot on–when I do a one glass mix and then scale up, I come up with around two bottles of wine per 5 gallons of beer.

Thanks for any feedback,

Cheers,

Ron

What is your preference of white wines to mix with the petite saison. I don’t trust wine labeling anymore. Usually what I taste doesn’t have much to do with the glowing description on the label.

I’ve used a couple of chardonnays, which meld with the saison quite well. Both are fairly inexpensive–clos du bois and a Mondavi. I’m going to try and find one that is a little more heavily oaked to see how that would work. I also tried lillet blanc, a fortified white. It was good, but a little sweet-also about triple the price. And I agree, the descriptors on wine are meaningless to me. I guess my palate is just not that refined. I don’t think I could tell the difference between a $10 wine and a $50 one.

But to fully answer your question, I have not tried anything other than these three. Chardonnays are the only white wine I really care for. I’m a red wine drinker–I guess being a beer drinker I prefer a drier wine, if that makes sense.

Cheers,

Ron

Funny you should ask: I’m working on a farmhouse ale with Master Vintner Small Batch Chardonnay blended in.

I’m also going to do a sour with Winemaker’s Reserve Muscat, both in the primary (the grape sugars will lighten it up a lot) and to bottle carbonate to capture the fruitiness of the muscat grape.

That all sounds awesome. Let me know your process. I’m wondering when it would be best to add the wine. After active fermentation? In a secondary? at bottling? And how will the wine effect bottle carbing, if at all?

Thanks Tim,

Ron

No, I unfortunately never got around to trying this one out. I will probably give it a go this winter after Im done brewing all the beer I give away as Christmas gifts.

Glad to hear you’ve had success with this type of beer. How have you been adding the wine to the beer, just straight into the fermenter or via wood cubes/spirals?

So far, I’ve only been mixing in the glass. I’ve been really surprised at the success this way, and even wonder if this might be the best way. Although it would be nice to have it all done by the time it got to the bottle. Hopefully @tim_vandergrift will be able to give some more insight. I really like this style/marriage/hybrid whatever it should be called.

Cheers,

Ron

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