Fruit of the Vine: Homebrewing with Grape Must

BYOB by | Sep 2017 | Issue #128
Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

Now that fall’s here, it’s harvest time for a great many things. To zymurgical enthusiasts, that means grape season. We won’t get into vinting here (after all, this is BEERAdvocate), but there are several ways to incorporate the noble grape into your cervisia.

You can now make wine anytime thanks to kits full of grape juice, but the older version of year-round wine was made possible by grape concentrate. Two tins, some water, and some sugar, and off you go. I’m not a fan of the wine from canned concentrates, but they make pretty great fruit additions to your beer.

All you need to do is crack open the can, pour the goo into your fermentor, and swirl. I wait until primary is slowing down before adding the must to preserve the grapey aromatics. In particular, I love the combination of red wine must with Belgian yeasts like Saison. You can also do this with full juice—no Concord grape, please—but you’ll gain a lot of volume that will drop the gravity to 1.000. I like this better with white wine musts.

Know a vintner who’s pressing their whole grapes? Ask for the leftover pulpy matter, or pomace, and use that in secondary for a few weeks. The fruit character is subtler and accompanies a puckering tannic blast. Pairing pomace with a sour creation produces magic in the glass for little extra effort or cost.

Bonus: These tips also apply to the leftovers of cider exploits.

I Am Not Drinking Any Merlot Saison
For 5.5 gallons at 1.063 OG (pre-must) | ~1.090 OG (post-must) | 19.5 IBU | 10.5% ABV | 90 minute boil

11 lbs Weyermann Pilsner malt
1.0 lbs Thomas Fawcett oat malt
1.0 lbs Dingeman’s Caravienne
0.5 lbs Weyermann Carafoam

Single infusion at 151°F for 60 minutes.

0.5 oz Magnum (pellets) | 12% AA | 60 minutes

Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison and White Labs WLP565 Belgian Saison (blended pitch)

48 oz can Alexander’s Sun Country Merlot concentrate (added to late primary)
2 oz French oak cubes, soaked in Merlot for 2–4 weeks (added to secondary for 2 weeks)