Rosé all day not just for wine anymore

Surly Brewing Company released its Rosé Lager in tallboy cans Monday, July 2, as part of their BC Small Batch Series // Photo courtesy Surly Brewing Co.

Rosé has grown to dominate the summer wine scene, but it hasn’t stopped there. The pink drink of choice has also inspired breweries and cideries to attempt to capture its floral, fruity flavors, resulting in a not-insignificant lineup of beers and ciders that are as delightful to look at as they are to drink.

Wine-inspired beer is a relatively new trend—extending even beyond rosé and into the Champagne category with sparkling wine-inspired lagers and bone-dry brut IPAs. Cider is already closer in nature to wine, by virtue of it being fermented fruit juice, but what’s new is the use of specific cider apples and ingredients such as hibiscus flowers, rose hips, and orange peel to capture a flavor and appearance more purposely akin to wine.

These beverages often employ wine yeasts and thus tend to be more on the dry, crisp, tannin-forward side of things, almost the polar opposite of the current clamor for hazy-sweet unfiltered IPAs. But these two beers-of-the-moment actually complement one another, offering drinkers a wider range of choices and new opportunities to expand their palates, whether they’re going from rosé to cider to beer, or the other way around.

Local Take

In Minnesota, at least four breweries and one cidery are making wine-influenced beers and ciders.

Surly Brewing Company started making their Champagne-inspired Frisson in late 2016. It was their way to offer as close to an alternative for non-beer drinkers visiting the brewery as possible, since the taproom law limits breweries to selling only products within their own alcohol category. “We wanted something to toast with for our New Year’s Eve party, but couldn’t have wine,” says Ben Smith, head brewer at Surly. “So Jerrod Johnson and I went to St. Genevieve [in South Minneapolis] to talk Champagne, and were inspired to make Surly Frisson.”

A toast of Surly Frisson, the brewery’s Champagne-inspired lager // Photo courtesy Surly Brewing Co.

After deconstructing the flavor profile of Champagne, Smith and Jerrod Johnson, also a head brewer at Surly, then went to work building a beer that would appeal to wine drinkers. The low IBU, 9 percent ABV Champagne-inspired lager uses German bock yeast and Safbrew F-2 Champagne yeast. Tapped on New Year’s Eve 2015, Frisson has been one of the top-five sellers in Surly’s Beer Hall ever since.

After seeing the success of Frisson, as well as the rise of rosé-inspired beers, Smith, a self-proclaimed wine enthusiast, decided to try his hand at crafting a beer that actually tasted like rosé, unlike the sour and gose iterations that national breweries were turning out (see “National Take” below). It took three iterations to find the perfect blend of fruits (black currant and strawberry) and pH levels for Surly Rosé. As with Frisson, Safbrew F-2 yeast is used to finish the beer (primary fermentation is done with their house lager yeast) and added about two-thirds through fermentation, at the same time as the fruit, says Smith. “This helps to dry out the beer, ferment the fruit, and clean up any diacetyl and sulphur. It’s also extremely flocculant, and will ensure that the beer will have a brilliant appearance and clarity.”

Since tapping in May, Rosé has outsold Surly’s hazy IPAs three-to-one in the beer hall. “It’s been insane,” Smith says, crediting its success both to its low ABV (5.2 percent) and the fact that approximately one-third of people who come to the beer hall aren’t necessarily beer drinkers, rather just there with friends and family. “They’re willing to try the rosé due to its association with wine and, when they do, they often order another,” he adds. No wonder Surly is releasing Rosé to a wider audience—tallboy cans are available for retail as of Monday, July 2 as the third release in their BC Small Batch Series. Frisson, also part of this series, will release in August.

Less obvious but still wine-influenced are brut IPAs, which have popped up at taprooms across the state, with Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Badger Hill Brewing Company, and Bad Habit Brewing Company recently releasing these dry, effervescent, lower ABV styles. According to Bad Habit founder Aaron Rieland, it’s been a big hit. “We plan to brew it again with a variety of different hops and maybe a touch of fruit on the back end,” he says. “We find that our customers like a variety of different IPAs, and this has definitely been a nice change to our beer line up. [Our customers] have grown accustomed to hazy, juicy, fruited milkshake IPAs, and this beer is definitely different. It’s been a good seller.”

Bad Habit Brewing Company’s Nerd Bomber Brut IPA // Photo courtesy Bad Habit Brewing Company

The idea for Nerd Bomber Brut IPA came from a conversation Bad Habit’s head brewer, Erik Salmi, had with a friend at Brewers Supply Group in New York about the style, which was gaining popularity on the the East and West Coasts. Curious to learn more, Salmi reached out to Nick Arzner, co-founder of Block 15 Brewing in Corvallis, Oregon, who also was working on making a brut for the first time. Then they started brewing. “We used Weyermann Pilsner malt and a variety of herbal and floral hops,” Rieland says. “We decided to go this route with the hop schedule to give our customers a break from the hazy/milkshake craze. Not that we don’t like those, but we just wanted to try something a little different.” They fermented the beer on a White Labs Champagne Yeast strain until it reached complete dryness, then pumped it with carbonation. With that, the herbal, floral, sparkling Nerd Bomber Brut IPA was born.

Dangerous Man and Badger Hill have taken similar approaches to the style with their Brut Bellini IPA and I Am Brut IPA, respectively. Dangerous Man says they got the idea to make a Brut-style IPA after their taproom manager, Maggie Pears, read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the new style. She send the article to brewer Lee Akkrum, who read a few more articles, did ingredient research, and then put it on the brew schedule.

Dangerous Man describes their Brut Bellini IPA, which was brewed in June and no longer available, as “dry as a desert, effervescent as hell, and dry-hopped to hell, hence the low IBU (6.2 percent).” Peaches were added during fermentation, then dry-hopped with Hallertau Blanc. “The Hallertau Blanc hops inspired this style as they are very dank and grape-esque,” says Sarah Bonvallet, co-owner and creative director of Dangerous Man. “No hops are added [to Brut IPAs] on the hot side, to lower the bittering effects of the hops. Low mash temps are used to dry out the beer. We used a house strain yeast and then an enzyme to further dry out the beer.”

Dangerous Man is releasing two more Brut IPAs in July: Raspberry Rose Brut IPA, made by adding rose petals to the whirlpool and raspberries during fermentation, then dry-hopped with Hallertau Blanc and Mosaic hops, scheduled to be on tap Friday, July 13; and Mango Mimosa IPA, which is currently in fermentation and uses fewer hops and has an addition of mangoes.

Badger Hill released their rendition on June 21, and describe it as “bone dry, bubbly, and aromatic; weighing in at 6.9 percent ABV […] it’s similar to a brut Champagne style, and is picking up popularity in the craft beer community.”

On the cider side of things, Milk & Honey Ciders released Cider Rosé in June 2017 as part of their Deepcuts line, which includes “small-batch ciders designed to showcase the variety that Milk & Honey offers.” Cider Rosé was the first infusion for the St. Joseph, Minnesota cidery and at first was only available on tap in limited supply. They used Winesap, Northern Spy, and Newton Pippin apples for the base cider, then infused it with hibiscus, rose hips, and orange peel. “The goal was to create a beautiful color without being too sweet,” says wholesale director Kirstin Westby. “We saw it as an opportunity to introduce the wine crowd to the world of heritage ciders.”

Milk & Honey’s Cider Rosé, part of their Deepcuts line and available on tap and in bottles through September // Photo courtesy Milk & Honey Ciders

Milk & Honey describes Cider Rosé as having notes of “citrus, leathery port, and candy purple grape skins” thanks to the Winesap apples, while the dried hibiscus flowers, rose hips, and orange peel add color and aroma. They use a Champagne yeast from France to finish the semi-dry, lightly effervescent, 6.7 percent ABV cider, which was reintroduced this past May on draft and in four-packs, and will be available through September.

National Take

A number of cideries and breweries outside of Minnesota have also have released rosé-inspired beverages in the last several months. Some of the most notable U.S. cideries capitalizing on the style include:

  • Angry Orchard Rosé; Walden, New York
    • “Made with rare, red-flesh apples from France [each one] is crisp, juicy, and red to the core,” adding a rosy hue and apple-forward taste with a dry finish. (5.5 percent ABV)
  • Crispin Rosé Hard Cider; Colfax, California
    • Crispin Rosé blends apple and pear juice with rose petals and hibiscus for a cider with aromas of “ripe strawberry, hints of vanilla laced with stone fruit, and gentle floral notes” and tasting notes of “floral rose petals, tender rhubarb, fresh strawberries, and honeydew melon.” (5 percent ABV)
  • Wölffer No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider; Rochester, New York
    • Made from Jonagold, Mutsu (Crispin), Golden Delicious, Idared, Gold Rush, and Northern Spy apples grown in upstate New York, No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider has “fresh floral notes [and] fine hints of yeast” with a mouthfeel that’s “pure and clean, with a nice balance of sweet fruit, elegant acidity, and fine tannins.” (6.9 percent ABV)
  • Original Sin Dry Rosé; Upstate New York
    • Made with Original Sin’s “proprietary blend of freshly pressed New York apples, Dry Rosé features a beautiful light pink color with a delicate nose, refreshing acidity, and a smooth semi-dry finish.” (6.5 percent ABV)
  • Citizen Cider bRosé; Burlington and Middlebury, Vermont
    • Citizen Cider bRosé is “hand-crafted by co-fermenting 100% Vermont blueberries and sweet cider pressed at Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, Vermont.” (6.1 percent ABV)
  • Shacksbury Rosé Cider; Vergennes, Vermont
    • Crafted in partnership with Sunday in Brooklyn restaurant, Shacksbur Rosé is made from all local, fresh-pressed apples from Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont. It’s aged on local Marquette grape skins collected from winemakers in Vermont, which imparts flavor, color, and tannin. (6 percent ABV)
  • Virtue Cider Rosé; Fennville, Michigan
    • Hand-pressed heirloom Michigan apples aged in French oak barrels, Virtue Cider’s Rosé “pours with the light pink of spring apple blossoms, with bright floral notes and hints of fresh-picked apple, grapefruit peel, and green strawberry. The finish is clean with just a slight tartness.” (6.7 percent ABV)
  • Bold Rock Hard Rosé Cider; multiple locations in Virginia and North Carolina
    • A “fruit-forward rosé-style cider with a crisp berry finish” made with “a wide variety of red apples and a naturally occurring pigment extract to achieve the color profile.” (6 percent ABV)
  • Alpenfire Glow Aerlie Red Rosé Hard Cider; Port Townsend, Washington
    • A single varietal rosé cider made with Alpenfire’s Glow, an organic apple grown in the southern end of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. “No filtration, adjuncts, colorings, or other fruits are added to this cider, just full-strength, fresh-pressed, red-fleshed apple nectar.” (8.2 percent ABV)
  • Snowdrift Red Cider; East Wenatchee, Washington
    • Made using apple varieties originally from Kazakhstan, whose “brilliant red flesh yields a crimson red cider with bright acidity, packed with flavors of cranberries, watermelon, rhubarb, and strawberries, finishing with soft toffee tones.” (7.5 percent ABV)
  • Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé; Seattle, Washington
    • Part of Seattle Cider Company’s “Harvest” line, the Winesap Rosé uses aromatic, tart Winesap apples grown in Naches Valley, Washington. The juice is aged in Syrah red wine barrels, resulting in “a beautiful full-bodied cider with flavors of grapefruit, lemongrass, and cedar.” (6 percent ABV)

U.S. breweries making rosé-inspired beers include:

  • Highwater Brewing Ramble On Rosé; Stockton, California
    • “Ramble on Rosé was aged in used wine barrels for 12 months with locally grown blueberries, rose buds, rosehips and pink peppercorns. Refreshingly tart and crisp with flavors of berries and the aroma of the American Beauty rose.” (6 percent ABV)
  • Hoof Hearted Brewing Rosé Gosé; Marengo, Ohio
    • German-style sour beer brewed with pink Himalayan sea salt and hibiscus, “which lends a rosy tint and pleasant tartness that plays off the beer’s acidity.” Hoof Hearted released four-packs of 16-ounce cans of Rosé Gosé in May, after seeing success as a draft-only option at the taproom in February. (4.2 percent ABV)
  • Firestone Walker Bretta Rosé; Paso Robles, California
    • Firestone Walker sourced fresh raspberries from the nearby Santa Maria Valley for its Bretta Rosé. “Bretta Weisse, fermented and matured in French oak barrels, serves as the foundation for this gem. Add an abundance of fresh raspberries allow a secondary wild fermentation and further maturation, and […] the result is a crisp effervescent concoction bursting with raspberry perfume and flavor, bracing acidity, underlying funk, and a clean refreshing finish.”  (5.1 percent ABV)
  • Anderson Valley Framboise Rosé Gose; Boonville, California
    • Anderson Valley added rose hips and fresh raspberry puree at the end of fermentation for their kettle-sour Rosé Gose. “With a light ruby hue, subtle raspberry fruit notes greet the nose and fall soft on the palate; tangy, hibiscus-like flavors mingle with the salty tartness of gose to create a uniquely complex and refreshing drinking experience.” (4.2 percent ABV)
  • Crooked Stave Petite Sour Rosé; Denver, Colorado
    • Crooked Stave’s Petite Sour Rosé was released in cans in Colorado in February. After a primary fermentation with a mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria, it went through a second fermentation in large oak foeders on second-use raspberries and blueberries. “Showcasing bright effervescent characteristics, Sour Rosé is […] unfiltered and naturally wild, each can is packaged with a small amount of yeast to maintain maximum freshness.” (4.5 percent ABV)
Ellen Burkhardt About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is the managing editor of The Growler. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road, seeking out good food, drink, conversation, and fodder for her next story.