What do wine grape must, an afternoon of rock and roll and an evening of sipping beer poolside in the Tuscan countryside have to do with beer? They were the inspiration behind the Harpoon Brewery‘s newest limited batch offering, the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Tuscan Pool Party. This beer is a collaborative effort between Harpoon brewer Charlie Cummings and Italian craft brewer Moreno Ercolani of Birricio L’Olmaia.
Each spring Harpoon employees celebrating a certain anniversary (5th, 8th, 12th, etc.) are taken on a weeklong overseas “beer culture” trip. During these trips, the Harpoon group is taken on special tours of breweries throughout various regions of Europe. The 2014 trip took the group to Italy, visiting breweries throughout Rome and Tuscany. Some commentary on what they encountered from Charlie Cummings, quality control supervisor, from the Harpoon blog:
During our trip, we visited the Trastevere district of Rome which had some great bars serving all styles of beer. Some were very nice crisp pilsners and IPAs, but there were also some much more “out there” beer styles. We tried one beer where a full 50 percent of the volume was from wine grapes. It was highly carbonated, tart and complex, and it piqued our interest.
The last brewery visit of the trip was a stop at Birricio L’Olmaia in Montepulciano, Italy. When the group arrived at the brewery, brewery founder and owner Moreno Ercolani welcomed them with bottle after bottle of his renowned Italian craft beers, explaining each as they were sipped. Moreno’s passion for beer, brewing and rock and roll was infectious, and the idea for the collaboration took root.
In the weeks and months following the trip, Moreno and Charlie tossed ideas back and forth by e-mail on various techniques for brewing a wine grape beer. They sampled a handful of American-made wine grape beers and began to formulate the recipe, then Charlie brewed three test batches on Harpoon’s 20-gallon homebrew system. The final recipe uses a blend of high-quality Sangiovese and Merlot grape juice. Amarillo dry hops add a fruity, resin character. The beer was aged on oak spirals to accentuate the wine character. But perhaps the most important ingredient, a portable CD player that was hung on the fermentation tank cranked Led Zeppelin, Moreno’s favorite band. The result is a unique ale that balances juicy hops with a touch of sweetness from the grape juice.
Harpoon Tuscan Pool Party, the 52nd installment of the 100 Barrel Series, is now available in 22-ounce bottles with limited draft availability.
Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Tuscan Pool Party Beer Specifications:
Style: wine grape-infused beer
ABV: 7.6 percent
Color: 19 EBC
Past destinations of the Harpoon employee beer culture trip have included Germany, Belgium, Austria, England, Ireland, Poland and Hungary.