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Grain lovers and grape admirers are usually split on which bottle or can they are reaching for. But Bryan Benedict, the co-owner of Moniker Brewery in Providence, is introducing Tethered Optimism, a farmhouse ale that uses Cabernet Franc juice from a local vineyard, and made in collaboration Anchor & Hope Wine in Rumford, Rhode Island.
Q: What are the tasting notes on this saison?
Benedict: Saisons are typically a more complicated style of beer. It is probably the one that has the most flex when it comes to flavoring. This particular saison is on the lighter side and we wanted to go with something that is more on the neutral side to really allow the grapes to shine through.
The fermentation is on the fruity side. We use German Noble hops so you get this dry, white wine-like character from it, even when mixing this red wine to it. It’s got a clean and crisp flavor because the wine got so fermented out in the stainless steel. You’ll taste some tannins in the finish but it’s floral, fruity, and dry — making it complex.
Q: How do you make Tethered Optimism?
Benedict: Just likely every beer, we’re still starting with the basics: Hops, water, yeast, and barley. This has some specialty malts in it as well (mainly pilsner malt because it’s neutral and can produce a lot of sugar). We add the base of the beer into a fermentor, throw in some saison yeast that creates some fruity esters. Right before it’s finished, we added some Cabernet Franc juice. That created a bunch of new flavors.
But there’s not so much of a difference in making this beer other than adding the fruit. A lot of other breweries will just add fruit or fruit puree. There’s something to be said about using something like a locally sourced wine grape that has a very different flavor profile. It adds a different flavor as opposed to the jaminess of a fruited sour.
Q: Where did you source this particular Cab Franc juice from?
Benedict: Anchor & Hope typically source grapes from all over; from Germany to Napa Valley. This grape was local from Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Being local, it was a lot less expensive to ship — particularly nowadays when shipping costs are so high. We also wanted to keep it local as much as possible. There’s also a lot more grapes around here than there are out West because of all the fires.
Q: Where can people purchase Tethered Optimism?
Benedict: We canned a small portion and threw a few into kegs for the taproom. Then we are putting it into some previously used red wine barrels. It’s now being aged with stems and skins from the juicing process. It will re-ferment just a bit, but it will add a lot more nuance flavors that should be kind of tart, funky farmhouse flavors. We’re not sure when that will be ready. It’s the kind of beer to tell us when it’s ready.
Q: Is partnering with other vineyards going to be a staple for a beer-wine series for you?
Benedict: Yes. It’s literally written into our business plan moving forward to collaborate with other local businesses. And not just other vineyards or other breweries. There’s a big a collaboration culture within the beer world here in Rhode Island, but we want to go beyond that, too. Even for Gaspee Days, we want to create a special beer. We truly believe that beer is a communal symbol and we really want to be part of the conversation on a local level.
Q: What’s next?
Benedict: We have this second concoction back at Anchor & Hope that will be finished in the foreseeable future. But we’ve also been talking about taking on a German white wine-lager mix of some sort next year.