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 Birrificio 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. The last brewery visit of the trip was a stop at Birrificio 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 email 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.
Charlie posted a blog about the trip and the development of the Harpoon Tuscan Pool Party; read it here: http://www.harpoonbrewery.com/blog/369266/italy-with-a-touch-of-boston-100-barrel-series-52-tuscan-pool-party