New Brew News & Behind the Brew: Devine IGA

By Iain Smith

Fyne Ales is delighted to introduce Devine, the first authentic Italian Grape Ale brewed in the UK!

Earlier this year, we invited Italian craft brewery Canediguerra to Glen Fyne for a unique collaboration – read more about arranging the visit in our earlier blog – and we’re thrilled to reveal the results of the brew weekend, Devine IGA.

We’ll be launching the beer with two tap takeover/meet the brewer events on Saturday 20 May in partnership with our pals from Six Degrees North at their Glasgow and Edinburgh locations, with the beer also getting tapped in 6DN Aberdeen the same evening. Scroll to the bottom of the blog or check out Facebook for more information.

About Grape Ales

Italian Grape Ale (IGA) is a broad term for any beer created using grape must, a by-product of winemaking consisting of the sugar-rich, leftover juice, stems and skins of grapes.

Though only recently formally recognised by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), IGAs have been produced in Italy for significantly longer and are considered the first of Italy’s own beer styles. Grape ales have found a place in the Italian brewing community as an expression of provenance and taking pride in using locally-sourced ingredients to create beers, much like Fyne Ales working with the Springbank distillery to produce Fynebank and upcoming whisky barrel-aged beers.

“For me, grape ales have a special place as a perfect example of how beer and wine don’t need to be two separate things because I’ve always believed that it’s just fermentation. They’re part of the same family, they just happen to feature different ingredients due to geographical and anthropological roots; look at the wide range of additions that are being combined with beer around the world today - there’s no reason why grapes shouldn’t be part of that,” explained Fyne Ales brewer, Andrea Ladas.

Reading the style definitions from BJCP (below), it’s apparent that the term Italian Grape Ale encompasses a wide variety of flavours, colours, strengths and other variations. As a relatively new style, brewers have been keen to experiment with the addition of grape must, playing with the wide range of variables that using the ingredient introduces. Obviously, the choice of grape can greatly impact the flavour of the beer, but other factors such as which parts of the must are used, how much must is used, when the must is added to the brew (in a hopback, during the boil, straight into FV etc) and also, how the grape must works with other additions. Using Canediguerra’s Objekt 250 as an example, they chose to add the grape must during the boil along with several other additions: a large hop bill, Italian honey and selection of spices. There is no fixed example of style, meaning there is a great opportunity for brewers to produce interesting and unique beers, and the style is difficult to define.

BJCP grape ale style guide - click to view full size (new window).

 

Planning – Early Stages

Fyne Ales brewer, Andrea Ladas is a longtime friend of Canediguerra’s award-winning head brewer, Alessio Gatti, and the opportunity for a collab with one of Italy’s fastest-rising craft breweries was an opportunity too good to miss for the Fyne Ales team. The offer was especially tempting when the CDG team suggested they might be able to source some outstanding quality grape must from a local vineyard for the project.

Alessandria and Asti, where Canediguerra is situated in northern Italy, is famous for its spumante production, highly sparkling white wines made with sweet and semi-sweet grapes. Neighbouring the brewery, a moscato grape vineyard with whom the Canediguerra team had previously collaborated for their Objekt 250 special release beer, and who was willing to help organise shipping a container of fresh grape must to the UK for the brew.

With the collab brew being the UK’s first Italian Grape Ale, we wanted to brew a beer that combined British and Italian brewing styles. With a half-plan to brew a traditionally British, strong, golden ale base beer to which the must would be added, we requested the removal of the stalks and skins from the moscato must before it left the vineyard. These parts of the must are most likely carry wild yeasts and funky bacteria, which are great for brewing sour or farmhouse-style grape ales, but less desirable for our planned Scottish/Italian hybrid brew.

Planning – On Arrival

Andrea, leading the project, had done a huge amount of research into IGAs in advance of the collab, and as mentioned above, he had already begun formulating ideas for the base beer in advance of Canediguerra’s arrival.

However, the Canediguerra team did not arrive at the Fyne Ales brewery empty handed, bringing with them a wide selection of Italian Grape Ales for tasting. We were treated to some outstanding and varied examples of the style from Loverbeer, Montegioco, Toccalmatto, plus an interesting take on a Belgian/Italian hybrid from La Chouffe. Tasting other breweries’ IGAs gave the team plenty to think about, and after much discussion, some more drinking, and some rapid-fire questioning of brewers of the above breweries about their methods (thank you, WhatsApp), we had a clearer idea for how we wanted to use the must in the brew.

The next stage was to do some maths. We knew what ABV we were aiming at for the final beer (7.4%), however we had to calculate the target original gravity of the combination of the base beer wort when combined in order to hit the final gravity target, taking into account the different amounts of must (20% @ 1080) and wort (80% @ 1063) going into the fermenter.

Some of the cracking grape ales brought to the brewery by Canediguerra for research.

 

Brewing

As mentioned above, how the must is used in the brew is a crucial variable to the style and flavour of the final beer. For Devine, the decision was made to flash-heat and then cool the grape must before adding it to the base beer three days into primary fermentation. These choices would combine to allow the beer to retain as much of the moscato grape’s soft, sweet and delicate flavours as possible, while keeping some malt and Nelson Sauvin/Brambling Cross hop character from the British-style base beer.

The pasteurisation at 80°C using our heat exchanger helped ensure no wild bugs got in the beer while helping retain the must’s soft, juicy aromatics; injecting the must after the beer had partially fermented allowed the base beer to develop its own character and helped to avoid over-working the yeast.

The beer had a relatively uneventful, if slightly-longer-than average fermentation.

This is the glamourous shipping format of a whole heap of grape must from Italy to Scotland.

 

First tasting

The Fyne Ales brewing team were delighted with the beer on first tasting. The moscato must imparted the beer with a punchy, golden grape flavour that at the same time, is soft and rich, with aromas of soft fruits and a lingering finish. The hop profile, while secondary to the wine characteristics, adds a little edge to the back of the taste, to keep the wine/beer character in balance.

In order to test how the beer stood up against the best of IGAs brewed on the continent, we sent two kegs of the beer to the Campi di birra festival in Firenze where it was showcased by Canediguerra alongside several grape ales brewed in Italy. Feedback was resoundingly positive, preparations began for a full UK launch!

Bottle artwork designed by Thirst.

Launch

Fyne Ales is incredibly excited to get Devine out of the brewery and into your hands, and the first chance to do so will be Saturday 20 May at Six Degrees North’s bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

For Glasgow and Edinburgh, the launch will have members of the Fyne Ales team on hand to answer your question about the beer, and for the first time ever in Scotland, a selection of Canediguerra beers will be pouring on draught alongside Devine!

Aberdeen will also be tapping Devine alongside its fraternal bars, with a selection of Canediguerra beers also available in the weeks following the launch.

Check out the Facebook event for more info - Devine Launch Event.

 

If you’re interested in brewing with grape must, keep an eye on the Fyne Ales blog next week, where we’ll be posting a third part in our grape ale blog series, exploring the various ways must can be used and the variations of flavours that result from its use in different ways!