Well, now I’ve heard everything. Firestone Walker’s Rosalie is a new beer that is co-fermented with wine grapes from its native Paso Robles. Described as “the rose lover’s beer,” it smells like malt but looks like white zinfandel.
So… what is it?
“We wanted to create a super-drinkable beer that captures the best qualities of a rosé wine, but at less than half the ABV (5%),” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “The result is what we are calling the rosé lover’s beer.”
The journey of Rosalie officially began last September, when nearby Castoro Winery harvested 200 tons of wine grapes for Firestone Walker, including 100 tons of Chardonnay and smaller lots of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Orange Muscat.
“The Chardonnay provides these crowd-pleasing textures and flavors,” Brynildson said. “But we also wanted to weave in the other grape varieties to lift the aromas and add complexity.” After the grapes were pressed, the juice was delivered to the brewery and ready for co-fermentation. Rosalie then required intensive brewing experimentation to achieve the perfect balance of flavor, acidity, dryness and shelf stability. “There are a lot of extra moving parts to brewing a scalable, shelf-stable beer that is co-fermented with wine grape juice,” Brynildson said. “We had to go out on a limb and find a way to make something entirely new to us.”
In the end, four separate R&D batches were brewed at Firestone Walker’s Propagator pilot brewhouse and the main brewery before the brewing team was ready to roll on the finished recipe, which includes hibiscus flowers in the whirlpool to create the beer’s brilliant rosé color.
The result is Rosalie—a delicious one-of-a-kind beer rosé with bright fruit flavors and luscious acidity.
The artwork of Rosalie honors the heritage of California as a winegrowing frontier, along with the brickwork of the historic Paso Robles Inn, a hometown landmark. It also evokes the classic scales of justice, depicting the beer’s balance of grape and grain. The artwork was hand-sketched and built out by the brewery’s in-house creative team.
Oddly enough, all of those wine grapes mentioned above are white wine grapes, and they couldn’t be used to make rose wine (which requires red wine grapes, at least in part). It’s the inclusion of hibiscus in the mix that makes it pink.
The wine grapes actually work to make this beer considerably sweeter than it would otherwise be. Firestone Walker doesn’t actually say much about the beer itself, which is really a straightforward pilsner with a restrained hop profile. Plenty of malt in the mix gives it an ample breakfast cereal kick at its core, but otherwise it’s reasonably simple. The wine grapes take over from there: This primarily becomes a chardonnay show, with notes of green apple and lemon peel overlaying the malt, though a somewhat sour edge arrives for the fruity, more wine-heavy finish.
The hibiscus is an oddity here; while likely intended mainly as a coloring agent, it drops a perfumed bath bomb on the top of the (minimal) head that gives everything too much of a floral bent. I like the combination of beer and wine well enough — surprising myself, even — but could do without the spritz of potpourri.
B / $9 per six-pack of 12 oz cans / firestonebeer.com