This hybrid comes from Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing Company. Founder/brewer Mark Jilg has come up with an interesting intersection of my two favorite drinks, beer and wine. It sells at Maximiliano for $8 by the eight-ounce glass. The alcohol content sits somewhere between beer and wine at 8.6% abv.
Jilg tells me that the reaction to Cabernale has been favorable, if not too detailed. He says, "It seems to be easy for people who drink beer regularly to enjoy Cabernale and have a lot of fun with it. It's a little more challenging for wine drinkers to find it interesting."
"We do a lot of fruit beers at Craftsman and a fair number of beers that use non-traditional ingredients. We use plums, oranges, all sorts of citrus, persimmons. I got fascinated with the idea of doing a beer with a lot of tannins after a a buddy of mine who is a home winemaker called me over to experience the miracle of winemaking. We've been making Cabernale since 2004, 2005."
"Over the years we have fiddled with the recipe as to how the grapes interact with the beer. We're trying to stretch out how much we can extract from the fruit, so the grapes were in the beer for five months. We do a second beer with the pressings, Sour Grapes, which will probably be released in the fall."
Jilg says in the past he has sourced his grapes from Paso Robles. "This time, due to scheduling issues, we got grapes from the Los Olivos area, from Brander. It takes two tons of grapes for a thousand gallons of beer."
Served well-chilled in a tulip glass, Cabernale looks like dark purple wine, kind of cloudy with a trace of foam on the rim. An earthy nose shows grape notes and an oak influence, while the taste comes across as a cross of beer and wine as promised. It's very refreshing with notes of grape-flavored Sweet Tarts. The wine notes hit early, and it finishes like beer. The fruit does play heavily in the flavor profile.
I enjoyed Cabernale, but it falls into a no-man's land for me. If I want a beer, I probably wouldn't order it. If I want a wine, probably not, either. It worked very well as a novelty cocktail for me, and was certainly a welcome addition to a warm L.A. afternoon. After tasting Cabernale, I want to try some of Craftsman's more traditional brews. That will mean getting over to the brewery in Pasadena, or back to Maximiliano. Jilg says they keep five or six of his beers on tap there.
Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter