One day, while talking with his brewers, SanTan Brewing Company founder and brewmaster Anthony Canecchia was struck with an idea — to mix beer and wine into a single brew.
The result is two new beers debuting this weekend: the Oak-Aged Saison di Aleatico and the Cab Franc Barrel-Aged Saison.
The two beers were created by blending Aleatico and Cabernet Franc wine grapes with a Saison, a highly carbonated style of brew with fruity and spiced flavors. The fresh version of Saison di Aleatico debuted last fall at SanTan’s brewpub, but the oak-aged edition has been sitting in oak barrels for the past 11 months while the Cab Franc Saison was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels that contained Cabernet Franc pommace. They were tapped for the first time Saturday at the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild’s inaugural Real, Wild and Woody Beer Festival in Tempe and the SanTan brewpub in downtown Chandler.
The idea for the Saison di Aleatico and Cab Franc Saison stemmed from a conversation about fermentables, specifically fruits, and combining them with beer. The idea wasn’t a particularly new concept; SanTan Brewing Company already has a Mr. Pineapple beer that is brewed with pineapple juice, but soon the conversation turned to grapes.
So, Canecchia grabbed a bottle of Dos Cabezas WineWorks’ El Norte wine and mixed it with an amber ale. He liked what he tasted.
“We really enjoyed some of that acidic character that came out,” Canecchia said. “Mind you we were just kind of splashing some wine in some beer and not aging it, so then the conversation started.”
Having tried the beer-and-wine mixture, Canecchia’s interest was piqued.
He made a call to Dos Cabezas head vinter Todd Bostock to pitch the idea of combining some of Dos Cabezas’ grapes with SanTan’s beer.
“We had some lunch and we had some beers, then we had a couple more beers, then we had some of his wine and that’s how we came up with the Saison di Aleatico,” Canecchia said.
The idea for the beers had been formed but there was still another hurdle. The grapes needed to make the Saison di Aleatico and Cab Franc Saison aren’t in great supply and neither are the barrels needed to age the Cab Franc saison. In short, supplies are limited.
“The Aleatico, it’s kind of an odd grape, we only have one row of it in here,” said Bostock. “The limiting factor was the barrels for the Cab Franc and the amount of fruit we had period for the Aleatico.”
With supplies limited, Canecchia decided to showcase his beer at the Real, Wild and Woody festival, an indoor event that sold out quickly and featured specialty cask, sour and barrel-aged beers from breweries across the state.
“We’ll be there with something really special,” Canecchia said. “It’s something you can only get at that festival or in the respective brewpubs. None of it goes out of state … it’s something that’s really meant to highlight the uniqueness of Arizona craft breweries.”