Northern Brewer is about more than beer! Read about winemaking techniques, wine styles, wine tasting, winemaking products and more.

Wine Style Focus: Aromatic German Whites

You want something other than same old, same old Chardonnay? Turned off by the austerity of Sauvignon Blanc? With more umlauts than an 80s hair metal tribute band, we break down the aromatic whites of Germany and Austria:

Gewürztraminer
Gewurztraminer is a flamboyant, fragrant, and showy wine with a full, fat mouthfeel and low natural acidity. With typical aromas of roses and tropical fruit, Gewürz is best known as a simple, early-drinking off-dry wine. Premier examples show more complexity in the glass, exhibiting notes of spice, cinnamon, ginger, and musk. Pair Gewürz with Chinese or Vietnamese (seriously, try it!), oily fish, and soft cheese.

Grüner-Veltliner
“Grü-Ve” takes pride of place in Austria’s wine scene (it’s grown almost nowhere else), with plantings that date back to the Roman Empire. For such a gluggable, fresh white this wine has amazing complexity: overtones of citrus and peach with spicy white pepper, smoke, and apple. It’s also amazingly food friendly, finding happy matches with everything from cold asparagus to spicy-hot Szechuan dishes.

Müller-Thurgau
A 19th-century hybrid of Riesling and Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau brings very fresh, floral, “grapey” character to blends like Liebfraumilch and Piesporter. With low acid and immediate fruitiness, these refreshing and approachable off-dry whites are wines of the moment, not meant for cellaring.

Riesling
A demanding grape capable of creating sublimely age-worthy wines, Riesling is the Grande Dame of these aromatic whites. Vinified dry, off-dry, or as an intense botrytis-kissed late harvest dessert wine, you’ll find flowers, citrus, mineral, unctuous honey, spice, and a streak of fruity acidity that is the key to Riesling’s longevity in the bottle. As with other wines in this flight, Riesling is a natural match for Asian cuisine as well as white fish, chicken, and pork.

 

Dry Yeast vs. Liquid Yeast

Cleaners and Sanitizers

Cleansers
B-Brite, and PBW.
Cleansers remove surface grime and particulates. Cleansers are essential to allow sanitizers to do their job. You can’t sanitize a surface if it’s not clean of grime and debris, which is where cleansers come in. These products should be used on bottles, fermentors, and other equipment which has extended contact with beer. Cleansers should be rinsed after use. Don’t soak your equipment in a cleanser solution for longer than the time recommended on the packaging.Sanitizers
Star San, Iodophor, Saniclean, Easy Clean, IO Star, and One Step.
These kill microbes and surface bacteria and make equipment safe to use with beer. Arguably the most important component of the brewing process. Without sanitizers beer would be full of other organisms that turn beer sour and undrinkable. A key feature of these sanitizers is that they’re “no-rinse” so your equipment can be soaked in sanitizer and then immediately used for brewing which reduces any risk for re-contamination. A note: some sanitizers are not classified as such by the FDA (like Easy Clean and One Step), but for brewing purposes they work as well as those that are. For some reason, many include the word “clean” in the name. However, all the above mentioned products are effective sanitizers.

Glass vs. Plastic Carboys

Blow Off Tubing Assemblies

A blow off assembly is a length of tubing which is attached to your primary fermentor to allow excess yeast and foam (krausen) to escape. During an especially active fermentation, the krausen can fill the entire head space of a fermentor. Without a place for this foam to go, it can create quite a mess. An airlock can become clogged, but a blow off assembly allows krausen to be expelled from the fermentor while still making sure that nothing gets in. One end of the blow off is inserted into the fermentor, and the other end is submerged in sanitizer in an open jug or bucket. Keeping the end of the blow off tube below the surface of the sanitizer will keep a positive seal in the fermentor. There are several different types of blow off tubing assemblies depending on the type of fermentor.

A 1″ ID blow off hose fits glass carboys. 1.25″ Blow-off hose for older style Acid Carboys.

The PET Blow-off Assembly is for narrow-neck PET plastic carboy that use a #10 stopper.

The Fermenator Blow off assembly is for Fermentators

A length of ⅜” siphon tubing can be inserted into a bucket lid by removing the airlock and grommet if needed as well.

Attenuation

Attenuation is the degree to which yeast ferments the sugar in a wort or must. If you have 50% attenuation it means that 50% of the sugars have been converted into alcohol and CO2 by yeast. If you have 100% attenuation, all of the sugars have been consumed by yeast. Beer fermented with normal brewers yeast will never have 100% attenuation. This is important because it can help predict the final gravity and alcohol content of a beer. A yeast with low attenuation will leave a beer with more sugar and more body than a yeast with high attenuation. This can also be very helpful when selecting a yeast strain for a recipe.

Example: your beer has an OG of 1.050 and the expected attenuation of your yeast is 75%. The yeast will ferment 75% of the gravity sample (75% of 50 gravity points is roughly 38 gravity points) so your final gravity should be around 1.012 (50 -38 = 12).

Wine Style Focus: Sangiovese

Sangiovese is Italy’s most widely planted red varietal, known as the queen of Italian reds. It has followed immigrant winemakers to California and Argentina, and it’s finding its legs in Australia as well, where it’s used to make reds and roses. But it is best known as the signature grape of some of Italy’s most renowned traditional DOGC wines, as well as a key constituent of the new generation of “Super Tuscans.”

In Tuscany, Sangiovese is the primary grape for the famous Chianti and Chianti Classico — sometimes the bulk of a blend and sometimes constituting 100% of the must. Wines from these DOCG-protected appellations tend towards medium body with bright acid and red fruit flavors. South of Chianti, around the medieval Tuscan hill town of Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino — 100% Sangiovese Grosso — receives extended maceration and 2 years of oak contact, yielding up supple, spicy, and age-worthy wines with more concentrated fruit and tannin. This leads some to compare the best Brunellos to Burgundian Pinot Noir. Sangiovese also finds expression in the so-called “Super Tuscans” — wines crafted, often on small estates, outside the regulations of the DOGC and labeled humbly as Vino di Tavola (“table wine”). Using forbidden varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and aging in small oak barrels gives these powerful wines elevated levels of dense fruit, tannin, and vanilla-spice character.

The varietal’s name comes from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove,” after Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods. Immortality notwithstanding, its food-friendliness is undeniable: its natural medium- to high acidity and medium body combined with a tendency towards a very dry finish allow Sangiovese to partner with a range of cuisines. Lighter interpretations like the wines of Chianti are classic with tomato-based sauces and Neapolitan-style pizza. Burlier Brunello matches well with richer fare like baked pasta, aged cheese, and game; and the Super Tuscan blends, with their deeper notes of dark fruit and elevated oaking, can stand up to red meat, rare or crusted with herbs, from the grill or barbecue.

Wine Style Focus: Pinot Noir

“Sex in a glass,” “hedonistic,” “made by the devil,” “the most romantic of wines,” “the most capricous, ungracious, unforgiving, fascinating grape of them all.” It’s been called all these things and many more – so what’s the deal with Pinot Noir?

It’s capable of making sublime wine, but crafting a good Pinot demands extreme care in the vineyard as well as the winery. The vines are very sensitive to soil and light conditions, susceptible to rot, tend to set fruit irregularly, and are prone to overcrop. Ferment too hot and you lose the varietal flavors; but fermenting too cool has the same effect.

The reward for braving all that oenological danger is a layered and astonishing tapestry of flavors: ripe raspberry and strawberry, currant, black cherry, spice, dark fruit, earth, truffle, wood, and wild game woven together with lively acidity and velvety tannin in a light- to medium-bodied wine that can stand up to the same food pairings as a heavyweight Cab or Syrah.

For many, Pinot Noir finds its classic expression in Burgundy, where the Pinots of the Côte de Nuits are grown in chalky marl and exhibit exotic fruit, vegetal, and farmyard character in the nose and silky richness in the glass. However, this classic grape has taken root all across the globe, from Ontario to Australia, Austria to Oregon. In countries like Chile you’ll find a lighter, fruitier, and softer style. In the Martinborough region of New Zealand and California’s Sonoma Valley, Pinot Noir takes on more weight and color to create a powerful, fruit-forward, but still smooth and nuanced wine.

Pinot Noir is arguably the ultimate food wine: its combination of structure and delicacy make for a virtually unlimited number of pairing possibilities. It can partner brilliantly with venison, game birds, braised cuts of fatty red meat (Boeuf Bourgingnon!), and sausages; but its softness also lends it to matchings with grilled fish (planked salmon!), poultry, and soft cheeses. Its spicy, smoky, and earthy elements can find a companion in teriyaki, mushrooms or truffles, mustard-glazed pork loin, heavily herbed dishes like bisteca al Fiorentina or cacciatore, fruit, and roasted root vegetables.