A Rosé By Any Other Name

The white hot Rosé wine trend has gained steam in the hard cider world where it had some past history, but now Rosé beer is here and it’s one of the hottest trends of the summer. Rosé is little more than a pinkish hue, a colorful alcoholic beverage with a fruity, light and refreshing flavor without a common ingredient or process to hang it’s hat on. Nonetheless, according to market research Rosé wine sales were up 53% last year and 40% of women between 21 and 34 prefer it. With women being the largest area of growth for the beer industry, it’s easy to see why brewers and cidermakers are co-opting the trend to bring in more of the industries largest untapped demographic.

Rosé wines commonly use one of three different processes to get their color and flavor; grape skin contact, saignée and blending. The method that seems the most natural and traditional is the wines skin contact with the grapes. Since Red wine is made from red grapes and white wine from wine grapes and there is no such thing as pink wine grapes, it’s the juices contact time with red wine skins after they have been pressed that gets the color. The juice itself is not actually a red color but when macerated and left on the skins for hours rather than days, the juice picks up the skins pigment and becomes a pink color.

Saignée (“San-yay”) is a method to making rose that involves simply taking the first runnings of a red wine and siphoning off or “bleeding” into it’s own tank before the juice really becomes fully red. This also concentrates the final red wine while offering a second product for the winemaker. It’s also perhaps the most uncommon method.

The last method is the most simple and least interesting, it’s simply blending red and white wines to create a Rosé color/flavor. This is not unlike blending your own black and tan with Guinness and Bass.

Interestingly, Rosé wine may be the oldest type of wine due to it’s simplicity of ingredients and method. But it’s so ill-defined that it can range from dry to sweet, still to sparkling.

Rosé Cider was traditionally made with red fleshed apples in a process similar to the winemaking process of leaving the grape juice on red skins. In this method the cider gets some color from the pinkish red apple flesh and unique flavors from types of apples not often used in hard cider. However, with the current explosion of Rosé wines, most of the new Rosé ciders are made by just adding extra ingredients other than apple that will add a reddish color. Most common additions to cider in making Rosé are Hibiscus and Raspberries. Cementing this as a trend to watch, major brands like Angry Orchard and Crispin Cider launched Rosé flavors.

Craft beer is the slowest to jump on the Rosé bandwagon but the industry is not far behind. In Oregon, Bridgeport Brewing is at the forefront with their new year-round available Rosé IPA. This is a session beer with pale and honey malt that uses hibiscus added to the hopjack for not only color but a floral/citrus flavor and aroma. It’s hopped with fruity Mosaic, Citra, and Meridian dry hops at the end of fermentation.

Firestone Walker was one of the earliest adopters in the craft beer world, announcing their Bretta Rosé in February. This beer has been produced for years at the brewery as a draft only release but came to 375ml bottles earlier this year in their wild ale program. It’s a blend of barrel-aged wild yeast beers with just enough raspberries for a pinkish hue.

Modern Times Fruitlands Rosé Edition is a special limited rendition of Modern Times year-round fruited Gose that they make special rotating fruit versions of all the time. Modern Times has stuffed this one with red and yellow: cherries, raspberries, cranberries, and lemons. I am drinking one now and it is indeed fruity, slightly salty with a twing of floral bitterness and yes, definitely crushable for summer. Look for 16oz cans wherever Modern Times is available.

2 Beers Brewing and their sister company Seattle Cider Co. are all in on the Rosé train. Seattle Cider Co. has not one but two Rosé hard ciders and 2 Beers is about to release RAD Hazy Rosé IPA. Seattle Cider’s products are both variations on the trend – Berry Rosé is a canned seasonal release made with raspberries, blueberries, and blackberrie for a sweeter and extra fruity rendition. Winesap Rosé  is a premium limited release in bottles that’s made more wine-like by using only Winesap apples and then aging in Syrah red wine barrels for a bright but decidedly drier, more complex profile.

2 Beers RAD Hazy IPA will be released Monday, August 6th in 16oz cans and 4-packs. This beer combines the new hazy/juicy IPA style with Rosé color by stuffing the beer with loads of hibiscus. 7% ABV | 15 IBUs

It’s hard to tell wether the Rosé trend has any legs in craft beer (or even in wine for that matter), afterall it’s a trend so superficially based on appearance more than flavor it puts glitter beer to shame. Still, Rosé beers are not bad, many are quite flavorable. At the Oregon Brewers Festival this week you can find Freebridge Brewing from The Dalles, Oregon’s new Summertime Radness Rosé and Anderson Valley Brewing’s Framboise Rosé Gose. Von Ebert Brewing has a Biere De Rosé on tap, Base Camp Brewing and Ommegang Brewery both have bottled beers called Saison Rosé.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com