A beer born from Merlot grapes. The new project of a winemaker always on the move

Jun 18 2024, 12:52
When a beer producer meets a wine producer, Beerside is born: a beer whose main ingredient is indeed grapes.

by Luca Martinelli

“I am a curious person, always ready to dive into any adventure that takes me out of my routine,” says Michele Guarino. He has been running an agricultural and cultural project at Tenuta Lenzini in Gragnano, on the hills of Lucca, with his wife Benedetta Tronci for almost twenty years. They have embraced biodynamic vineyard management, a subtractive winemaking process, and have opened their beautiful natural amphitheater property to artistic projects such as the "Stanno tutti bene!" festival (in the summer of 2021, Daniele Silvestri even performed on a stage between the vineyard rows).

The latest adventure is called "Beer Side," an IGA (Italian Grape Ale), the result of a project developed together with the craft brewery Toptà, whose facility is less than ten kilometers from the winery. "The project was born at the table, at the Osteria di Lammari, which is also frequented by many industry professionals. One day, by chance, it was just Nicola and me in the room, and Dino (the host, ed.) told me that he was one of the partners of Toptà, the beer I drink on tap there. We started chatting, and I asked him if it was possible to make a beer with wine. He told me about IGA. It was April, and when it was time for the harvest in September, I called him back and said we had a project in the works. It all felt very natural."

Nicola is Nicola Pellicciotti, who, along with his friend Luca Baldaccini, started his brewery in 2016: "We work in one of the wine towns (the Montecarlo DOC dates back to 1969, ed.), and for us, making an IGA means being able to connect intimately with the territory. Moreover, the Italian Grape Ale is the only Italian beer style recognized worldwide, the one I prefer to drink, and a style we wanted to tackle."

The must that Michele delivered is made from Merlot grapes, which are used to produce Tenuta Lenzini's iconic red wine, "Casa e Chiesa," named because the vineyards lie between the farmhouse and the church of Gragnano. They also produce a vermouth ("Vermoon") and a modern rosé wine, a product of a white harvest of ripe grapes, called "b Side," the B side of Casa e Chiesa. The new label seeks to reflect this connection and expresses the "brewing side" of Merlot, showcasing a beer that surprises the palate, as one does not expect a wine aroma paired with the bread-like notes brought by the beer.

After over six months of aging, during which the beer underwent a second fermentation without the addition of yeast, "Beerside" was presented by Michele Guarino at the end of May in Milan at the Osteria alla Concorrenza. It is a gastronomic beer, available only in a 0.75-liter bottle, like a wine bottle. Like their wine, Tenuta Lenzini and Toptà chose a cork stopper, which is unique among all the brewery's labels, although it is also possible to enjoy it on tap at Toptà's brewpub in the historic center of Montecarlo. "In the summer, when I arrive at the Osteria di Lammari after a morning of work, I unwind with a small Toptà beer on tap: the meeting with Nicola and Luca is part of the magic of this place, where in the nice weather, it’s possible to sit outdoors around a big table, and when you arrive," concludes Guarino, "you always know you’ll meet someone to talk to." Or to build projects with.

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