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I am trying to solve the "wife who loves wine instead of beer" problem. She would normally choose a Sauvignon blanc for herself but that's just no fun for the beer-drinking / making husband. My goal is to create a beer that draws parallels in her mind to the wine style without struggling to reproduce wine in beer form.

Here are some of the characteristics that I'm striving for as they match her purchasing history of largely North American wines (quoting Wikipedia):

The New Zealand influenced-Sauvignon blanc have more tropical fruit undertones with citrus and passion fruit notes. The Mondavi-influenced Fumé Blanc are more round with melon notes.

Obviously, bitterness is quite low in these wines.

Again, I'm not trying to create a beer that pretends to be wine but it's an interesting challenge to try to create a parallel and potential replacement.

What is the best recipe to create such a parallel?

EDIT for clarification to call out some specific characteristics that are similar to Sauvignon blanc:

  1. The desired recipe would produce a dry end-product.
  2. The aroma and taste would include subtle hints of fruit (suggestions above).
  3. Bitterness should be low.

E.g., one of the answers contains a suggestion of a specific hop that can produce Sauvignon blanc-like characteristics.

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I think this might be a little off-topic for a brewing site- not entirely sure though. Meta discussion here‌​. –  Fishtoaster Nov 15 '10 at 22:57
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I think it's a good question. –  Jeff Roe Nov 15 '10 at 23:32
    
Why is this a problem? More beer for you! –  DJClayworth Nov 15 '10 at 23:45
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@Fishtoaster, I wrote this question carefully: it's a brewing question, asking about recipe tips and has a desired end state (i.e., it's answerable). I can't see a way for it to be off-topic to a homebrewing site. –  Bob Cross Nov 16 '10 at 2:12
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@DJClayworth, indeed - the beer is currently all mine. That said, she really likes hanging around while I do my "man cooking." It wouldn't hurt to be creating something that is more to her taste. You never know when you're going to need those extra husband karma points.... –  Bob Cross Nov 17 '10 at 4:39
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17 Answers

Does she like Big Beer American Pilsners (BMC)? If yes, I would try a minimally-complex lager. If not, I might go with the fruitier lambics or wheats/wits with a moderate fruit addition that are mentioned above (my wife loves my wit...and my witbier)....

Personally, I think the hefty malt backbones of tripels, BGSA's, and the massive esters and complexities of a saison can scare off non-beer geeks.

ONE THING TO CONSIDER: I love Sauv Blanc, but what I like about it is the dryness, SUGGESETION of fruit, and the GRASSINESS (not mentioned above or in your wiki excerpt). Maybe try a gentle style, with some grassy hops either at 30 minutes or flameout? The Kolsch-Amarillo idea above is great for that. I personally find Amarillos to impart an earthier character than the "C" hops to which they are regularly compared. Comment back and let us know what you go with/how it comes out!

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My wife greatly enjoyed a Blueberry rye made by a local Pittsburgh brewery East End Brewing. She hates high IBU but loved that. maybe that would be a good route to go for you

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Taste the one from Schneider Weisse - Tap X Mein Sauvin - great one. Weizenbock is really nice combination.

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Maybe try brewing a rye saison with citra hops, berliner weiss, helles bock, or kölsch and for an interesting twist, dry hop with citra or amarillo or summit hops (these hops have tropical fruity aromas)... hopefully that would be an interesting enough beer for her to enjoy.

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Those are some interesting combos - thanks. –  Bob Cross Dec 31 '11 at 19:51
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Me and my wife (she's a Pinot drinker) just made an apfelwein together. She's really liking the process (very easy) and the end result is very dry. maybe a good starting point?

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I would look into brewing a flemish sour, though first you could buy a couple of bottles of the style and feed them to your wife to see if she likes them, I'd recommend Rodenbach.

You may also want to look into some kinds of Gruit (hopless beers). I made a Sage Ale with a wheat yeast that is rather fruity and sour with some wine-like characteristics.

Or, why not just ferment your own Sauv blanc? Buy some concentrate and yeast and go to town, your LHBS should have that and if you make beer you've already got the equipment to make wine as well.

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I would learn to make Sauvignon Blanc. Its easier than making beer actually. Just takes more time. Start her with a fruit wheat beer styles to see if you can find a beer style that she actually likes. It might be easier than trying to invent a wine like beer and bastardize both the wine and the beer in the process.

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Never tried this, but I think I would if I was looking for something like you are: A bright German style Ale (Kölsch) with a late addition/careful dry hopping of Amarillo. I have played around quite a bit with Amarillo recently and I find it goes in the direction of a fruity whitewine sometimes.

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I can see how a Belgian Golden Strong (Duvel, Delirium Tremens, etc.) would appeal to a wine drinker. Dry finish with fruit and spice flavors.

I got my girl into beer via a weird direction, though. She loves sour beers. Flanders Red makes her happy.

Meads and Braggots are also a good compromise between brewing and wine.

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If you haven't heard of it, try picking up a bottle of Stone's Vertical Epic 10.10.10 (link is to the full, detailed, recipe). It's a beer with 10% sauvignon blanc juice added during primary. Just tried a bottle last night and it's definately interesting.

On a side-note, all Stone Vertical Epic's are intended to reach their peak around 12/12/2012 -- so if you brew your own then expect it to continue to develop and mature over ~24-28 months.

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I love beer and I enjoy wine. I don't necessarily want to have them taste similar to each other. Have you considered brewing for her an easy to drink beer? I've had huge success turning people on to beer with a basic hefeweizen or blonde ale. Nothing overpowering, and some great flavor comes through.

Along the lines of the initial request, try something around 4% since that will finish dryer, and use a clean yeast like US-05 (my go-to for pale ales). To keep bitterness down, maybe a small addition of Cascade at 45, and then mild to moderate additions of Citra at 15 & 5 depending on how fruity you want it. Plug the AAs into a calculator and I guess keep it under 15IBUs. Make sure fermentation temps are on target for the yeast you select to ensure the lowest possible FG.

So, you'll have there hopefully a dry, not too bitter, and fruity beer. Any specialty grains you want to use is up to you, though I would steer towards keeping this a pale ale. See if you can make a test batch of something to highlight the citra hop first, it is definitely an unusual one.

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I would suggest a Saison or other farmhouse-style ale. The hopping is usually low and the flavor profile can be quite a complex mix of spicy and fruity.

Some hops have fruity flavor and aroma profiles. Nelson Sauvin has already been mentioned. Many American hops have a citrus character, although it can be a little harsh. Two of my favorites are Amarillo (which has a grapefruit character) and Summit (which has slight tangerine overtones). These are both high-alpha hops, though, so they should be used later in the boil if you are looking for aroma and flavor without too much bitterness.

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thanks for the late boil tip - that's a good one. –  Bob Cross Nov 18 '10 at 2:30
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Try a Berliner-Weisse.

It's not a simple, beginner-style beer, but has a lot of the same dry, tart flavours as Sav Blanc.

I believe Wyeast have been doing some development on optimising fermentation, and you should add the lactic strain after the sacchromycaes yeast has had a chance to get established, so it's not too sour.

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Try a belgian triple - great flavors/aromas from the yeast and high ABV: I've had good experience introducing this style of beer to wine drinkers. Although, have her try some commercial examples before you commit to brewing 5 gallons - it's not a session beer. Also consider making mead; you could even try a pyment with sauvignon blanc juice.

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I can see how the belgian might appeal to wine drinkers in general but is there a specific way to aim towards the sav. blanc from a triple? With respect to 5 gallons, I can assure you that, regardless of success or failure, an excess of beer will NOT be a problem. :-) –  Bob Cross Nov 17 '10 at 4:35
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I don't really think you have to "aim" for anything. A good tripel has a flavor profile that sav. drinkers will likely feel right at home with. 80% pils malt, 20% cane sugar, hop to about 28 IBU, WY3787 yeast. Ferment in the mid 60s for a couple weeks, then raise it into the 70s to finish. –  Denny Conn Jan 14 '11 at 23:12
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Make a low gravity lawnmower larger and add some tart fruit flavoring (pear maybe?)

If she hates it, rdwhahb, lawnmowers are incredibly cheap to make.

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If you can source it consider brewing a light coloured, dry ale (or better still a clean lager) late hopped with Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand.

The hop imparts some similar characteristics to Sauvignon Blanc wines.

There is a locally brewed lager (Knappstein Reserve) that uses this hop and I can attest that many of my non beer drinking friends will drink and enjoy this beer.

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interesting hop recommendation. –  Bob Cross Nov 17 '10 at 4:33
    
Nelson Sauvin is an incredible hop, but is adds a lot of bitterness. I'd suggest Riwaka, which has very similar flavour/aroma to Nelson, but much less bitterness. Riwaka can be hard to find, though. –  arnemart Nov 17 '10 at 15:25
    
+1 to the Nelson Sauvin answer. I recently had a Belgian-style pale from Allagash that was brewed with Nelson and it was incredible and very wine-like. If she doesn't mind bitterness, try to get ahold of some of Alpine Beer Co's "Nelson" to get a sense for what this hop can do. I'm a winemaker and like to brew with Nelson Sauvin because of it's wine-like characteristics. –  Juanote Jan 15 '11 at 5:50
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Clearly a drier fruit-based beer would probably be appealing, since wine is so heavy on the fruit flavors. Something like a peach white ale, or pear lager. I'd ferment the malt to near exhaustion to keep it potent and dry, but add some honey or another partially fermenting sugar to keep some sweetness to draw out the fruit flavors. Good luck!

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+1: good tip on the dry characteristics - that's definitely to her taste. –  Bob Cross Nov 16 '10 at 2:14
    
Honey will completely ferment rather than leave any residual sugars. However, you may add enough fermentables that you increase the residual sweetness due to the attenuation characteristics of the yeast that you are using. You may have to let the beer age a bit longer to let any higher order alcohols (i.e. the hot flavors) from the honey mellow out a bit. –  Kevin Colby Nov 3 '11 at 19:57
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