The Secret Ingredient in Every Harvest: Beer

When your hands are stained red, a cold one is all you want at the end of the day
Sep 12, 2012

It's half-past September and do you know what California winemakers are drinking?

Beer.

No, it's not a joke. There's an old saying, in fact: "It takes a lot of beer to make wine."

Harvest is moving into high gear and, at least in California, beer becomes the drink of choice.

"I can't imagine digging out a fermentor at the end of a long day and reaching for a glass of red wine afterward," said winemaker Erik Miller of Kokomo Winery in Sonoma County. Fellow Dry Creek winemaker Clay Mauritson raised a glass of suds in agreement, "The further we get into harvest and the more tanks that are fermenting, the more you want a cold beer."

In Napa, Duckhorn winemaker Bill Nancarrow put it this way, "Tasting grapes and fermenting fruit juice all day sets your palate up for a couple of 'cleansing ales' at the end of the day."

It makes sense when you think about it. After the indulgence of Thanksgiving weekend, the last thing you want to eat is turkey, right? After a series of decadent meals earlier this summer, all I wanted to eat the first night off was a bowl of Cheerios. Many chefs late at night crave something simple like eggs or sneak off for a Big Mac or Burrito Supreme.

And let's be clear, winemakers aren't guzzling beers all day at harvest any more than they're knocking back hearty glasses of wine at work the rest of the year. Some winemaking teams head out to a local pub after work while others keep the refrigerator stocked, or even a keg on ice. "A cold beer seems to be the right moral builder for the crew after a long day," Miller said.

Every cellar seems to have its favorite. Nancarrow said Duckhorn's "unofficial beer sponsor is Pabst Blue Ribbon." Miller said two Northern California brews—Lagunitas IPA and Bear Republic's Racer 5—are the Kokomo house favorites, while Mauritson's crew likes Lost Coast Great White, among others.

Over at Kosta Browne, Dan Kosta said that in the old days he and partner Michael Browne preferred Coors Light, but his young crew now prefers something heartier. "Nowadays, Death and Taxes is currently on tap," Kosta said of a regionally popular black beer produced by Moonlight Brewing. "And there's some vodka in the freezer for the real tough days!"

"Beer," Donald Patz of Patz & Hall winery said, "can be a refreshing and renewing beverage after a long, hot, thirsty day of winemaking. And an Advil."

Harvest

You Might Also Like

Quilceda Creek Winemaking Team Jumps Ship

Quilceda Creek Winemaking Team Jumps Ship

Matthews winery lures away three winemakers from Washington’s most elite Cabernet winery

Jul 7, 2021
Ravenswood in Limbo

Ravenswood in Limbo

Founding winemaker Joel Peterson talks about the Zinfandel cult favorite's uncertain future

Jul 22, 2020
Playing It Safe with Wine, Food and Friends on the Fourth of July

Playing It Safe with Wine, Food and Friends on the Fourth of July

The 2020 summer holidays are all about good food, great wine—including these 6 summer value …

Jun 29, 2020
Rediscovering the Comforts of the Dinner Table

Rediscovering the Comforts of the Dinner Table

With cooking at home on the rise during the pandemic, gathering family around the meal is …

May 1, 2020
End of an Era at Domaine Carneros

End of an Era at Domaine Carneros

Trailblazing California winemaker Eileen Crane is retiring after 42 years in the business

Apr 16, 2020
Bring on the Bubbles!

Bring on the Bubbles!

Buying advice for 11 domestic sparkling wine bargains and splurges from California, Oregon, …

Dec 17, 2019