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Rosé Beer: This Summer’s Hot Trend

This emerging, often complex, wine-like pink beer is slowly becoming the industry's next big thing.

Photo Courtesy of Firestone Walker

When it comes to determining the perfect beer for an occasion, a lot of factors come into play – one of which is a simple eye test.  The color of a beer can offer clues as to its specific style, the potential taste and even the amount of alcohol by volume it might contain. There are standards like amber, gold, black and brown, plus hues brought about from fruit-based beer, but now an emerging wine-like shade of pink is taking over the scene as rosé beer becomes the next trend.

Rosé beer doesn’t necessarily have a standard definition, in fact it’s not even listed on the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines but it’s a term that’s recently been accepted, and used, throughout the industry.  Rosé is a word borrowed from the wine community, deeply rooted for centuries as a pink-looking wine created from the skins of grapes and it has been both loved and hated over the course of its history.  Almost all beer styles, such as India Pale Ales and its various sub-categories, directly correlate with the flavor of the finished product and what the drinker can expect to taste thanks to the brewing process but that’s not the case with rosé beer, as the term typically refers to the brew’s color.

Much like it’s wine counterpart, rosé beer is optimal during the warmer summer months, with a look, and often a taste, that lends itself specifically to that time of year. That’s why it’s popping up now.  While rosé might not indicate the beer’s flavor, this style is usually incorporated into a sour beer or Gose – a traditionally straw-colored German-styled beer made from wheat and malt that contains a slight sourness.  To really bring out that defining pink color, breweries will add a variety of ingredients, from pink Himalayan sea salt, to hibiscus, to raspberries. If a brewery is really feeling inspired, sometimes wine or cider will be added to the beer, whether it’s during the brewing process or after it’s been poured for consumption – or use framboise as a basis for the brew’s overall flavor.

It might be light and easily-drinkable but this style can offer an extremely complex flavor for those looking to get away from heavier beers currently dominating the market that have an abundant beer-like taste.  Take Bretta Rosé from California-based Firestone Walker Brewing Company, a 5.1 percent ABV beer that takes raspberries from fertile Santa Maria Valley soil, adds it to French oak barrel-aged Berliner Weisse and ages it for anywhere from six to 26 months for an abundant raspberry acidity, flavor and aroma.  Given its location, grapes have heavily influenced Firestone Walker and that’s why the brewery also offers Rosalie, a flagship five percent ABV one-of-a-kind rosé beer made with local Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Muscat grapes, as well as hibiscus flower to increase the color. It almost looks like a sparkling wine or a cider at first glance.

Rosé beer is sometimes marketed more towards women, as a unique alternative to wine, but even more so breweries are targeting non-traditional craft beer drinkers.  If a brewery can create a product in-house that is more likely to satisfy those who steer clear of typical craft efforts, the potential is there for it to become a gateway to more of their beer. Plus, beer of this nature limits the need to purchase wines from outside companies or include a cocktail list for visitors. Will rosé beer gain the kind of traction that Brut IPAs and Milkshake IPAs have recently garnered? Probably not, though you should expect to start seeing them a lot more in the next couple of months.