When I tell people that I work in a brewery, they always say, “Oh man, you must get so much free beer.” And yes, I do. I drink beer at work, I drink beer after work, I drink beer in my sleep. I drink beer so often that I get tired of beer. I get physically exhausted from drinking beer. I call it Beer Fatigue. It’s rare, but it happens from time to time. On a recent trip to Washington D.C. to flip off the White House attend the Craft Brewers Conference, I might have experienced the most severe case of beer fatigue in my life. There were beer samples on the trade room floor, lunch meetings over beers with suppliers, consultants, and old friends, and beer events all over town, lasting into the wee hours of the night. Beer Fatigue was inevitable.
By Day 2 I was begging for Miller High Life. Anything to save my palette from a barrel-aged stout, a brett-fermented IPA, or one of the many, many tap takeovers by Ballast Point, Goose Island, or any of the other conglomobreweries. Some of the pallet-wrecking was fabulous: A rustic cider from the Basque Region of Spain, a mountain mashup of beer from Vermont and Wyoming, and the multiple nights of drinking from the sept of TRVE’s Acid Temple. Even still, eventually all I wanted was something simple, refreshing, and alcoholic.
Day 2 did bring several High Lifes, and on Day 3 I found a cache of Natty Boh, or National Bohemian. National Bohemian is basically the PBR of Baltimore and goes perfectly with Chesapeake Bay cuisine. It goes well with other cuisines as well, but good luck finding it outside of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Delaware. There was a great bar with an outdoor area with cornhole and Natty Boh tall boys that really hit the spot. That same night, our head of sales, a gregarious young man from Mississippi, fell to his Beer Fatigue by ordering rosé after rosé. And that got me going on rosé, as well.
I’ve even had a hard time shaking the personal craze for rosé since returning. I’ve probably drank a half dozen bottles of rosé in the last two weeks, and I’ve settled on some favorites and have some introductory thoughts on the girly pink liquid.
First, what is it about rosé that makes it so good? Maybe it’s the growing warmth of the days, the nice tartness, balanced by the subtle tannins of a good dry rosé or maybe just the variety found in a style I’ve spent my entire life writing off. Doing more research into the style uncovers all kinds of history, various techniques to achieve the pinkish hue, and interesting anecdotes about the rise and fall of the style.
Right now I’m really into either single grape rosé or single origin (appellation) rosé. The best known rosé is definitely White Zinfandel, which is a single grape rosé. Typically, these are slightly sweet, slightly tart, and slightly pink. Served chilled, it is super refreshing and easy to drink. It’s also incredibly consistent from label to label, producer to producer. You know what you’re going to get, so I advise against throwing down a bunch for a bottle of White Zin.
When you get into other single grape or appellations of rosés, this is where things get interesting and fun, and there’s more than just an alcoholic beverage for warmer weather. There is Pinot Noir rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon rosé, rosé from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, Russian River rosé and Oregon rosé. It’s all this wide open subcategory of producers and techniques and origins and fruits being done to make one of the most refreshing summer beverages that can be as intellectual as you want. And if you don’t, you can even put a few ice cubes in your glass and no one will bat an eye.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.