Vine of the South

- by Bill Craver

The cultivation of the domesticated grape began around 8,000 years ago somewhere in present-day Eastern Europe. Since yeast occurs naturally on the skins of grapes, this quickly led man to the discovery of alcoholic drinks such as wine. [Tip of the hat to early civilization!] Cultivated around the globe, grapes have been a staple of the human experience ever since.

Different climates and soil conditions have contributed to the proliferation of unique varietals of grapes, many of which have become household names. Sauvignon blanc is a green grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. Also from France, Pinot Noir is a red grape variety whose name is derived from the French words for pine and black. A white grape variety, Riesling originated in the Rhine region of Germany.

When the Brew Staff at Legion Brewing developed a hankering to incorporate grapes into an upcoming beer, they looked not to France or Germany for the vinous fruit. In keeping with Legion’s practice of sourcing local ingredients, they dialed up Rocky Ridge Farms in Inman, SC, who supplied us with a generous supply of Muscadines.

Perhaps less refined than some of their European counterparts, we like to think that the undeniable twang one gets when biting into a Muscadine goes part in parcel with the twang heard on Southern tongues. A grapevine species native to the Southeastern United States, the natural progenitor of the Muscadine grape still grows freely in the wild in these parts! Not surprisingly, Native Americans enjoyed the fruits of this vine, and Muscadines have been extensively cultivated since the 16th Century.

Making wine from Muscadines is pretty straightforward, but how does one incorporate them into a beer? Our Brewers thought long and hard, landing on a white-wine inspired, Kettle Sour aged on American White Oak. As a nod to its primary ingredient, we’ve named it Vine of the South (Carolina Grape Kettle Sour; 4.2% ABV; 18 IBUs). This beer is bursting with juicy flavor and tartness, drawing from the unique characteristics of the tasty grapes themselves.

“Bringing Vine of the South to life was a complex process,” notes Associate Brewer (and expectant father), Patty Lodge. “We began by kettle-souring, which we hoped would give this beer a sharp, lemony tartness. Then we hand-mashed Muscadines to preserve their natural flavors as much as possible and tossed them into the fermentation tank, skins and all.”

“Finally, we aged the nearly-finished brew on White American Oak cubes in a brite tank for about a week. I’m really pleased with the end result. Vine of the South has all the makings of a light, tart and refreshing beverage,” Patty concluded.

We are told that in ancient times, Muscadines were referred to as the ‘Mother Vine.’ As a gift from Mother Earth to those of us living in the Carolinas, we think that sounds like as good a name as any. And if there is a Goddess who watches over Mother Earth, something tells us that she’d appreciate the lengths we traveled in order to incorporate her bounty into Vine of the South. All of us at Legion Brewing hope that our customers will too…