Every year Harpoon Brewery flies some of it’s employees to a foreign country to soak in the sights and sample some of the local brews. These trips typically serve as inspiration for new selections in their 100 Barrel Series of small-batch artisanal beer. I’ve been a fan of this series of experimental brews since its inception, I think it’s a great way for a nationally distributed craft brewer to be innovative. The most recent beer in the 100 Barrel Series is Tuscan Pool Party, inspired by a journey of Harpoon employees to the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany, and really all of Italy, is known for their succulent and historical vineyards, so it is interesting that Harpoon went here in search of inspiration to make great beer. Many European countries that have rich wine making history are beginning to embrace the complex flavors of American-style craft beer. You can now find hop-bomb IPAs being brewed in Spain, Italy and other countries that traditionally favor wine. Harpoon embraced the Tuscan wine culture with their new beer, Tuscan Pool Party is brewed with juice from Sangiovese and Merlot grapes. The Sangiovese grape is incredibly important to this region, it is the main grape in Chianti and other famous Tuscan wines. Harpoon Tuscan Pool Party is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers. I was intrigued by the idea of brewing a beer with the addition of wine grape juice, so I sought this out to try.
Harpoon Tuscan Pool Party pours a purple-tinted orange (not a color I usually write in a beer review) with a mild white head. You definitely get some wine notes in the scent along with a little floral hoppiness. The taste is very complex, nothing jumps to the forefront. The wine is there, oaky vanilla, acidic grapes, touches of cherry and plum. The hops make an appearance, a little lemon, mango and earthiness, but I wouldn’t call this a “hoppy” beer. There are also some lighter malts, crackers and toast, so you know you are drinking a beer and not a glass of wine. The beer is light bodied and drinkable, not bitter, but crisp and refreshing. I was a little surprised at the 7.6% ABV, on the high side for a beer that drinks like a pale ale. The finish is dry with some tannic notes. Honestly the idea of mixing red wine with beer wasn’t that appealing to me, but I’ve consistently enjoyed Harpoon’s 100 Barrel releases and this beer far exceeded my expectations. Hoppy Boston score 4.25/5.
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