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This One Goes to Eleven Imperial Red Ale
Karl Strauss Brewing's Imperial Red Ale, "This One Goes to Eleven." Photo courtesy of Karl Strauss Brewing
Cheers! North County Columns Food & Wine

Cheers! North County: This beer has grapes in it?

Karl Strauss Brewing’s 12 Days holiday series — in which they release a unique seasonal holiday beer each year — has been running for 11 years, with one more to go. That’s a long time to commit to a bit. The 11th installment is called, “This One Goes to Eleven” Imperial Red Ale.

It’s a style I’m partial too. I greedily accepted a sample to test drive, but when examining the rock n’ roll-themed label I noticed something unusual. This beer has wine grapes in it. Cabernet grapes to be exact, and my first thought as a lover of red ales was, “But why?” So I asked Paul Segura, the 20+ year veteran brewmaster at Karl Strauss.

Cheers!: What was the inspiration for adding the cabernet grapes to this beer?

Paul: We were inspired to make something very similar to my favorite all-time beer – our 21st Anniversary ale.  That beer was a Belgian Strong Ale fermented with an old vine zinfandel varietal.

Cheers!: How does adding the grapes impact the brewing process?

Paul: The sugars from the grapes — like sugars from barley and wheat — are fermentable.  They contribute to a higher alcohol content as well as imparting color and flavors in the finished beer.

Cheers!: Is the assumption that there will be a wine-like component or flavor profile in the beer that the cabernet grapes are supposed to produce?

Paul: Absolutely! There is a deep ruby-like color as well as grape jam-like flavors and aromas, followed by a nice, slightly dry, French oak finish.

Cheers!: What tasting advice would you have for someone drinking this beer for the first time?

Paul: This will taste unlike any beer you’ve had before so keep an open mind as you enjoy it. Since this beer is over 9% ABV it can be “cellared” meaning stored in a cool place (ideally your refrigerator) to be drunk at a later date.  However, it’s perfectly fine to go ahead and enjoy it right now alongside any food that you might pair with a robust red wine. From all the brewers here at Karl Strauss, we hope you share this beer with friends and family and wish you happy holidays!

Help a service work in-need. Donate to the Burning Beard In-The-Woods program!

Next year’s holiday seasonal brew will be the final beer in the series, and despite my questioning, the team at Karl Strauss is denying they know what it will be. Before we start the clock on waiting for next year, you can enjoy the 11th-holiday installment, which is currently available for draft to-go at the Karl Strauss brewpub in Carlsbad and in 22oz bomber bottles throughout the season.

They’re also offering a gift card promotion both in-store and online that includes an additional $10 gift card for every $50 purchased (through 12/31). From the team at Karl Strauss, “During this time we believe it is more important than ever to support local businesses to help us all survive the holiday season as we return to takeout dining, exclusively.”

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of the Cheers! North County podcast featuring appearances by Elle French from local tequila company Cosa Salvaje, and stay tuned because Season 3 starts on New Years Day.

Don’t forget to follow Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Got an interesting story about your drinking adventures? Reach out! I want to hear it.

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