With basement beginnings & Cincinnati roots, Common Ground intertwines Revel OTR Winery & MadTree Brewing. Celebrate our passion of sharing a great product while connecting with people over great conversation. Here’s to finding your common ground. Below is how this collaboration came together and the process (including overnight grape-picking) of making this beer with Ohio-grown Catawba grapes.
How the collaboration came to be with MadTree Head Brewer, Ryan Blevins:
This collaboration has been a few years in the making. MadTree was approached by the Revel team a few years back about working on a project together. At the time, we went and visited their space in down in Over-The-Rhine in Cincinnati. We checked out the operation, talked all things beer and wine over a couple bottles of wine. That started the journey that has eventually led us to producing Common Ground, a farmhouse ale with Ohio grown Catawba grapes. It’s always a fun time getting together with folks who are just as passionate about the product they make as we are about our beer.
We wanted to go with a beer/wine hybrid so we started off with a light malt base consisting of Ohio grown pilsen malt and some red wheat for body. The wort and freshly pressed Catawba grape juice were added to the fermenter for a co-fermentation. That blend was fermented with a French Saison yeast strain on the cooler side of fermenting temperatures so as to not be as expressive as some Saisons are. We ended up with light citrus notes and phenolics from the Farmhouse yeast strain and nice candied fruit flavors from the Catawba grapes. The results? A drink not overly sweet with a nice dry finish. It truly resembles the combination of wine and beer together.
Choosing, picking and incorporating the grape variety with Revel OTR’s Alex Sena:
When we were looking to source the grapes for this project, we had two parameters we couldn’t budge on:
1) The grape had to be grown in Ohio.
2) They had to be high quality.
Even with the storied history of this grape in our state, it isn’t easy to find a grower that gives this once regal grape the respect it deserves. Enter Debonne Vineyards
. Located in Madison, OH the Debevc family has been farming grapes on this land for four generations since 1916. Currently operated by Tony Debevc Jr., he one of the most experienced growers in the state and consistently produces award winning estate wines.
The Catawba grape has significantly contributed to the cultural heritage of Cincinnati. In the early 19th century it was the most widely planted wine grape in the United States. Cincinnati was the center of wine production during that time and Nicolas Longworth’s Champagne style Sparkling Catawba made the region famous. The flavor and aroma profile is usually defined by candied fruit, stone fruit, and a subtle, but distinct earthy or musky character.
Because of the unpredictable nature of growing wine grapes, especially in Ohio, we had to be at the ready to venture north for harvesting. We received the call on Oct 3rd that the grapes had reached optimal ripeness for our project, but there was a weather system moving in on the 6th resulting in a very small window to pick.
I recruited two pickers and got on the road as soon as possible. We got to the vineyard at 6pm on the 5th of October. With the rain starting at noon the next day, it meant we had to pick well into the evening. We finished harvesting the next morning and started the 5-hour drive back to Cincinnati. We kept the grapes chilling overnight in a refrigerated truck. The next day, Ryan Blevins met up with the Revel crew for some back alley crushing. The first step is running the grapes through our destemmer which separates and gently crushes the berries. Then we lower the must to the cellar on the hand operated elevator and load it into our pneumatic bladder press. We used only free run juice for this brew, which is the highest quality juice collected before applying any mechanical pressure.
Label design – A closer look with Revel OTR owner, Anthony Maieron:
A black sheep is unlike other members of a group, often due to intentional rebelliousness and breaking away from the norm. When we decided to make wine from scratch in an 1885 historic Over the Rhine District building, it became a defining factor to our story. Add an up-tempo, unpretentious vibe and serving wine in stemless juice glasses, we set out to be that Black Sheep in our industry. We fully embrace the black sheep persona while never sacrificing on quality. This is why Revel Urban Winery sources grapes from the best wine producing locations in North America. The mixture of classic Italian style wine making in an urban environment is the essential old world meets new.
I learned how to make wine from my Italian father in his garage at the age of 6. I enjoyed every second of it. There was always a bottle of wine out being served in random juice glasses. It was was an unpretentious, Italian vibe that I absolutely loved. When we started Revel, we wanted to recreate this environment and it all starts with the juice glasses my father still drink out of today.