Before you get turned off by the name alone, “noble rot” is a fungus that grows on wine grapes. Too much funk and the grapes are ruined. Just the right amount of stink and you can use the grapes to make tasty, sweet wine. It reads better in French – pourriture noble.
Dogfish Head takes a saison ale (spicy, fruity) and adds grape juice that’s been infected with the noble rot fungus. (This has got to be the first time I’ve read a beer label that proudly used the word “infected.”) As the brewmasters say in this video, the final product is a mash-up of beer and wine.
Having no idea what kind of glass to use for this Brundlefly, I broke out a Kentucky Derby glass. Noble Rot pours a straw yellow with a head of loose bubbles that vanish within thirty seconds. The aroma is like a hefeweizen with a shot of white zin – malty, fruity, sweet.
The first sip is beery, then a wave of white wine, then a lighter wave of grape skin bitterness. The second sip turns the two around – sparkling wine with a malty finish. Yes, this is – not surprisingly – a lot like a wheaty beer topped off with wine. If you gave it to someone and didn’t say, I’ll guess they’d guess it’s a semi-dry pinot with an odd aftertaste.
As a guy who doesn’t care for white wine, I will say it’s not cloying like so many whites. Maybe that’s what you can do with it. Give Noble Rot to your wino friends who refuse an ale and your beer snob buddies who walk past the Riesling. Either way, Noble Rot has a wine-style kick – 9% ALC.