What could possibly be better than beer and cider? Two local booze makers, St. Elmo Brewing and Fairweather Cider, might have found the answer — a graf, or beer and cider blend.
The duo will release their collaboration, Graffiti, at the St. Elmo taproom tomorrow both on draft and in four-pack tallboys that may well boast one of the coolest designs you’ve ever seen on beer cans (spray paint lids not included).
Graffiti, at 6.7 percent alcohol by volume, features Fairweather’s house apple juice blended with St. Elmo wort, added to Loral hops and fermented for a month with saison yeast. The result is a bone-dry, saison-like beer with funky apple characteristics.
The graf has been a long time coming: St. Elmo co-founder Bryan Winslow and Fairweather co-founder John Staples homebrewed together a few years before their businesses opened, and one of their projects was a beer and cider blend.
"We’ve had the name and recipe for some time. Now that we’ve got our own places, it was just a matter of fitting it into our production schedules," Staples said.
Even though Graffiti is more like a beer than a cider, there are certain elements of the graf that are distinctive to the Fairweather brand, which launched at the end of last year with a small North Austin cidery and tasting room.
"Bryan paid us immense respect in writing this recipe by keeping our cider ethos in mind — Graffiti is super, super dry with a strong saison characteristic," Staples said.
People tend to think of cider as sweet, but Fairweather prefers to make its cider as though it’s a farmhouse-style ale, with very little residual sugar and a funky aroma. So Graffiti, Winslow said, is actually the driest beer St. Elmo has ever made, relying on a yeast similar to the one Fairweather uses to achieve that dry profile.
The clean branding, however, is undeniably St. Elmo. The brewery and Fairweather had considered combining their branding designs, but they "are so different we thought the styles would compete," Winston said.
He noted that it’s the first graf made in Austin, although other breweries and cideries around the country have dabbled in the rare style before — notably, GRAFF(T), an India pale lager with apple must that New Belgium Brewing created in 2014 with Seattle Cider Co. and Two Beers Brewing.
Other kinds of beverage blends are far more common, such as the braggot (beer and mead) that you can find at Driftwood brewery Vista Brewing and the cyser (mead and cider) that has become an annual release at Texas Keeper Cider in far South Austin. Texas Keeper also makes a couple of wine and cider blends, Grafter Rosé and Grafter Blanc.
The graf might have originated from an unlikely source — Stephen King referenced it in his series "The Dark Tower" as a fusion of apples and malt in a drink.
Pick up four-packs of Graffiti from St. Elmo starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow, at 440 E. Saint Elmo Rd. There is also a very limited number of branded T-shirts at the taproom featuring the Graffiti design.
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