There is an old adage that goes, “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” It would be unusual, in the harvest-time heat, for a winemaker, cellar worker, or grape picker to unwind after a shift in the field with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, anecdotal evidence regularly shows nothing quenches post-work thirst like a cold beer.
With that in mind, we asked winemakers in California, New York, and beyond to fess up about their go-to beers of choice. In doing so, we found that answers span American macro to Mexican lagers all the way to citrus-forward, high-ABV IPA.
Read on to find out what’s really quenching winemakers’ thirsts after a day in the vineyard.
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The Best Beers Recommended by Winemakers:
- Russian River Apical Dominance
- Stone Delicious IPA
- Modelo Especial
- Coors Light
- Pilsner Urquell
- Hamm’s Beer
- Genesee Cream Ale
- Blue Mountain Brewery Full Nelson
- Pizza Port Ponto Session IPA
- Lucky Hare Brewing Fruit Salad Sour
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended beers!
“As for a crush pad beer under the California sun after a long harvest day of making Cabernet, a cool, refreshing lighter style beer is my go-to. Beggars can’t be choosers on the crush pad. A well-earned cold beer after a long harvest day is the most delicious tasting beer, but if I had to choose I would go with Corona and lime! Off of the crush pad and at home or at a restaurant, my go-to drink would be a Mad Fritz Beer crafted by winemaker and brewmaster Nile Zacherle and his wife Whitney Fisher. Mad Fritz was named after their kids, Madeline and Frederick. Each beer brewed is named after one of Aesop’s Fables, my absolute favorite being ‘The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs Saison Ale.’ Their beers are crafted with the highest attention to detail, best quality local ingredients, and are absolutely delicious!” —Chelsea Hoff, Winemaker & Proprietress, Fearless Wines, St. Helena, Calif.
“I would say that I have always gravitated toward trying to find the best local selections. Beer, for the most part, is best fresh and the best way to get fresh beer is to drink the stuff made down the street. I recently tasted a limited release from Russian River called Apical Dominance that I really enjoyed. I typically lean towards IPAs and pale ales – there is always some Lagunitas IPA in my fridge and Revision, Fogbelt, Hen House, and Barrel Brothers frequently find their way into my shopping cart!” —Nick Briggs, Winemaker, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Geyserville, Calif.
“My current go-to beer is Stone Delicious IPA. I really enjoy the balance of this beer, as the bright citrus flavors blend perfectly with the tasty hops Stone is known for. I love to support local, and Stone started in San Diego where I spend most of my time. I would highly encourage all Napa Valley winemakers to check out the Stone Brewery overlooking the river in downtown Napa. They did an amazing job renovating the 125-plus-year-old stone structure. Napa can now consider Stone ‘local’ as well.” —Rick Mirer, Owner, Mirror Mirror, St. Helena, Calif.
“When we’re in the thick of it, a Mexican lager is the go-to. Modelo and Corona, specifically. These are probably the industry standard. More recently, we’ve been enjoying a beer called Buenaveza by Stone Brewing. This has become a crew favorite at Danza.” —Justin Knight, Winemaker, Danza Del Sol, Temecula, Calif.
“The vintage crew at Fox Run has tastes in beer that run the gamut from Coors Light, to Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The trick is to keep a selection on hand so that no one feels disenfranchised, and no one needs to open a beer that they are personally repelled by.” —Peter Bell, Winemaker, Fox Run Vineyards, Penn Yan, N.Y.
“Winemaking decisions during harvest and blending require a lot of focus on your palate, which is why I prefer a clean, refreshing beer like a pilsner or pale lager. Some of my go-to beers would be Pilsner Urquell, Scrimshaw, or in the heat of harvest, a cold Tecate.” —Zeke Neeley, Winemaker, Kenwood Vineyards, Kenwood, Calif.
“Obviously, at Hope Family Wines, we keep it classy. We drink a lot of Hamm’s, which is hard to find on the Central Coast, but it’s cheap and delicious. Coors Light is an all-day drinker. Modelo Especial is the Mexican lager all-day drinker. Lone Star is a Texas beer we love, and Michelob Ultra is another low-carb beer we can drink all day.” —Samantha Taylor, Assistant Winemaker, Hope Family Wines, Paso Robles, Calif.
“A great representation of the craft brewing industry in Asheville, Highland Brewing was the first to arrive in the area and has been around since I began working at Biltmore Winery in 1999. The Highland Brewing Gaelic Ale is a great beer and it’s really consistent. I always know what to expect. It’s the perfect beer for a winemaker during harvest!”—Sharon Fenchak, Vice President and Winemaker, Biltmore Winery, Asheville, N.C.
“I generally go for something local, falling into two styles: something light, low alcohol and crushable; or a chewier, higher-octane IPA. Think Genesee Cream Ale or recently, War Horse’s Secret Broadcast, a double IPA. I can never choose just one!” —Paige Vinson, Winemaker, Three Brothers Winery, Geneva, N.Y.
“As an Englishman living in America — my family moved here in 2019 to set up the vineyard — it certainly took me a little while to get used to the beer! Back in the U.K., most people still drink lager or bitter. Generally, both of these styles of beers are not very hoppy, so when I first tried the IPAs that are popular here in the U.S., they tasted way too strong. I persevered, though, kind of like a child getting used to spicy food, and I now love them! After a hard day out in the vineyard, I most often reach for a locally brewed Blue Mountain Brewery Full Nelson IPA. Relatively light for an IPA, with floral and citrus notes, it’s a very refreshing beer, which is good if you are a bit parched. The malty backbone gives it an enticing copper color and means it never feels weak. At 5.9 percent ABV, it’s a nice strength so you can have a few in one session.” —Guy Pelly, Co-founder, Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard, Keswick, Va.
“I try to stay local. I love the beers made by Pizza Port here in San Diego. My current favorite is the Ponto, a session IPA. I love most of the beers made by Mike Hess, also local. I love the Little IPA, another session. If it’s a weekend, maybe Hop Cloud, a little higher ABV. Outside the local area, I love Vinnie Cilurzo’s beers — a Temecula boy who with his wife, Natalie, a former employee of Hart, own Russian River Brewery. I love Pliny the Elder. Just so you don’t think I’m a one- trick pony, I do like lighter beers if I’m camping or day drinking. I love Mexican beers, a couple favorites being Pacifico, Bohemia, and Modelo.”
“During harvest, my go-to beer is a Mexican lager. Through extensive research my former assistant winemaker and I both agreed that there’s nothing better than an ice-cold Tecate in the bottle (stays cold longer) after a long hot day on the crush pad.” —Jim Hart, Head Winemaker, Hart Family Winery, Temecula, Calif.
“Much of craft beer is made in the maximalist, attention-grabbing, neon-lights style that I would compare to the ‘90s era of Robert Parker wines. And, while I empathize with these breweries trying to stand out in a crowded market, I find the style difficult to enjoy. I tend to be most impressed with the breweries that can produce beers that show off more than merely the number of materials they can add to a brew. So for after work, local beers from folks like Lucky Hare Brewing (Fruit Salad Sour) and Ithaca Beer are staples, plus I’ve been really loving what I’ve had from Zero Gravity in Vermont and Collective Arts out in Ontario.” —Matt Denci, Winemaker, Treleaven Winery, King Ferry, N.Y.