Scott Johnson acknowledges that merging beer and wine in one glass might sound a little weird. He also swears by the result.
Solid Ground Brewing, a new brewery in El Dorado County, combines Johnson’s winemaking background with the beer brewing experience of his co-founder KC Sare. Along with creating standard lagers and ales, Johnson and Sare are producing some of their beers by using winemaking techniques and by infusing wine into the brew.
Solid Ground, which features a 30-barrel brewhouse, taproom and kitchen, opened this summer at 552 Pleasant Valley Road in Diamond Springs. It’s planning an “Oktoberfest”-themed grand opening starting Sept. 16 and running through Oct. 3.
Johnson, 30, and Sare, 39, met working at Perry Creek Winery, where Johnson is still a winemaker. Johnson studied Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Sare has a degree in brewing and distilling science from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland.
“I think a lot of people typically think mixing wine and beer (is) very strange in general,” Johnson said. “But it actually works really well. The wine has an acid component that adds a cleansing aspect to the beer. The two marry up well. It’s fun. It’s something different.”
Johnson said the brewery has tried out a few wine-beer blends. For one, they took a basic IPA and blended in viognier, a full-bodied white wine that has “an apricot-ginger aroma,” Johnson said. Another brew, called Devil’s Tower, is a 10.3-percent alcohol imperial stout aged in wine barrels and blended with a petite sirah, which lends “an oak component.”
To mark the wine harvest, Johnson said the brewery is trying something new – creating an “orange wine” using a traditional fermenting technique popular in Croatia and blending it with a strong blonde ale and Brettanomyces, a form of yeast. The result, he said, is “a soured, wine-beer-blended, barrel-aged beer.”
Solid Ground takes a more typical approach to brewing its lagers and offers more mainstream beers such as IPAs as well as wine on tap. The venue’s kitchen, led by chef Shane McMahon, produces what Johnson described as “elevated club food” – shareable dishes like sliders, street tacos and fries designed to pair with the beer.
The brewery also offers brunch on Sundays and is open daily from 12-9 p.m.