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Why Do So Many Winemakers Love Modelo?

It takes a lot of beer to make wine. But what kind, exactly?

There’s an old saying: “It takes a lot of beer to make wine.”

After long days of picking, crushing and cleaning during the warm months of harvest season, the last thing most winemakers want to drink is wine. More often than not, they’re reaching for the classic, post-work yeoman’s drink: cold, crisp, carbonated beer.

We asked 21 winemakers from California to Vermont what bottles and cans are in their fridges come harvest season. From Modelo to IPAs, European brews and the American “King of Beers,” here are their picks.

“COORS BANQUET! I’m a sucker for the stubby bottles. I also love how light the beer is without being sweet or watery. To quote chef Ashley Christensen, it’s a ‘beer-flavored beer.’ Perfect at the end of a long night of picking.”
— Jasmine Hirsch, Hirsch Vineyards, CA

“No doubt that it takes a lot of beer to make wine. On warm harvest days I love nothing more than a light beer (Modelo Especial, Montauk Summer Ale, that sort of thing). I wouldn’t call myself a beer lover other than for the purpose of quick refreshment after hard work when it’s warm.”
— Charles Bieler, Bieler Family Wines, WA

“We go through a lot of beer, and we like it refreshing. Tecate and Modelo are always in the winery fridge, and any German pilsner we can find out here in Napa, normally Bitburger, but Reissdorf Kölsch or Pinkus Pils go fast. Really though, it’s Modelo that’s our staple. We use beer to celebrate completing a milestone, to boost morale when the day gets long, to get psyched up for cleaning and to make the paperwork at the end of a 12-hour day a little less painful. It’s not a winery without beer in the fridge, music playing and the dog laying around somewhere.”
— Steve Matthiasson, Matthiasson Wines, CA

“I am partial to New England style IPAs, especially from Other Half (being a Brooklyn native and all) and to the beers of Westbrook in South Carolina, who I partner with to make my Massican Birra Bianca. Before and during harvest I typically order 24 cans of Westbrook at a time (they fit perfectly in 12-pack Styrofoam wine shippers) from Edmund’s Oast in Charleston. Recently, I’ve been addicted to Two Claw, Westbrook’s double rye IPA. I hoard them.”
— Daniel Petroski, Massican Winery, CA

“Modelo Negra and anything from Bale Breaker in Yakima Valley, WA. My brother’s favorite is Top Cutter IPA… I’m more of a lightweight Field 41 Pale Ale.”
— Anna Schaefer, àMaurice Cellars, WA

“Fort Point KSA and Pinkus Organic Ur-Pils. Love those two.”
— Samantha Sheehan, POE/Ultraviolet/Mommenpop, CA

“When you’re up to your ears in grapes, the last thing you want is wine. As far as which one, that’s easy: Trumer Pils. Only one block away and luckily the head brewer likes wine as much as we like beer! They’re doing cans now, which is good, as the bottles kept bouncing off my forklift.”
— Chris Brockway, Broc Cellars, CA

“My harvest libations of choice are Anchor Steam and Fort Point KSA. The first because it was the beer my father always drank on late harvest nights when I was growing up and I was allowed to have sips. The taste of Anchor Steam and harvest go hand-in-hand for me. The second because I love clean and light beers that have flavor but are not too hoppy, that will clean tannin out of my mouth and won’t knock me sideways with alcohol when working really long hours.”
— Morgan Twain-Peterson, Bedrock Wine Co., CA

“When Adam Tolmach and I started ABC in 1982, and couldn’t get his brother Jonathan’s home brew (the best!), we tasted a lot of beer. We settled on brews like Swiss Löwenbräu, Pilsen Callao from Peru and surprisingly, Bohemia. By the early ’90s, I was too busy to branch out, so returned to the more commercial Heineken, the special, seasonal Sierra Nevada and, ultimately, Stella Artois. Now out of deference to our cellarmaster Enrique and his Latino band of heroes in the cellar, we drink Modelo Especial (much improved).”
— Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat, CA

“I have to confess that after fiddling around with other drinks the tried and true Modelo Especial in a can remains the king in our cave. Got to place a premium on thirst quenchability. We generally crack some ice-cold ones and walk up the ramp to see what the world aboveground is up to after a day of subterranean toil.”
— Scott Frank, Bow & Arrow, OR

“I’m personally a sour beer gal myself. Sours are the perfect winemaker catnip: they hit all the thirst quenching beer notes without being wine, but have the acidity that I crave. My favorites domestically are from nearby Russian River Brewing Company, particularly Supplication and Beatification. If you don’t mind a teeny bit of hops, Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja is tasty. Of course the Belgians are favorites, especially Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen, and if you can find it, Krøkkebic from HaandBryggeriet in Norway is great. And I know I shouldn’t be bringing Brett into the winery, so I make sure to drink every last drop!”
— Martha Stoumen, Martha Stoumen Wines, CA

“Our winemaker Angela Osborne’s post-harvest beverage tradition started when she was working in Sonoma and would enjoy the local brews from Moonlight Brewing Co. While she is no longer in Sonoma and unable to get Moonlight, she still enjoys winding down with a post-work beverage. Now being in the Central Coast with much drier weather, the beverage vacillates between a Lagunitas Pils (as an homage to when she lived on a sailboat in Petaluma) or a Gin and Tonic with extra lime.”
— Tymari LoRe, Folded Hills, CA

“We like to change it up throughout the year, but if you look in our fridge now [it’s] Seismic Brewing Co.’s Liquifaction, Magnolia Kölsch and the ever-present Trumer Pils. All very refreshing!”
— Duncan Arnot Meyers, Arnot-Roberts, CA

“Without a doubt, our go-to brew comes from a brewery just a few hundred yards away, made by the father-daughter duo at Heater Allen. We love the subtlety and freshness across their whole range of beers, and their subtle hand with hops.”
— Jason Lett, Eyrie Vineyards, OR

“I generally like beer-flavored beer: Modelo Especial, Miller High Life, PBR or anything that is cold, clean and refreshing. But, that being said, I am kinda obsessed with Cucumber Crush, a sour made by 10 Barrel Brewery in Bend, OR. at the moment.”
— Pax Mahle, Pax Mahle Wines, CA

“I am an avid home brewer and always brew us a beer to keep on tap for harvest. This year I made a beer we are calling the Hazy Days Brown Ale. It has a brown ale, malty profile but with a lot of late hop additions and some haze to it. The second beer we have been loving is the Ninkasi Prismatic IPA, a lighter version of IPA that is quaffable and super juicy. We generally don’t drink any beers for most of our work day, but as soon as the hoses come out and we start to clean up, we make sure that everyone has a nice cold beer to enjoy on the crush pad.”
— Brandon Moss, Gramercy Cellars, WA

“I’d say we kind of steer in two directions. During lunch, we’ll enjoy a Floodland Brewing beer, some incredibly interesting beers crafted by our good friend Adam Paysse in Seattle. We sell him some Johan fruit and he always makes some very interesting beers with it—very cool to see such a different expression! After a long day of harvest, the crew drinks Heater Allen Pils, to quench and refresh.”
— Morgan Beck, Johan Vineyards, OR

“Beer is a large part of our daily calories during harvest. We at Day Wines tend to work and work and sometimes forget to stop and eat. A beer near the end of the day keeps away hunger pains and is a great thirst quencher. One of the harvest helpers—my friend and sommelier Matty Colston—and I were out grocery shopping a few days ago. When we were unloading groceries we found that we both had chosen the exact same beer: Buoy Beer Company’s Czech Pilsner. That beer is so delicious with a pleasantly bitter finish. My favorite late-night, midnight, clean-up beer is Rainier, but the Buoy is a little more substantial for when I’m not so tired that I don’t care anymore.”
— Brianne Day, Day Wines, OR

“We love our beer, especially during harvest. Our favorite is Modelo [Especial] on tap, with a salted glass rim.”
— Megan Glaab, Ryme Cellars, CA

“If I had my beer of choice, my absolute favorite is Edward from Hill Farmstead. But I can only get that on tap if I go to one of our local watering holes, The Worthy Burger. There’s a great little pub brewery in Vergennes near two of our vineyards called The Hired Hand. I love popping in for their Tractor Pils which is light, refreshing and energizing. But we can’t always head to a pub after, so when in the field I love the Switchback Citra-Pils. For something a little hardier when the weather is cool, I’ll always go for The Shed’s Mountain Ale.”
— Deirdre Heekin, La Garagista, VT

“Post-crush days, I reach for the King of Beers, Budweiser.”
— Tegan Passalacqua, Turley Wine Cellars, CA

Photos, clockwise from upper left: Hirsch Vineyards, Scott Frank/Bow & Arrow, Patrick Cappiello for Martha Stoumen Wines, Ryme Cellars

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