Renegade Urban Winery, Bethnal Bubbles

Bethnal Bubbles occupies a space between beer and wine, bringing some of the best elements from both beverages. Orange and grass aromas precede a dry, lip-smacking grape skin flavour. It’s celebratory and experimental, the perfect drink for a party. Bethnal Bubbles is vegan-friendly and gluten-free. 4/5

The intersection between beer and wine is a fascinating place. In some ways, the two worlds are polar opposites: wine is refined, elegant, European; beer is brash, the beverage of the barbaric Brits (or even worse, Americans). So when those two worlds overlap, interesting things happen.

Bourbon County Stout straddles those worlds: at 14%, aged in oak barrels and served in 750ml bottles, it shares more characteristics with a fine wine than a mass produced light beer. The Rodenbach beers I tasted last week occupy a similar space, even borrowing names like “grand cru” from the wine industry.

This week, I decided to try a different approach. This week, I took a look at the beer-wine divide from the other side.

Opening Bethnal Bubbles hopped wine

Renegade Urban Winery doesn’t play by any normal rules. After a brief period trying to recreate traditional wine styles, they committed fully to experimentation and innovation in 2017. Since then Renegade has been mixing up wines both figuratively and literally from their home in the Bethnal Green railway arches, right next to Old Street Brewing.

When you pack businesses together like this you create the perfect atmosphere for ideas to flourish. And so we’re treated to Bethnal Bubbles: a sparkling, dry hopped white wine. English grapes and American hops combine to give us a new beverage that surprises and delights. It’s not a beer, but it’s not truly a wine either – an adventure into the hazy realm between the two.

Bethnal Bubbles hopped wine
Enjoyed here during an especially raucous Zoom birthday party

Bethnal Bubbles looks like a high-end apple juice or organic cider: it’s pale yellow and extremely hazy. Most of the ‘lees’ – wine-speak for the yeast still in the bottle – is dispersed through the beverage, but there’s a small pile of sediment at the bottom of the bottle that we’re careful not to disturb too much.

The aroma is fresh and fruity. Right away the Citra and Mosaic hop characters shine through, bringing notes of orange pith and cut grass. On the palate, Bethnal Bubbles is dry and very slightly bitter. White grape skins bring a drying, lip-smacking taste while those orange aromas still dance over the tongue. The bubbles are gentle, helping to unlock those more delicate aromas rather than overpowering them.

Renegade is nearing the end of its stock of Bethnal Bubbles, so if you want to try a bottle you’d better get over here quickly unless you come across a sneaky stash in your local wine merchant. For those willing to wait, Renegade has said they’ll be releasing a new hopped wine in a couple of months. You can count on me being among the first queuing up for the next edition. 4/5

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