For those of you who have visited our pub lately, you’ll know that we have transitioned our lineup of rotating offerings to reflect the cooling weather. This is my favorite time of year to make “seasonal” beers; there is a wide variety of freshly harvested produce, and people seem to be excited to drink heavier, more complex beers again. Gone are the light, crisp beers of summer, and in their place we have darker, more robust releases that match the diminished daylight, rain and colder temperatures of an Oregon autumn. Many of these beers are traditiional styles–we have a strong ESB and oatmeal stout available as I write this, and very soon we’ll have two new, unique beers that reflect the transition of the seasons.
It’s become an annual tradition for us to make a couple of pumpkin beers at Breakside. Unlike many pumpkin ales that get released in September or (the horror!) August, we wait until fresh pumpkins can be had and the temperatures are cool to make our two pumpkin beers. I fully understand why many brewers release their pumpkin beers early: sales of these beers, especially in bottles or cans, peak in early October and die off by mid November. Because we do these in very small batches (only 6-7 kegs), we don’t feel the pressure to make and move the beer so early.
With that said, we’ll tap our 2012 Vintage Pumpkin Biere de Garde this Sunday. Biere de Garde is an oddball style. Literally, the name means ‘beer for cellaring,’ and it’s often associated with French farmhouse beers that are slightly maltier than Belgian saisons. Jeff Alworth over at Beervana has pointed out that biere de gardes are actually far more diverse than mainstream style guidelines suggest. Our version of it uses the Thiriez yeast, flaked oats and malted wheat to produce an amberish beer with a lot of residual body and a strong yeast profile. As for pumpkin, we cut, clean, roast and skin the pumpkin in our kitchen at the brewpub and then add it to the fermentor, where the wort sits in direct contact with the pumpkin during fermentation. Each year, we rotate the spice profile on this beer, and we try and steer away from doing anything that resembles pumpkin pie or other stereotypical pumpkin beer spices. Last year, our mix included cinnamon, sage, and lemongrass. This year, we’ve spiced the beer with candy cap mushrooms, fresh ginger, and Jacobsen sea salt. If you’ve never worked with candy cap mushrooms, they are one of the most delicious and aromatic fungi on the planet–they literally smell and taste like maple sugar, so don’t expect a ton of earthiness here. The balance of acid (from the yeast), light vegetal notes from the pumpkin, sweetness from the mushrooms, and zip from the ginger create a beer with a ton of depth. Most of this beer will be served at the Dekum pub, but we will be sending a small amount out to The Beermongers, Bazi Bierbrasserie, and Bailey’s Taproom. The second pumpkin beer, our Imperial Pumpkin Cream Stout, will be released shortly before Thanksgiving.
Even more evocative of fall is a beer that I’m going to brew this Sunday, so it should be available by November 10: a Smoked Apple Ale. Inspired by memories of autumn (think, the smell of burning leaves) in Michigan, historical writings about gratzerbier, and New Glarus Brewing’s Apple Ale, this is a new beer for us and I’m incredibly excited about it. It will use some oak-smoked wheat from Germany and a small amount of traditional apple pie spices (freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg, allspice and ginger) as well as about 50 liters of freshly pressed apple juice. The base beer also uses a good bit of crystal malt so there is a dark, red color and a bit of caramel in the flavor as well.
Be sure to come by the pub while these small batch offerings are available! I don’t expect either will last more than a few weeks on draught.