Tired of pumpkin-galore seasonal brews? Take a ride off the pumpkin patch with these counter-culture beers.
First We Feast—an e-zine focused on food, spirits, and pop culture — just launched a new web series, “That’s Odd . . . Let’s Drink It” at Eataly, with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, lionized for experimental brewing. Each episode of the six-part series pairs Sam with a celebrity in a particular field to improvise a beer.
Sam showed up in good spirits with Mario Batali debuting the show with their free-style mix featured with an off-kilter lineup of Dogfish Head fall beers. If you’re looking for off-the-cuff beer-poetry, turn to Dogfish Head. Punkin Ale (yes, it’s Pumpkin but different) made with pumpkin meat, spices, and brown sugar. It’s maltier than typical pumpkin profiles because it’s brewed with actual pumpkin meat without the cinnamon and sugar rush. Also on tap was Sixty One, a Dogfish Head staple made with wine, the “One,” fused with its 60 minute IPA label—60 hop additions per 60 minute IPA boil. The fruity tonalities of the wine contend with the bitter East Coast IPA persona typified by Northwest citrusy hops. For a porter, Dogfish offers Choc Lobster, brewed with real boiled lobsters, basil tea, and cocoa powder. I expected to taste more cocoa, but it had a briny and herbal dominance with a light finish. And it won’t sink you with an ABV of 5.6%. On the lighter side is Fort, a Belgian-style ale base fermented with Raspberry juice, brewed the same as a 120 minute IPA—120 hop additions per 120 minute IPA boil. Finally, Mario and Sam’s “Pruno” was introduced. Pruno is a prison grog illegally fermented out of a fruit, sugar, bread for the yeast, and a container to ferment it in—for effect of course, not the refined palate. But they created their craft version out of unusable Eataly produce as an example to other brewers and restaurants to counter the food-waste epidemic. The result was light and bitter and perfect for a spring to fall transition.
Sam was an English major in college and brewed his first beer in an NYC apartment bathtub. I asked him what his favorite novel about drinking was. “A Moveable Feast,” he said, by Hemingway. Perhaps a beer in the making as an homage? Or one as a memorial to his first beer crafted in a tiny NYC tub? Either way, both would be tastefully daring. Check out the web series at That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It and visit Dogfish Head Brewery for more.
Victory Brewing Co., a prevalent mark in craft brewing based in Pennsylvania, is making a different cheers to the season for the discerning enthusiast. Victory Brewing uses whole flower hops—the whole dried cone flower—versus pellet hops, which are mashed into pellets. Reason being, they impart more naturally existing aromas and flavors as opposed to pellet hops, in which these profiles are lost during pelletization. Winter Cheers is a seasonal manifestation with this in mind, slightly off course from other contemporaries. It mimics a Witbier with the high concentration of wheat, coriander, and cinnamon spices, brewed with American Citra Hops—strong citrus and tropical notes—and German Tettnang hops, which convey herbal and floral aromas. The brew is also infused with torrified wheat for added body and head leading a frothy, spicy, and full-bodied seasonal. Not to mention the 6.7% ABV whetting conversation.
Victory is also releasing a new India Pale Ale, Vital IPA. Brewed with whole flower American hops and German two-row malts adding maltier flavor and a fuller amber color and aroma. The IPA race usually trends towards pungent and citrusy, but Vital has released the gas pedal moving towards a finer balance between pungent and malt never losing the genre’s citrus or tropical accords. Served in cans at 6.5% ABV it’s a vital addition to rooftop or bonfire gatherings. Check out Victory Beer for availability and more.
Angry Orchard also has a hand in fall activities if you want a time-out from beer with its newest cider, Stone Dry. The most ubiquitous in hard cider developers, you would think Angry Orchard would be bored at this point, but they’re really devoted to the craft. Directly to the point, it’s the driest in Angry Orchard’s entire roster, which is refreshing for those looking for diversion, but the particular style traces back to English ciders known for their dry tannins. Angry Orchard took this history in a bottle and blended it with culinary apples and traditional cider tannins. Don’t expect the standard sweet and sour play-off, toned down and yielding instead to a malty complement—explaining its color depth, atypical of ciders. Not to say it’s devoid of sweetness, but your palate has to work for it. But it’s worth the effort and deserves a place in the fridge. Check out Angry Orchard for availability and more.