Americans love their pies. From homemade apple pie to pumpkin pie, there’s hardly a diner scene in a movie where someone’s not seen devouring a slice of pie. It’s even more prevalent with special occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie has been the inspiration for many an autumnal brew. This year’s first release was all the way back in June and was followed up by countless others. Pumpkin beer is not just for Halloween and takes in Thanksgiving and the remainders are supped over Christmas along with pie for desert.
For Christmas this year, desert featured chocolate pecan pie. Pecans are a southern US tradition and in Ireland they only tend to pop up in Cuisine de France pastries. Thus year gave me the opportunity to try some pie with a beer made with whole roasted pecans.
Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi’s oldest brewery (well post-prohibition speaking) founded all the way back in 2003. They produce a nut brown ale called Southern Pecan, which has a few awards to its name.
The beer (4.4% abv) pours burnished copper with a slight head that forms a band around the rim of the glass. It’s a malt forward beer (19 IBUs) and its aroma picks up roast vegetable notes with a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar. In keeping with its name, there’s a big hit of pecan on initial tasting with sweet nuttiness on the finish.
While the beer’s fairly light in body, it comes into its own with a good ol’ slice of pie.
Brewers are constantly pushing the boundaries in coming up with new ideas for their beers. We’ve seen every type of wooden barrel chocolate, tobacco, coffee (civet coffee for example) used. Given that it’s October pumpkin beer is commonly expected. A decade or so ago I tried a beer containing actual shamrock from Strangord Lough Brewing Company. This took inspiration from old-school brewing that can be best tasted in the form of Fraoch heather ale from Williams Brothers. But what I’m talking about here is the addition of unique ingredients that seriously try to push credibility factor.
The production of sours is “wild”-spread (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist). They may not be called Lambics for legal reasons but they are produced nonetheless by similar methods. But what about one produced by yeast cultivated for a brewer’s very own beard. That’s what Rogue Ales did. Taking natural yeast from John Maier’s beard (it had been present for over 15,000 brews), they produced Beard Beer.
Is pushing the boundary with such brews a sign of just how competitive it is out there amongst craft breweries? Or is it means of generating free media attention? I’m not necessarily accusing people of being gimmicky. Brewdog’s Never Mind the Anabolics anyone? Produced to coincide with London 2012, the beer that could genuinely get an athlete kicked out of the Olympics.
However, the latest has to be Dogfish Head’s Celest-jewel ale. The Oktoberfest-style beer was brewed lunar meteorites that have been crushed into dust (in addition to the German malts and hops of course). According to the brewery, the resulting product is 5% ABV with 25 IBUs has “notes of doughy malt, toasted bread, subtle caramel and a light herbal bitterness” and in particular the lunar particles contribute a” subtle but complex earthiness. (Or is it mooniness)”. Unfortunately, it’s a beer that will be confined to annals due to its rarity, some of the raw materials cannot be cheap.
Nevertheless, these beers show that creativity is alive and well and that brewers are constantly on the look out for breakthroughs in addition to making incremental innovations in existing styles. Some of them might not be favourites or even drinkable but one thing for sure is that they certainly raise the interest level in beer. I can’t wait to see what’s next.