Warm up to a darker brew.
By Michael Dwyer
If you want a break from beer, try Pumpkincello, a new drink originating at ONE, Midtown Kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia, and concocted by bar manager Dawn Jones. Think of it as vodka infused with pumpkin or a Halloween spin on limoncello. Top it with a tablespoon of half and half, add to a martini glass with a crushed graham cracker rim…and sip. The next “IT” drink of the season. Go to Dining SEEN at www.neighborhoodseen.com for the recipe.
October is the transition into the harvest season celebrating the bounty of the earth in both food and drink. Autumn brings shorter days, cooler nights and warmer beers to Michigan, including stouts, porters and browns. In addition, pumpkin beers bubble up at many local breweries just in time for Halloween.
The German Influence
Oktoberfest beer, which is higher in alcohol, is one of those warmer beers. “It is malty, not hoppy, and goes well with all kinds of foods, exceptionally well with pork and chicken,” says Rex Halfpenny, Publisher of the Michigan Beer Guide. “At other times of the year, lower alcohol styles of similar profile are called Vienna and Marzen. It is from these styles Oktoberfest evolved.”
Before the days of refrigeration, brewers used ingredients that were available to them throughout the year. To preserve these stronger brews, darker beer was made in the fall. The cooler temperatures of winter helped to store the beverage.
Many seasonal beers are wet hopped, which refers to using fresh hops off the bine immediately after harvesting without being processed. “That creates a different flavor,” says Dianna Stampfler, President of Promote Michigan, and “there are pumpkin beers,” as well, “which are fall oriented.”
“Another big hit for the autumn season are the pumpkin beers,” says Halfpenny. “A more accurate descriptor would be pumpkin spice beers because most pumpkin beers do not actually have pumpkin in them. They are malty beers … brewed with addition of spices … typically nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and ginger. However, some brewers do actually add pumpkin; a great example of this is Griffin Claw Screaming Pumpkin.”
“You also see stouts, porters and browns, which are heavier, making a return to the spotlight in the fall when people are eating heartier meals,” Stampfler says.
“There are the seasonal releases by breweries that are only available during the season. A longtime favorite is Bells Best Brown,” Halfpenny says. In addition, Halfpenny suggests Roak Brewing Company for their Roaka Cadabarra Spiced Apple Brown as a fun fall adult beverage.
The seasons for beer are more traditional now and offer the enthusiastic beer drinker variety all year long. For beer aficionados, the time leading up to Halloween is their Christmas morning. NS
By The Numbers
In 2005, Michigan had 86 breweries producing 78,889 barrels of beer (each barrel holds 31 gallons).
By 2015, 280 breweries were in Michigan producing 501,101 beer barrels.
Michigan Pumpkin Beers
While there are many fall brews to choose from in Michigan, here are four Pumpkin Beers to try.
• Ichabod, New Holland Brewing, Holland www.newhollandbrew.com
Combines malted barley and real pumpkin with cinnamon and nutmeg in a delicious and smooth brew.
• Pumpkin Ale, Motor City Brewing Works, Detroit www.motorcitybeer.com
A special combination of oven roasted Detroit grown pumpkins and spices, along with a traditional Belgium yeast for a wonderful rich, earth and spicy undertone.
• Screamin’ Pumpkin Ale, Griffin Claw Brewing Company, Birmingham www.griffinclawbrewingcompany.com
Like a slice of warm pie – cinnamon, clove, sweet pumpkin, a little molasses – the perfect beer to celebrate Halloween.
• Jaw-Jacker, Arcadia Brewing Company, Kalamazoo www.arcadiaales.com
A brilliant orange-amber color, despite the absence of pumpkin in the recipe. The addition of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg creates a refreshingly spicy, season brew.
Traditional Beer Ingredients Found In Michigan
Water is one of the most important ingredients in the brewing process. Michigan is fortunate to be surrounded by the Great Lakes that provide an unlimited resource of quality, local water.
Malt, another main ingredient of beer, is barley that has been steeped in water, allowed to germinate, and then heat dried, which stops germination. The type of barley, the level of germination allowed, and the temperature of drying all influence the resulting flavor of the malts. Other cereal grains can also be malted, such as wheat or rye. Several Michigan brewers use a portion of local malt in almost every beer they brew.
Hops are cone-like flowers grown on a bine. They are responsible for the bitterness in beer and add balance by counteracting the sweetness of malts. Widely used for approximately 500 years, hops can act as a preservative in beer and contribute certain proteins to the mixture that aid in head retention when poured in the glass. Despite the challenging nature of growing hops successfully, several hop farms have surfaced in western and northern Michigan. The ability to get fresh hops the same day they are harvested has allowed many brewers to produce wet-hopped harvest ales.