Local Fall Offerings
We’re into October and thus comes the arrival of many fall beers – mostly pumpkin spiced yam and pumpkin beers from around the country and the United States. For some, these represent something wrong with beer, while for others they are as comforting as the first pumpkin spice latte of the season, a warm embrace of comfort and joy. As our craft beer community continues to grow (we now have four active Winnipeg-based breweries) I thought I’d write about what they are offering this fall.
Every year around this time we see the release of Half Pints Oktoberfest Lager. It’s a traditional German style of beer, also called a Marzen. Before refrigeration it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer time due to bacterial infections caused by the increased heat. This meant most brewing had to be completed by the end of spring (March/Marzen). These beers were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months resulting in a darker, amber colored lager with a higher alcohol content than average. They would typically be rolled out for Oktoberfest celebrations.
This is also the beer that often is transformed into “Punknfest” with pumpkin and spices added to become the “typical” pumpkin fall beer, but this has not been announced yet, nor is it a guarantee. For now, the Oktoberfest is Half Pints’ fall offering.
Appearance: Dark amber-brown pour with a slightly off-beige head
Smell: Caramel notes, dark fruit, slight earthy hop aroma
Taste: Nice malty sweetness brings great flavours that are kept from becoming overly sweet by some nice earthy/grassy hop notes
Even though they are the new kid on the block, this brewery is hammering their beers out of the park. I’ll be doing a write-up on their all-year offerings in the near future, but for now let’s tackle their fall offering, a Dark Pumpkin Ale called “Witching Hour”.
While called a Dark Pumpkin Ale, this beer is brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. This means that while it can be brewed in a similar fashion to another style of beer – in this case an ale – the main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. What I can say about this particular beer is that it is heavily malted providing a very nice caramel rich backbone to compliment the addition of pumpkin (or yams) and spices.
Appearance: Dark brown, bordering on black, with a slight red hue with a tan head.
Smell: Dark malt, caramel sweetness, pumpkin pie spices (nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon) and some roasty notes.
Taste: The sweetness from the dark malt comes through strong and is complimented by the spices. While sweet, it does have some roasted notes to the malt that cut the sweetness just slightly making this beer not overpoweringly sweet. The cinnamon and nutmeg come through with a bit of clove.
Barn Hammer has taken a different route altogether and has brewed a Smoke Pumpkin Saison. This was one of their first test batch beers and they’ve now produced a full run of it for sale at their brewery. Through and through this a saison.
Saisons are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer. Originally created in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was traditionally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common. It had to be sturdy enough to last but not too strong so it would quench your thirst in the summer months. This style of beer is very complex with a lot fruit notes, spices, and earth yeast notes to the beer. They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness. Usually there’s lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness.
This particular saison uses both beechwood smoked malt and locally sourced roasted sugar pumpkin combined with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger to bring a little bit of smoke, spice and funk to the beer.
Appearance: Pours a cloudy copper with an off-white head
Smell: Some spice notes from the additions, smoke notes and a bit of pepperiness.
Taste: The beer is lightly spiced and the smoked malt comes through as the star. The spice is subtle backing up the pepperiness from the saison. There is a bit of funk to this beer.
Fort Garry has once again released their Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale. This is another beer brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. The main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. This has additions of real pumpkin, traditional spices and then it is aged with oak. Another take on the traditional fall “pumpkin” beers being offered both locally and from afar.
Appearance: Amber coloured with an off-white head
Smell: Roasted malty scent with an interesting almost rum aroma from the oak and vanilla that is complimented with pumpkin spices.
Taste: The vanilla, spices and oak come through well. The beer has a lighter body than expected. There are some savoury/bitter notes and the spices leave you with a bit of an aftertaste.
I always encourage people to get out and try new beer. I hope that you do and expand your beer horizons. I’m working on some other write-ups at the moment and have many folks to follow up with. So lots more to come.
As always, I appreciate everyone following.