Can you guess which one is which?
It may still technically be summer for another 2 weeks or so, but it is looks a lot like autumn inside the brewery right now. Last week we released Touchdown Brown and earlier this week we released our Autumn Seasonal, Scarecrow Pumpkin Ae. Both of these beers were brewed last year, so they’re not “new” per se, but they are new for this calendar year. And since I haven’t written a blog post in a little while, I figured the time was right.
Let’s start with Touchdown Brown. Brown ales, whether they are English or American in nature, are in my opinion one of the most underrated and underappreciated styles in the world of craft beer. Even the name doesn’t sound that appealing. “Brown.” Compared to another color, such as “Amber”, it sounds so boring. But I think that a good brown ale is anything but boring. For my money, I want an American Brown ale to have a strong chocolate profile, with some caramel, nutty and toasty notes in the background to round out the flavor. Despite having these rich flavors, it should be most dry and deceptively drinkable. If I wanted those flavors in a more viscous form, I’d order a stout or porter. I think there’s a wide range of options for hops that you can use. You can do light and let the malt do the talking, or take it up to moderate to have a more balanced approach. There should be a hint of fruity esters from the yeast, but for the most part be very clean. Last, but not least, it needs to fun name to overcome the stigma that comes with the word “brown.”
The TD Brown hits on what I’m looking for in a brown ale. We used two different types of chocolate malt to provide complexity, as well as some Crystal 80 to provide the caramel flavors. We also use a small amount of wheat for head retention and a very small amount of dark malt for color adjustment. For hopping, we’re a little restrained compared to our normal practices, but I think we’re closer on the scale to moderate than light for the style. We use three different types of hops in this beer, with traditional English hops being used for bittering and American hops being used at the end to provide some citrusy notes. We fermented TD Brown with a well known English yeast strain to provide those fruity esters I mentioned above. Finally, you can’t go wrong with rhyming, and since we’re pretty much all big football fans over here, I felt naming it Touchdown would fit the bill.
When I drink this beer, I think of changing leaves, cooler temperatures, sitting out on the back deck in a hoodie, watching football…you know, autumn stuff. It may not be our “official” Autumn beer, but it might as well be our second Autumn seasonal. It’s a great transitional beer that takes you from the lighter, fruitier summer ales into the darker, heavier winter ales. One of my favorite pairings is brown ale with BBQ, and if you’ve been a fan of the program for awhile, you’ll know we have quite a few BBQ food trucks that like to park outside. Whether there’s a football game on at the brewery or not, I hope you’ll go for the end zone with Touchdown Brown!
Onto the Scarecrow…
The first time we ever brewed this beer as homebrewers was all the way back in 2009. Looking back on my old notes, it looks like we missed our gravity goal and the beer came in a 4.2%. Quite a change from the 6.2% beer that’s on the menu now! We made some changes over the years, adding rye to the recipe in 2010 for instance, as well as constantly tinkering with the spice amounts. One big change we made from our homebrew days to these commercial batches is we changed from American malts to English malts, specifically using Crisp Maris Otter as our base malt. The main reason I decided to do this is because Maris Otter has a delightful bready (almost nutty) profile that is very different than typical American 2 row. I wanted the malt to simulate the flavors of a pie crust, and I am very pleased with the results I get from Maris Otter. We also use a small amount of English Crystal malt for some slight caramel backing, and we still use a small amount of flaked rye to provide a slight spiciness which I think plays well with the spices we add.
We use ground Saigon Cassia Cinnamon, ground Grenada Nutmeg, organic ground Peruvian Ginger, ground Jamaican allspice berries and whole organic Madagascar vanilla beans to the boil to create the spice component. The spice blend creates something that I believe is very close to that of pumpkin pie, and the vanilla adds a light sweetness that replicates a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of your pie (everybody does that….right?). We do use real pumpkin in Scarecrow, which is added to the mash.
One of my goals when designing Scarecrow was to make a pumpkin beer I would actually enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fabulous pumpkin beers out there, but for my taste, I find the majority of them are overspiced and difficult to drink. The Scarecrow is much more approachable, with an obvious pumpkin spice profile without being overwhelming. I think this is due to being conservative with my spice additions (using the old rule of thumb that you can always add more later) as well as creating a heartier malt base.
An obvious pairing for Scarecrow would be pumpkin pie (and many other sweet treats), but I think it could be used with many other dishes as well. The sweetness from the malt and vanilla could counter spicy food (sweet calms heat, remember that one), and it would also provide a seasonal kick to a pan cooked chicken, roast turkey or even duck. We’re still a couple months away, but Scarecrow would be a fine pairing choice for Thanksgiving dinner (but that will be another blog post altogether).
The calendar says it’s September, and to me, that means it’s fall. There’s still a little bit of summer weather to enjoy out there, but that’s no reason to not start enjoying these autumn treats now. Fall is my personal favorite for seasonal beers, and we’re just getting started. Hop On!