New Glarus Brewing
'Tis the season for pumpkin beers! These niche brews are abundant in autumn -- and all over the map when it comes to flavor. New Glarus Brewing added a surprising entry to the mix this year with its new Pumpkin Pie Lust. Brewmaster Dan Carey says he was drawn to the idea of creating a beer that tastes like pumpkin pie. "The intent was to try and find a flavor that is spicy and creamy, like the fullness you get from pumpkin and readiness of pie crust," he says. But here's the twist: there's not actually any pumpkin in the beer!
So, leave it to Wisconsin's best-known brewmaster to make a pumpkin (like) beer that will make you think about what you're drinking. His brew is noteworthy for anybody who lusts for gourd in glass.
What is it? Pumpkin Pie Lust from New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin.
Style: Pumpkin beers can vary greatly in how they are made and just how much they taste like pumpkin pie. Their flavors will include some of the same spices used in baking, including cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. The base beer can vary quite a bit, but is often a malt-forward style like an amber or porter. In the case of Pumpkin Pie Lust, the brew it's built upon is a dunkelweizen, or dark wheat beer. This style is typically medium-bodied and deep copper to brown in color, offering a yeasty-sweetness and hints of chocolate and caramel maltiness. Dunkelweizens range in strength from 4.8-5.4% ABV.
Background: "I love pumpkin pie, it's one of my favorites, so we thought we would make one that is reminiscent of pie," says Dan Carey. Pumpkin Pie Lust is actually the first beer of its kind for New Glarus. "The category is sort of expanding, there are all kinds of beers in it," he notes. "I've seen imperial pumpkin, dry-hopped pumpkin, barrel-aged pumpkin; and they obviously are popular."
Pumpkin Pie Lust begins as a dunkelweizen, a style that was selected due to a flavor that is already spicy on its own. More of that character is imparted through a blend of spices added to the brew, including cloves, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. These are brought together in a tea-like mixture that's added late in the fermentation process.
"Those spices are what is important," explains Carey. They're so important, in fact, that he isn't shy about discussing that this beer doesn’t actually include any pumpkin.
"We made test brews, even tried cooking it first, but it's really just bland, so we ended up not using pumpkin," he says.
The base beer is made with Wisconsin grown wheat, and lots of dark malts, including Caramel and Munich. The latter, in particular, offers light bread-like qualities that Carey feels mimic the flavor of pie crust. It's hopped with Idaho-grown Celeia hops, which are typically used for lighter brews. Three types of yeast are used for fermentation, which Carey credits for much of the beer's spicy and creamy character that adds to the pie-like experience. The final beer, complete with spice addition, is then bottle-conditioned, which gives it lots of carbonation and a thick, rich and soft head.
For fans of New Glarus, this beer could be thought of as a creation that combines the richness of its Imperial Weizen with a hint of the warm flavors of last winter's Spiced Ale, which was made to evoke the flavors of a Brandy Old Fashioned.
Pumpkin Pie Lust finishes at 5.5% ABV, and sells for around $8 per six-pack.
- Aroma: Light hint of clove and cinnamon, like a pumpkin pie.
- Appearance: Hazy brown color, and a thick, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied, with softness.
- Taste: An initial wave of dry spice, follow by a background of fruity-yeastiness of banana and clove.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The light spiciness returns in the finish, and it lingers.
Glassware: The tulip glass with its flared lip shows off the color and holds the soft brown head of Pumpkin Pie Lust, while allowing its spicy aromas to jump to the nose. Allow this beer to warm slowly, and the spices really soften and smoothen.
Pairs well with: I like to appreciate pumpkin beers on their own to take in the full aromatic and flavor interplay of their spices. Pumpkin Pie Lust makes for a good dessert beer. But nothing too strong when pairing with cheese; rather, try it with a mild provolone that won't get in the way of the beer's spices and allows one to notice more of the sweetness in the beer.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: It took a little time for me to warm up to New Glarus Pumpkin Pie Lust. What made the difference for me, though, was that its spices really came alive as the beer slowly warmed. When it’s too cold, there’s a fruity sourness that distracts from other flavors. Just let this beer breathe in the glass as you slowly sip it, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the smooth notes of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. What I like most about Pumpkin Pie Lust is its light and bubbly weizen qualities that don’t get lost, but rather work well with the pie spices, which in turn avoid overwhelming the palate.
Dan Carey has created a beer that makes you think about pie, which is really the point of a pumpkin beer. Yet it isn't thick like a slice of pie, because it avoids the cloying sweetness or burnt-vegetable background that seems to dominate many other pumpkin beers, especially those that attempt to use over-cooked gourds in the brew kettle.
New Glarus Pumpkin Pie Lust is at its core a very rich dunkelweizen. Yes, the spices are turned up, with easily detectable hints of clove and even a mild nutmeg-like roastedness. What worked for me best in this beer is that the spices are evident, but held in at a level that allows the beer to remain as the centerpiece. Sure, I am a little disappointed to know that it doesn't actually have even a sprinkle of pumpkin in it. But I accept Carey's rationale that what we really lust over in pumpkin pie are the spices, which makes this a beer worth desiring.