Brian Destree is already making his mark at Capital Brewery with Pumpkinataur Wrex, a new limited release beer created for holiday feasting. Hired in September as its production manager, he says he's not about to change the lineup of German lagers that fans of the Middleton brewery know and love, but is also not afraid to shock the faithful. For a surprising treat, this first Capital beer he's overseen from recipe development to kegging is this monster of a lager made with pumpkins.
What is it? Pumpkinataur Wrex by Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin.
Style: Pumpkin beers vary in intensity of flavor and in how they are made. They are a subcategory of vegetable and fruit beers rather than a specific style. Not only do they showcase pumpkin, but also some of the same spices you find in pumpkin pie, like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. The most common are made as amber ales. Capital's version is a lager, which reflects the brewery's longstanding commitment to making lager beers.
Background: Destree wanted to call this beer Pumpkinator, but the name was already taken by Saint Arnold Brewing of Houston, so he came up with something different enough that he didn't get into a legal dispute. Some German styles of beer, particularly doppelbocks, often have names ending in "ator," a reference to the names monks used for their brews centuries ago. To make his beer, Destree had to open over 120 six-and-half pound cans of pumpkin with a manual can opener, so he figured this was a monster of a beer to make, and so coined the name Pumpkinataur Wrex.
Destree's lager-based recipe was designed to bring the sweetness of the pumpkin forward to the front of the beer's flavor profile. The spices that included cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg were added as a tea-like mixture during the fermentation and conditioning of the beer. It finishes at 7.5% ABV.
Pumpkinataur Wrex is found only on draught this fall, but Destree is planning to release it in 22-ounce bottles next year. You can get at Capital's Bier Stube, where it sells for $4.50/glass and $12/growler (refill). It's also currently available at the Capital Tap Haus and Paul's Club on State Street, the Tipsy Cow on King Street, Old Chicago on Mineral Point Road, and the Free House Pub and Quaker Steak and Lube in Middleton, as well as at several locations in Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.
In other news from Capital, the brewery's second edition of Eternal Flame will be released in 22-ounce bomber bottles in early December. The brewery is planning more bomber releases in 2013, starting in January with Jacked Maibock, and continuing with new beer about every other month.
- Aroma: Lots of assertive sweet pumpkin aroma. A hint of pepper-like clove.
- Appearance: Bright orange-copper color with a soft light tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: The pumpkin is sweet and assertive.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The spices come in for the ending, but the strength of the pumpkin dominates. There's also a very evident alcoholic warmth.
Glassware: The tulip or snifter style of glass will focus the aromas of the pumpkin and the spices while encouraging sipping because this is not a beer to enjoy in gulps.
Pairs well with: Pumpkinataur offers lots of sweetness, and for that reason it's best on its own as a dessert beer.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Pumpkinataur Wrex is a beer for those who really enjoy pumpkin. Its sweetness combines with the warmth of its 7.5 % ABV for assertive big-beer character, while the body and mouthfeel seem deceptively lighter. The "Wrex" in the name is a good reminder that the alcohol might sneak up on you if you're not careful. In the end the intensity of the pumpkin seems to overwhelm the nature of the lager flavors and body that are at the core of the brew. However, I also can appreciate it for its assertiveness. After all, one really doesn't order a pumpkin beer without dessert-like expectations, and Pumpkinataur Wrex is nearly as flavorful as a slice of pumpkin pie or plate of candied yams.