If fall’s arrival this week couldn’t come soon enough, you’re not alone — local beer-makers relish a new season, because it’s a time to debut new beers.
From commemorating the opening of a taproom to a brew looking to make a positive impact on local agriculture, the local beer scene has interesting additions on the way or already here. These are four new styles we’re looking forward to tasting.
Actually, they have two, Wreak and Havoc, and ownership wants customers to select which they prefer, said co-founder Colin Marshall. Both will be available at the taproom. (Marshall declined to give an opening date but said it will open by mid-October.)
The Wreak and Havoc (6.8 percent ABV) are both bold and juicy New England-style IPAs (as opposed to the more bitter West Coast-style IPAs), but the two beers use different hops toward the end of the brewing process, Marshall said. Based on customers’ feedback, Diamondback will brew one of the beers on a larger scale, and it will become their official IPA moving forward.
“Basically, we want to see what the public likes best,” Marshall said.
The flavor difference is subtle, and Marshall is confident of both. He also sees the public polling as a marketing opportunity.
“I think it’s a creative way to be able to let people know you have the IPA coming out, which will lead to questions about the new taproom opening up,” he said.
Beyond the IPA, Diamondback also has a one-off collaboration, S’mores Stout (8 percent ABV), with the Brewer’s Cask set to debut 5 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Federal Hill bar to commemorate Baltimore Beer Week.
Heavy Seas’ Oktoberfest-inspired lager Treasure Fest is one of brewmaster Christopher Leonard’s favorite new beers of the year, “in terms of balance, drinkability, complexity,” he said.
Available at local bars and stores now, Heavy Seas’ version takes the traditional biscuit flavor of an Oktoberfest and includes American hops, which add a citrus and floral dimension. From first whiff, drinkers will notice elements of pine and grapefruit, Leonard said. When they sip, a dryness not often associated with Oktoberfests will reveal itself.
“Then the finish is crisp, so it’s a lot easier to drink several, in my opinion, because it finishes dry,” Leonard said. “It certainly finishes with a little bit of a punch, a little bit of an [American-style] assertive crispness. You get the whole fall package.”
For Leonard, Treasure Fest (6 percent ABV) is a nod to a classic, while injecting the bold flavors Heavy Seas has become known for.
“We love tradition, but we’re always looking for different opportunities to stretch our creative boundaries without getting too crazy with unusual ingredients,” he said.
Flying Dog University professor Justin Tarnow — yes, the Maryland brewery has a public beer-education program — pitched his beer idea as a part of the small-batch Brewhouse Rarities collection after reading about bee colony collapse disorder. (It’s the phenomenon when a colony’s worker bees disappear, leaving behind the queen and leading to the loss of hives, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)
When he saw Maryland was particularly struggling with the issue, Tarnow knew Flying Dog should contribute to righting the wrong.
“Bees are such a big part of the agricultural industry,” Tarnow said. “It just seemed like a good opportunity.”
Flying Dog’s Bee Beer (7 percent ABV) is currently fermenting, but Tarnow is encouraged by early samples. (This American Saison releases at the brewery Sept. 30, and will be available throughout Baltimore the following week.) For brewing, Flying Dog used pollen sourced from Lord Byron’s Honey Apiary in Thurmont, and buckwheat honey from an apiary in Nebraska. (The lack of the latter in Maryland underscores the need for stronger bee colonies, Tarnow said.)
The most important part of the beer to Tarnow is the honey’s presence, and making sure it comes through strongly.
“Usually when a brewer does use honey in the beer, I’d say most people are kind of disappointed because they’re expecting there to be a little bit of honey sweetness afterward,” Tarnow said. “We wanted there to be a very pronounced honey flavor.”
For those further interested in the colony collapse issue, Flying Dog will hand out purple coneflower seed packets (sourced from Chesapeake Valley Seed in Savage) at the brewery to coincide Bee Beer’s release. The purple coneflower is the best pollinator plant for the area, so Tarnow hopes, regardless of how customers feel about the beer’s taste, others will make use of seeds.
“If it’s just the seed packet that someone got out of this, I still see it as winning,” he said.
To Kevin Blodger, co-founder and head brewer at Union, the recent IPA craze has emphasized tropical notes and aromatic hops over providing a full-body flavor. For his seasonal Foxy Red IPA, which launched two weeks ago, Blodger aimed for a “strong malt backbone” that would feel hearty during fall weather.
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To him, the IPA (6.5 percent ABV) combines both worlds for a beer that works for IPA novices and hopheads.
“We tried to pair the hop aroma with that malt background, so you get the spiciness from the hops, and I still think you get a little bit of the citrus aroma and flavor as well,” Blodger said.
Union has released the seasonal beer at its brewery and on draft before, but this year marks its first in cans. Regardless of where or how you drink it, Blodger expects a wide range of drinkers to appreciate Foxy Red, thanks partially to its chocolate and caramel notes.
“For all of our beers, we try to make them approachable, but still have that kind of cool edge to them that an aficionado or beer geek is going to get,” he said. “I think it’s approachable for anyone.”