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Harvest beer


Dropping temps and seasonal ingredients inspire Okie brewers to craft custom beers for the fall.

Charles Martin September 14th, 2011

When fall arrives, it’s a different world calling for a different beer.

Oklahoma brewers have introduced several to satiate the season’s shifting palates.

Mustang Brewing Company’s wonderfully balanced Harvest Lager won the silver medal at the 2010 World Beer Championships. Rich with malts, the lager still maintains a slightly lighter body, creating a perfectly approachable tailgating beer for those tired of ubiquitous domestics. It is a Märzen, a popular style for Oktoberfest-inspired brews.

“Our brewmaster was in the Army and was stationed in Germany, so he went to more Oktoberfests than he could count,” said Tim Schoelen, Mustang Brewing president. “He wanted an Oktoberfest-style beer which was true to form — something not quite as heavy, but still with the flavor.”

right Mike Sandefur of Battered Boar with Chuck’s Pumpkin Ale

This year, the Harvest Lager in kegs will be brewed entirely in Oklahoma, as Mustang shifts more of its production into the state. Schoelen said the seasonals are designed to keep building on the brand’s growing reputation.

“That’s why we came out with seasonals: to keep it fresh in people’s minds,” he said. “As sales for our core beers taper off at the end of the year, we want to bring something new, something that caters to that time of year that will bring up sales a bit.”

For Battered Boar Brewery, the adventurous Chuck’s Pumpkin Ale is not a fall seasonal by choice, but by necessity.

“It’s a seasonal because of the raw ingredients used,” said Mike Sandefur, Battered Boar owner. “Pumpkin is not something we have access to yearround, so it has got to be a seasonal.”

One of the few premium-priced beers from Oklahoma breweries, Chuck’s rewards the extra investment with a complex amber rich with the tastes of fall because of its absurd amount of ingredients.

“This has got tons of plump barley, native pecans, vanilla beans, sugar pumpkins, brown sugar,” Sandefur said. “We make it with a spice blend that is very specifically hand-ground with allspice, ginger, nutmeg. When we made the beer, it was like 800 degrees out, and it was funny, smelling those spices that we all liken to fall weather.”

The original recipe was concocted with the help of Chuck Deveney of OKC’s The Brew Shop, whose face makes an appearance on a pumpkin on the label.

Appearing this fall alongside Chuck’s Pumpkin Ale will be the Chocolate Cherry Porter. The labor of love is packed with ingredients diligently sourced worldwide, including fine chocolate from Venezuela and cherries from the same Oregon cooperative that supplies the titular fruit in Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.

If I’ve tried all the interesting beer I can find, then we create something.
—Mike Sandefur

Sandefur described Chocolate Cherry Porter as a “big beer” that pushed its facilities’ capabilities, producing a rich, black-as-ink brew. Unlike some other chocolate heavies available, the creamy sweetness is held in check by the cherries, resulting in a rounded-out taste unlike anything else in the craft-brew industry.

“I want to drink interesting beers, and if I’ve (tried) all the interesting beer I can find, then we create something,” he said. “That’s our job; that’s what we are all about. Craft brewers in general, they want to do the best job they can. It’s not about pushing the envelope to create something for the sake of being different. We want to create something different to raise the bar for everyone else.”

 
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