The onset of the colder months has become synonymous with a change in flavors. Pumpkin and ginger become ubiquitous, appearing in everything from coffee to cupcakes.
North of Boston, where small-batch libations are booming, you’ll find an explosion of creativity, with interesting, complex flavors offered by a slew of small local producers.
Sure, the guys at Cape Ann Brewing Co. in Gloucester (11 Rogers St., www.capeannbrewing.com) have a Pumpkin Stout, and folks love it — it’s a favorite at Salem’s GuluGulu during October’s Haunted Happenings.
But Dylan L’Abbe-Lindquist, head brewer for Cape Ann, doesn’t stop there. In addition to the wider-release Fisherman’s Navigator, a double bock available throughout the winter, he likes to craft small releases that are available only at the brewery.
L’Abbe-Lindquist harvests hops grown in Gloucester and Rockport at the same time every year, and pub customers are invited to help pick the hops off the vines. The “wet” hops are combined with local honey to create the Homeport Pale Ale currently on tap.
The brewery also produces an Oktoberfest brew with a twist, adding 20 pounds of heather tips and flowers to meld with traditional flavors.
Newburyport’s newest microbrewery, Riverwalk Brewing (3 Graf Rd., www.riverwalkbrewing.com), has been open for a year, selling growlers out of the brewery on weekends and through local liquor stores. Several local pubs also offer Riverwalk on tap.
Its fall offerings include Umbus, a spicy, hoppy IPA made entirely with Columbus hops. Riverwalk’s head of sales and marketing, Aly Kirk (aka the “Princess of Ales”), tells us they have only two barrels left of the 20 that were brewed. The brewery’s interim fall seasonal is a Blackberry Porter, made with fresh, hand-picked Maine blackberries for a rich, tart flavor.
Slated for the end of October is Riverwalk’s Winter Porter, which sounds delicious. A coffee-like porter base is macerated with fresh Madagascar vanilla and cinnamon sticks, then aged in freshly emptied rum barrels from Turkey Shore Distilleries in Ispwich (23 Hayward St., www.turkeyshoredistilleries.com). This one’s on our must-try list.
Speaking of Turkey Shore, owners Mat Perry and Evan Parker have their own seasonal limited release: Golden Marsh Spiced Rum.
A blend of their White Cap rum and aged Tavern Style rum, which are both distilled on the premises, Golden Marsh is steeped with 10 spices to create a smooth, autumn-inspired flavor with a hint of cinnamon. Designed specifically to complement your holiday cocktail, Golden Marsh pairs extremely well with apple cider and eggnog.
“Partnering with local breweries has been a lot of fun,” Perry said enthusiastically. “It’s great to see our barrels get a second life, one that we can all benefit from.”
Barrels from Turkey Shore can also be found at Slumbrew (1310 Broadway, www.slumbrew.com), which is aging its upcoming Yankee Swap. Though based in Somerville, the company will produce Yankee Swap at the Mercury Brewing facility in Ipswich. The holiday brew is made with Massachusetts valley malt and has a hint of maple, provided by syrup from Hadley’s Maple Sugar Shack.
Slumbrew cofounder Caitlin Jewell tells us it’s named for the folks who are increasingly using craft beer as their offering in the traditional New England holiday gift swap game. Yankee Swap will be unveiled at the Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest, taking place Nov. 15 and 16 at the Revere Hotel in Boston.
If you don’t want to wait for Slumbrew’s artisanal offerings, you can opt for its limited release Attic & Eaves, a brown ale that has a nutty, warm flavor derived from toasted buckwheat and is available now.
Night Shift Brewing (3 Charlton St., www.nightshiftbrewing.com), a nanobrewery in Everett specializing in unique tastes, has four vastly different seasonal beers releasing in the next few months. The first is Taza Stout, brewed with chicory root and ginger and aged over roasted cocoa nibs from Somerville’s Taza Chocolate to create a spicy, chocolaty brew.
Mid-October will see the release of both Mainer Weisse and Rose. The former is a fall sour ale, aged on Maine blueberries and cinnamon sticks for a fruity, tart mouthful. The Rose is a sour saison, an intriguing combination of honey, rosehips, and rosemary with added punch from crushed pink peppercorns.
The company’s Fallen Apple holiday beer will be released in early November and gone by Christmas; it’s being fermented with holiday spices and apple cider from the New England Cider Co. in Leominster, then aged in rum and brandy barrels.
This amazing list barely scratches the surface. Heading into the holiday season, it’ll be easy to make your celebrations more festive and support local business at the same time.
Kristen Nyberg and Jill Rose write about food and restaurants on their blog www.northshoredish.com.