seasonality of the south
Living in Minnesota, I am no stranger to seasonality. There is a certain rhythm that accompanies Midwestern living – the anticipation of spring, a longing for more summer days, but also some respite in the cooler months of fall. Next comes dread, not to mention denial… though one can’t help but resourcefully replace the ice scraper in the trunk sometime in October.
Venturing to North Carolina several times over the last few years has widened my understanding of seasonality. Though those in the south rarely have to deal with accumulating snow, the produce at the Raleigh farmer’s market changes every few weeks just as it does in Minnesota. I didn’t always think this way…it never seemed to compute that someone in Asheville could enjoy a pumpkin spice muffin in November while I do the same here – in a parka.
During the Beer Writers and Bloggers conference in Asheville this July, I saw some phenomenal examples of seasonality in brewing – and I’m not just talking about pumpkin.
Foothills brewing in Winston-Salem reinvents the ubiquitous IPA every single month. What I love about this is the evolution beyond the dichotomy of seasonal and flagship; this combination of IPA (which statistically is the modern craft drinker’s most ordered style) and seasonal ingredients is brilliant. Making 12 of them a year is brilliant and exhausting.
Wil Wheaton’s dogs on July’s IPA!
I was treated to July’s selection, a balanced and potent example of the style using some fruit additions: “Citra, Chinook and Sorachi Ace hops, with a unique addition of kiwi and lime during dry hopping.” I enjoyed it in the taproom while chatting with my bartender and again at home after packing a bomber in my suitcase.
Each seasonal beer this year features dogs, and in the case of July, Wil Wheaton’s pit bulls are front and center, complete with space suits. The Wheatons are working to get more positive light shed on the breed and thought an IPA would be perfect.
Equally as impressive is the seasonal work being done at Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery.
I joined fellow writer and conference attendee, Bryan Roth, of This is Why I’m Drunk, for a chat at his local brewery.
Fullsteam has an impressive list of beers. Not only is it pretty massive, it is also broad and balanced. There doesn’t seem to be much of a bias besides creativity and unique ingredients. In fact, they source as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible due to what they call a “plow-to-pint” mentality (the same phrase used by St. Paul’s Urban Growler).
I was especially blown away by the use of Basil in their seasonal farmhouse beer. A perennial favorite among North Carolinians, the Summer Basil is allowed to evolve naturally over the warmer months. That is because the basil used in brewing is whatever has recently come into season. How creative and ingenious is that?
Imagine canning tomato sauce all summer long and having totally different flavors in those labeled “July” vs “October”. It only makes sense. In fact, it really makes sense. This is like applying the scholarly principle “write what you know” to beer: “brew what you have”. Here is what Fullsteam has to say about it
“Brewed with North Carolina wheat and locally-farmed basil, our most popular summer beer is an ever-changing feast for the senses. Summer Basil evolves over its five-month season, as local basil matures and fermentation temperatures rise. The saison yeast loves our hot summers, responding with a full-on punch of peppery, vibrant flavors. It’s okay that this plow-to-pint beer doesn’t always taste the same. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Seasonality is becoming the norm nationwide. More and more consumers are rejecting watermelon in January in favor of produce that is fresh, tasty, and environmentally responsible. It only makes sense that beer should follow suit, if only in some small way.