Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer /5.9% ABV / North Carolina, United States
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Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer
North Carolina, United States
Suggested Serving Temperature
Tap into the holidays with notes of vanilla, hazelnut, dark fruit, and cinnamon.
This beer is the reason for the season - our biggest party of the year! Each November we kick off the holidays with thousands of our friends and fans at the Cold Mountain release party. Hundreds of people line up for their first Cold Mountain and Imperial Cold Mountain of the year, and with help from our entire staff we serve our beloved fans fast - because there’s more to do! Bands play Thursday, Friday and Saturday, food trucks are lined up, a slew of casks are tapped over the three days at set times, and Coconut Cold Mountain makes its highly anticipated return.
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As the craft brewing industry continues to expand and push palette boundaries, brewers experiment with an apothecary of intriguing spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables; you’ve no doubt sampled many of the more popular varieties such as cinnamon pumpkin beers or Caribbean-inspired ginger beers. Hops, which are essentially a flower, are one of the staple ingredients in beer around the world, so it’s not all that surprising that herbs and other floral additives so easily make the inspired recipes of today’s brews. Some of the more creative beer ingredients on the market include sage, thyme, pink peppercorn, roasted jalapenos, basil, cumin and chai spice.
The flavors in spice, herb or vegetable-style beers vary dramatically depending on the ingredient list. Brewers generally tend to select elements that celebrate local flavors and in-season crops. Pumpkin ales, for example, are a seasonal favorite during the harvest months of autumn; for real pumpkin beer, brewers use actual flesh from the plump orange gourds and carefully balance your favorite fall spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. In most cases, brewers employing unique ingredients, like sage, lemon verbena or jalapeno, allow those additions to be the star of the show — the beer’s traditional malt and hops flavors are less noticeable.
Alcohol content can vary quite a bit among beers that fall into unique categories like those brewed with spices, herbs and vegetables. After all, pumpkin beers, which likely constitute the best-known section of these specialty beers, can range anywhere from 4-8% ABV (the Sam Adams Jack-O pumpkin ale is as low as 4.4%); conversely, sage and other more floral herbs often pair well in bitter IPAs which have a higher alcohol content (like the Sagefight Imperial IPA from Deschutes Brewing at 8% ABV). Jalapenos and other regional peppers show up on craft brewery ingredient lists for everything from medium-bodied wheat ales to dark and boozy porters.
Beers flavored with unique ingredients like spices, herbs and vegetables tend to rotate to feature local, seasonal items and put these flavors front and center; as such, it makes sense to find food pairings that have the same qualities. For beers flavored with pumpkin and autumn spice, consider equally festive items like a slice of pecan pie, baked brie and cranberry walnut salad. For beer infused with more floral ingredients like basil, sage, thyme or spicy elements like chili or jalapeno, find food pairing with those similar dominant flavors such as herb-encrusted meats for the former style and fish tacos for the latter.
The preferred serving glass for your beer really depends on the style, and when it comes to beers made with spices, herbs or vegetables, the styles can vary dramatically. For savory, yet sweet pumpkin beers, use heavy glass mugs or traditional pint glasses, something cozy yet not too delicate while watching Thanksgiving football games — perhaps add a cinnamon sugar rim to the glass. Conversely, for herb-infused IPAs and other pungent flavors, select bottom-heavy glassware like a traditional tulip-shaped glass; the wider base allows the drinkers to swirl the specialty brew to release the aroma while the narrow rim is designed for slower sipping.
One of the more common beers in the specialty spice/herb/vegetable category of brews is the autumnal pumpkin beer; these delightfully festive beers pack a lot of harvest-themed flavors and typically contain between 170-200 calories and 16-19 grams of carbohydrates (the seasonal pumpkin ale from Blue Moon Brewing is 186 calories per 12-ounce bottle). Other unique beers, like jalapeno ales (around 160 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates) or wheat-style beers brewed with bright ingredients like cucumber and thyme (around 170 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrates) can vary quite dramatically. In truth, no matter how wacky the recipe’s ingredients, the main indicator of nutritional content boils down to the beer’s ABV.