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Brewing With Spices

Stout barrel being tapped
Beer and spices are a perfect pairing. We're revealing some of the best spice and beer combinations – and highlighting the local brewers nationwide who are spicing things up.

When you think of a cold, refreshing craft brew, spices might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But we have plenty of brewers nationwide who would disagree. From the somewhat obvious (like Pumpkin Pie Spice in seasonal fall beer) to the surprising (like hibiscus or rose petals in a floral ale), we're revealing some of the best spice and beer pairings – and highlighting the local brewers nationwide who are spicing things up.

Our thanks to the friendly brewers who were happy to answer questions about their craft. We have pulled many beer descriptions directly from the brewery websites, allowing them to speak for themselves.

Salt

When you think of salt & alcoholic beverages, you probably don't think of beer first (margarita, anyone?), but as surprising as it sounds, salt is one of the defining characteristics of the gose style. Gose originated in Germany, and the salty quality of the beer is traditionally a result of minerals found in local water sources. Many modern brewers opt for more control by adding salt during the brewing process. The bright, citrusy flavor of coriander often complements the grain in this beer, traditionally 50% malted wheat.

Joyride Brewing's  General Zara - Gose Margarita Sour (Edgewater, Colorado)
This tart and salty take on a traditional German Gose style is influenced by Cinco de Mayo celebrations and named for Ignacio Zaragoza, who won the Battle of Puebla. The south-of-the-border-inspired tartness comes from a mix of agave syrup and lime puree (instead of the traditional coriander). The salinity is from Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. This refreshing Ale is as close to a beer margarita as you'll find.

Spider City Brewing's Kaffir Lime Sea Salt Gose (Bend, Oregon)
This refreshing Gose gets a fruity and tangy spin from Makrut Lime Sea Salt. Makrut lime has a slightly smoother and more floral finish than traditional limes, giving this beer a bright flavor with very little bitterness.

A bag of Savory Spice's Makrut Lime Sea Salt next to a glass of gose beer.

Pink Peppercorns

These "rosies" are not true peppercorns. While they do have a mild peppery flavor, they are actually more closely related to the cashew family. The have a sweet and peppery taste with floral and nutty notes. Again, the complexities and nuance make them an exciting ingredient for brewers. You'll often find them in lighter, summer beers where their flavor won't be overpowered.

Diebolt Brewing's Reunion Island Gose (Denver, Colorado)
Brewed with Pink Peppercorns and French Grey Sea Salt, this salty and sour German Wheat beer has a perfect flavor profile to beat the summer heat. Pink peppercorns add a slightly fruity note, while the French Sea Salt adds a touch of savory to balance the sour.

Green Bench Brewing Co. - Push It Gose (St. Petersburg, Florida)
This sour, German-Style Wheat Ale is a blend of German Pilsner and Wheat, kettle-soured with Lactobacillus. It's brewed with both Pink Peppercorn & Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. This unconventional approach, using a combination of salt & pepper, infuses this beer with a tangy and slightly citrusy flavor.

Monkless Belgian Ales' Peppercorn Imperial Wit (Bend, Oregon)
It's time to rethink your Wit! Belgian boldness is brimming in this big yet light-bodied citrusy fresh Wit. The brewers amped up the bitterness to balance the addition of spices, featuring the dynamic flavor blend of four peppercorns and underscored by citrusy orange peel and coriander. The result is a slightly dry, refreshing citrusy brew with a clean, peppery finish.

Beer being poured from a Black Sky can

Flowers

The addition of flowers might be most closely associated with the Saison style of brewing, which traditionally exposes the brew to wild elements, including pollens. Today's craft brewers intentionally incorporate the distinctive notes of flowers in a variety of beers. It takes a delicate hand to ensure a balance of flavor, but these brewers have nailed it.

Black Sky Brewery's Petal To The Metal (Denver, Colorado)
If beer were a love song, this is a ballad. Black Sky uses rose petals in this American Ale to create a light, flavorful experience. The restraint in adding the flowers creates a finished beer that isn't perfumy but rather a delicate floral note with a hint of sweetness. Low in ABV, this is the perfect sip for a summer afternoon.

Motorworks Brewing's Lavender Ale (Bradenton, Florida)
This Scottish Ale is based on old-world recipes. A deep amber color with medium body, the contemporary spin on an old-world recipe includes distinctive floral lavender. Balanced by a malty sweetness, fruity esters tantalize the palate while the lavender notes linger throughout the finish. This unique brew won the Silver Medal and the 2015 Best of Craft Beer Awards.

Launch Pad Brewery's Not Me, I'm In My Prime (Aurora, Colorado)
The combination of huckleberry and hibiscus gives this kettle sour a beautiful reddish tint and layers of flavor. This punchy sour beer is accented by the sweet and tart notes from the hibiscus, while the huckleberry adds a rich, smooth flavor finish. The dynamic flavor combination draws you in, inviting you to enjoy another sip. 

Glass on bar counter with Launch Pad Brewery's Not Me, I'm In My Prime and assorted space memorabilia blurred in background.

Cinnamon

Like vanilla, you're probably well acquainted with cinnamon. The same sweet, woody, and spicy notes that make cinnamon perfect for dessert shine in rich, malty brews. These bold brews pair well with the strong woody and roasty flavors found in barrel-aged beers and in stouts. You'll often find cinnamon and vanilla paired with coffee or chocolate…perfect for drinking your dessert.

Uhls Brewing's What Did We Do (Boulder, Colorado)
This strong Belgian quad is described as a rum barrel-aged quadruple. This brew is aged in 20-year South American rum barrels for an entire year, then rested on fresh bananas, coconut, vanilla beans, and cinnamon chips. The layers of flavor will have you thinking about desserts like rum cake and bananas foster.

Spiteful Brewery's Barrel Aged Hostile Harry Cinnamon Bun (Chicago, Illinois) 
This special release, Russian Imperial Stout, inspired by scrumptious breakfast flavors, is brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, and coffee. Aged for 9 months in Weller bourbon barrels, the resulting brew is creamy and balanced – but strong and bold. Don't worry; no cinnamon buns were harmed in the making of this beer.

Copper Kettle Brewing Co.'s Mexican Chocolate Stout (Denver, Colorado) 
This dynamic stout, inspired by (you guessed it) Mexican chocolate, includes cinnamon, local organic chocolate, and three kinds of chile peppers for a little kick. Creamy and velvety, this flavorful chocolate stout is complex yet familiar.

Cans of Armored Cow Brewing's Whole 'Lotta Rosie gluten-free coffee blonde ale with glass of beer on the left and cow coffee mug on the right.

Vanilla

This flavor may be familiar, especially to bakers. But don't think that vanilla is basic or one-note. This small but mighty ingredient packs a punch with over 100 unique flavor compounds, including floral, woody, spicy, cinnamon, sweet, and creamy notes. The most common beer style in which you'll taste those complex and familiar vanilla flavors is stout - but it's by no means the only beer style that highlights the creamy notes of vanilla. Vanilla also pairs well with other spices and flavors, so you'll often see it side by side with ingredients like chiles, chocolate, and cherries.

Armored Cow Brewing Co.'s Whole Lotta Rosie (Charlotte, North Carolina)
This Gluten-Free Blonde Ale is infused with local coffee to create a light and delicious vanilla coffee blonde ale that anyone can enjoy. This light beer is pumped with coffee flavor and accented with the perfect amount of vanilla.

Crux Fermentation Project's Tough Love (Bend, Oregon)
Tough Love is bold but nuanced, an homage to the traditional Russian Imperial Stouts. It incorporates malted rye and is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The aging process smooths out the edges and bitterness succumbs to sweet notes of vanilla beans and dried cherries, with new layers revealing themselves in each sip.

Barsideous Brewing's Chocolate Casanova (Lebanon, Oregon)
Chocolate is the food of the Gods. Its aphrodisiac properties will sweeten the mood, and its medicinal properties will cheer up even the most melancholy. This stout is extra chocolatey as well as being incredibly smooth, which is probably why it was the silver medal winner in the flavored beer category at the 2021 Oregon Brewers Awards.

Spiteful Brewery's  Barrel Aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente (Chicago, Illinois)
Barrel Aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente is a Russian Imperial Stout. It pours a rich, opaque black and is brewed with a balanced and flavorful combination of vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa. The 'caliente' comes in with a blend of mild-medium heat Aleppo and Urfa chile peppers.

Spiteful Brewery Barrel Aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente in a glass with can and spices around it

Conclusion

After delving into the world of craft beers, there are only two conclusions I can draw.

1. Beer and spices are a perfect pairing.

2. I'm thirsty!

So, whether you're an eager homebrewer or craft beer aficionado, spices complement a wide variety of beer styles and flavors. Next time you're heading to your local brewery, strike up a conversation with your beertender and find out what fun spice flavors your local brewery is adding to their brews.

Stout barrel being tapped
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