What are seasonal brewing ingredients?
I am about to share an old secret with you. When I was just a young rhizome in the brewing game, I earned a few nicknames. One of the more appropriate ones just happened to “Sticke” around for a while. For those who are unfamiliar, Sticke Alt is a unique beer made twice, seasonally, in the Dusseldorf region of Germany. Literally translating to “secret, old”, this style exemplifies a special reserve, saved for the brewers themselves to drink. Enhanced versions of standard recipes were the backbone of these secrets; however, seasonals of all types abound.
Special release is probably the more common terminology nowadays, but once upon a time “seasonal” was the tag of choice. You might see a traditional core lineup offset with an innovative set of 4 custom brews throughout the year. Often these brews didn’t even contain seasonal ingredients, but were simply new style offerings geared toward increasing sales.
To be clearer, a “seasonal brew” is a widely encompassing term that is not limited to ingredients or timelines of any sort. Rather, it is both. Specifically, you are looking to create a limited timeline for availability based on your unique offering. Some simple examples include Oktoberfest, which is time limited but ingredient diverse, or perhaps Pumpkin Ale, which requires spice/pumpkin but can have more flexibility in the season.
Ingredients for seasonal brews can be unique and unexpected, or rather simple overall. A deep amber Scotch ale may only need some maris otter and crystal malts, UK hops and a UK yeast, where a catnip-lavender Belgian tripel is another animal. Regardless, quantify your needs to ensure adequate supplies are available.