Beer Man

This New England-Style Pumpkin-Spiced IPA Is Going to Make You Mad

Is that a pint of beer or orange juice?
Is that a pint of beer or orange juice? Renegade Brewing
Brian O'Connell has never been a big fan of pumpkin beers, a popular but polarizing fall beer, and he hadn't had time to brew a New England-style IPA, which has become one of the most controversial, most talked-about new styles to hit the craft-beer world in a while. But the owner of Renegade Brewing does like to mix things up a little. So on Wednesday, Renegade tapped a beer that combined the two.

Spaceboy, a New England-style, pumpkin-spiced IPA, has the potential to cause more anger than any beer ever made. "That's kind of what we figured," O'Connell with a laugh.

After Renegade opened in March 2011, O'Connell didn't want to make a pumpkin beer, but that fall, customers and outside accounts kept asking him, "Where's your pumpkin beer? Where's your pumpkin beer?"

So the next year, he decided to make one and name it after a song on the 1993 Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream. It was the beginning of a tradition in which Renegade would begrudgingly produce a weird, crazy or off-the-wall pumpkin beer and name it after another one of the songs on the album. In 2015, for instance, Renegade brewed Mayonnaise, a pumpkin spice cream ale made with, yes, mayonnaise. Last year, the brewery made Hummer, a cross between an Oktoberfest and a pumpkin spice beer.

"We tend to go a little crazy," he says.

For Spaceboy, Renegade started with a recipe for a hazy New England-style IPA and then added pumpkin and some pumpkin spices, including clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. The spices are very muted, though, because O'Connell felt that there would be a clash of flavors if they were too strong. "When we make an adjunct beer, we always say, 'It's a beer first,' then we add the adjuncts and the flavors," he explains.

"Before we brewed it, I wasn't sure if it would taste great, but I was sure that people would talk about it," O'Connell says.

New England-style IPAs burst on to Colorado's beer scene early last year, causing endless arguments between brewers and beer drinkers online and in person. The style relies on hops varieties with more tropical, fruit-forward flavors and very little bitterness, as opposed to regular or West Coast-style IPAs. But many breweries achieve this flavor and aroma profile with brewing techniques that leave the beer looking very hazy. Many people think the haziness is a result of laziness, while others believe it takes extra effort to get the look right.

Pumpkin beers, on the other hand, have been around for a while. While they are extremely popular and highly sought after by their fans, pumpkin beers have garnered a bad reputation over the past few years as breweries began selling them in August in order to compete with a rash of new competitors. The breweries say they need to get to market quickly because people stop buying pumpkin beers immediately on November 1. And many brewers and drinkers also can't stand all of the spices that are typically added to pumpkin beers.

Renegade made fifteen barrels of Spaceboy, or roughly thirty kegs, so it should last into mid-October in the taproom and may even make it out to a few outside accounts.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes