(Photo courtesy Cascade Brewing) From bogs in the capes of Massachusetts, to similarly saturated settings in New Jersey, Oregon and Wisconsin, an understated holiday staple—more of a side-dish, really—is expanding its presence from the provinces of juices, sauces and stuffings to a position that could usurp the pumpkin’s vice grip on seasonal beer.
Tart, tannic and relatively low in both pulp and sugars, cranberries present myriad challenges to brewers when compared to other fruit. However, those that learn to harness cranberries as a brewing ingredient hold a possible answer to the criticisms of saccharinity and ironic lack of seasonality associated with pumpkin beer.
“Cranberries are a delicate fruit,” said Kevin Martin, the lead blender for Cascade Brewing in Portland, Oregon. “People really have to be willing to put in the time, the effort and the labor to work with them.”
Cisco Brewers, which is located on Nantucket near the heart of Massachusetts’ cranberry country—the place where the fruit is said to have originated—begins tackling the challenge by first cooking its yearly allotment of the local cranberry harvest.