Halloween might be over, but there’s a good bet there’s an abundance of candy corn hanging around your house or office. What do to with it all? Why not make a beer? Because, of course, in this day and age of brewing, all kinds of ingredients are on the table and in the mash.
The problem is that actually using the little, waxy, tri-colored pyramids in the beer doesn’t work well. As Erik Dorfner of Westallion Brewing Company in West Allis, Wisconsin, says, “It just turns into a globby mess and doesn’t do much for the beer” when you add the whole candy.
However, Dorfner has made headlines around the country in recent weeks, thanks to his Candy Corn Cream Ale, something that he brewed up on a lark but that has brought attention to his small brewery in the Milwaukee suburbs.
No stranger to pastry stouts or flavored adjuncts, Dorfner decided a few weeks back to try his hand at a candy-corn beer, deciding on the ingredient first and then matching a beer style to the vanilla-flavored candy. He wanted something with a lighter SRM, he said, to mimic the confection, and one that wouldn’t overwhelm with flavors. Settling on a traditional cream-ale recipe with an addition of flaked corn and lactose, he needed to find a way to get the flavors of the candy into the beer without using the actual item that would gum up his works.
He settled on a combination of honey, marshmallow, and vanilla, “all bought at the local grocery store,” and added them to the mash and then again during the boil. At kegging, he added a “donut-flavored” extract to give it a bit more of a candy finish.
At first he brewed three barrels on his five-barrel system. Due to the beer’s popularity, he brewed a full batch a few days later. Going into the first tapping, he knew that he was working with a concept that has no middle ground: People either love or hate candy corn.
“I knew we’d be getting the vomit emjoi on Facebook,” he says. “But we wanted to do something seasonal, and definitely not pumpkin.”
The beer is more candy corn in the aroma than the actual flavor, but the trio of ingredients nails the familiar flavors leaving the drinker with no mistake on what’s ahead. The same has been true with other beers that use the annual treat as inspiration—from an imperial cream ale brewed by Urban Growler Brewing Company (St. Paul, Minnesota) to IPAs brewed by Michigan’s Elk Brewing and Florida’s Cigar City Brewing.
“It came out strangely good,” says Dorfner of his Candy Corn Cream Ale. But with Halloween over and the last of his pints poured, he’s already looking forward to the next holiday on the calendar, and those candy corns you have left over will just have to join the previous year’s stash in the kitchen cabinet.