It’s pumpkin pie…in a glass.
At least, that’s how Fred Karm, founder and owner of Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, describes his signature pumpkin-flavored beer, Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale. The drink is one of several seasonal brews offered by the award-winning brewery this fall and winter.
“The recipe comes from an old baker’s family recipe for pumpkin pie,” Karm whispers, leaning over a table in the Hoppin’ Frog Tasting Room. “She was nearly ready to retire, so she had been baking her whole life and really knew what she was doing. It was her family’s pumpkin pie recipe that she gave me.
“That’s all I can tell you about her,” he says, leaning back amid the sound of clinking glasses from the nearby bard. “It took a lot of work from there. Adapting it to brewing beer, that was not easy.”
Since opening in 2006, Hoppin’ Frog has jumped to its most recent ranking of 17 on RateBeer.com’s list of 100 best breweries in the world. This year, it was named the top brewer in Ohio by the same web site. Its products are sold at specialty beer stores and grocery stores statewide, including Acme, Giant Eagle, Buehler’s and Fishers.
Karm’s secret? Flavors that leap off the tongue.
“We make flavorful beers in the most flavorful styles,” he says, handing me a small glass of the amber-colored brew that won the gold medal for best pumpkin ale at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. “I want you to taste each and every flavor.”
A rich gulp of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg slides down my throat.
“It’s called ‘double pumpkin’ because it’s almost twice as strong in flavor and alcohol than most pumpkin beers,” Karm explains. “It’s also called that because half of the pumpkin is roasted, creating two flavors of pumpkin. The roasted part reminds you more of a pumpkin pie, with caramelized sugars from the pumpkin creating a rich, sweet flavor. The other half imparts a brighter, fresh fruit-type of flavor, adding depth and complexity to the beer.”
While the sugary dregs settle in my stomach, a fresh stream of liquid pie spills from a nearby tap and sloshes into the glass of Pete Engler (36) of Streetsboro.
“It’s an excellent pumpkin beer,” he says, holding the glass up to the light. “The spices are strong and sweet — kind of like the Christmas ale.”
Indeed, the Frosted Frog Christmas Ale, offered in early November, is made from several of the same ingredients in the pumpkin ale. Karm characterizes it as a “Christmas cookie with lots of cinnamon and spice.”
Karm also offers two other season fall brews, sold through Thanksgiving. Oktoberfest Frogger Style Lager is a distinctive take on the German Classic, while Barrel-Aged Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale ages in whiskey barrels.
While Engler enjoys the last drops of his drink, friend Matt Moyer (27) of Zanesville, takes a hearty slug of this barrel-aged brand.
“That is good stuff,” he says, wiping his mouth. “It has a clean finish, like I just drank a really good whiskey, but without the burn. It finishes with pumpkin and vanilla — like a chaser to a whiskey shot.”
Karm makes sure I don’t leave without tasting his Oktoberfest.
“Our Oktoberfest is caramelly, crisp, refreshing and crystal-clear,” he says, handing me a glass of the bright, golden, almost sparkling liquid. “It’s lightly toasty, bread-like, with rich character and a slightly floral note.”
Each flavor does a tap dance on my tongue.
“We want to make beers you write home about,” Karm says while I swallow a mouthful of fall.
And as I leave with notebook in hand, I think, I’ll do just that.
Hoppin’ Frog’s Tasting Room is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 3:00 to 11:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 12:00 noon to 11:00 p.m. For more information, visit their web site, and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook.