Liquid Diet: Night Shift Brewing’s Root

Brewmaster Rob Burns spurns pumpkins for an earthy, autumn saison infused with root vegetables.

night shift brewing

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For years, Everett’s Night Shift Brewing was weary of jumping on the pumpkin-spice everything bandwagon, but this fall, they seem to have found a compromise for a seasonable brew. Spurning pumpkins, squashes, and all manner of gourds, Night Shift is instead using fresh sorrel and autumn root vegetables in a sessionable (3.7% ABV) saison they’re calling Root.

“I would definitely say this is our alternative to a pumpkin beer,” says Night Shift cofounder and brewmaster Rob Burns. “We’ve been trying to avoid doing a pumpkin beer as best as we can. That’s hard to do because while a lot of beer geeks hate them, a lot of beer lovers in general really enjoy them. But we’re always looking to do something more off-beat. So this is our twist on a normal harvest ale.”

After being contacted by Hawk House Farm in Maine last May, Burns and his team saw their opportunity to brew a more original version of the fall favorite. Growing next to sugar pumpkins were organic purple carrots, herbs, and parsnips, which they decided to showcase without a more traditional brown ale base or pumpkin pie adjuncts.

“The carrots and parsnips have a very light flavor, even though they’re a heartier root vegetable,” Burns says. “So we wanted to go with a very simple grain bill in order for them to stand out a little bit more. Plus, we knew the purple carrots were going to give it some very nice color, and that factored into our decision not to go in the direction of something darker or richer.”

Oats, rye, and wheat lend the beer notes of lemon and hay, while the raw sorrel contributes tartness and acidity. But it’s the carrots and parsnip that are the star here. Not only do the root vegetables give the beer a brilliant purple hue, but the kind of peppery, earthy nose you see more often Burgundies or Spanish Riojas.

Night Shift only brewed one seven-barrel batch of Root, which they’ll release today at their taproom. None of the batch was bottled, but it will be available to purchase in growlers. Burns says that if the beer has a favorable reception, they’ll consider brewing it in a larger batch next fall. He’s also considering aging future batches of Root in red wine barrels with an inoculation of Brettanomyces for additional complexity.

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