Imagine licking a kernel of candy corn. I know, I'm sorry to do that to you but this is important: What does it taste like? Things I know about candy corn are that it's been around for over 100 years; if you stack it nicely it'll resemble corn on the cob; it appears unbidden as if out of thin air (very spooky and on-brand) in October despite virtually no trace of it the other 11 months; and eating it makes me feel like an overzealous toddler who bit into a seasonally scented candle. The undeniable presence of sugar is good (and will inspire everyone in the country to eat at least a handful of the stuff this Halloween, thereby perpetuating the demand and our national shame); the beeswax mouthfeel is bad. But I can't say I've ever noticed it having a distinct or overpowering flavor.
Which is why I don't really understand how a brewery in Wisconsin is making candy corn-flavored beer. Let alone why they would do such a thing.
The Westallion Brewing Company debuted a beer last week (which will be on tap through the end of the month) that they describe as a typical cream ale with a "house-made candy corn flavoring" mixed in.
This isn't the first brewery to pull such a stunt, either. Urban Growler Brewing in Minnesota has been tapping limited releases of their candy corn imperial cream ale annually for several years (this weekend is the 2018 debut), and they claim people love it.
"They're surprised it's not sweet like candy corn, but it has the essence of candy corn," Urban Growler master brewer and co-owner Deb Loch told the Star Tribune in 2016.
The "essence of candy corn" is where you've lost me, Deb. But I'll play along. Candy corn's ingredients don't provide much in the way of an explanation as far as flavor essence goes. According to Business Insider, the kernels contain sugar, corn syrup, confectioner's glaze, salt, dextrose, gelatin, sesame oil, artificial flavor, honey, yellow 6, yellow 5, and red 3, gelatin, and lac-resin, "an insect secretion from lac bugs found in Asia." (Sorry, vegans.) If you wanted to make your own candy corn like the Wisconsin brewers did, Alton Brown suggests cooking several forms of sweeteners with milk, butter, food dye, and vanilla extract—which at least gives us an inkling of what defines its flavor profile.
Helpfully, Thrillist reached out to the makers of candy corn, the Jelly Belly Candy Company, to ask them what it's supposed to taste like. They provided the following statement:
The actual flavor of Jelly Belly’s (formerly known by the family name, Goelitz) Candy Corn is a wonderful blend of creamy fondant, rich marshmallow and warm vanilla notes. When combined, these flavors create the distinct Candy Corn flavor.
(They also said "It should be like biting into butter" which makes me concerned that all the candy corn I've ever eaten is from the original 1880s batch.)
Fondant, for the record, is basically just sugar and gelatin. So are marshmallows. So basically, head to Wisconsin this month for a sweet cream ale with hints of vanilla.
Seriously: What's wrong with a nice pumpkin beer, guys?