Time for Pumpkin AleSeptember 28, 2012
We look to be getting a bit of relief this weekend, but there’s no question about today: it’s fall, rainy, and dark. Which may sound depressing to some of you, but we can’t be drinking rum punches and summer shandy’s all year round, now can we? No, instead the fall represents some of the more exciting drinking trends of the year including the now everywhere Pumpkin Ale.
It was only a few years ago where the seasonal beer market was beginning to take off, and the typical fall offerings included Oktoberfests and heartier wheat brews. But then, seemingly overnight, the Pumpkin Ale made its way into bars and stores alike and now the number of breweries producing this variety is overwhelming.
The history however is a bit more interesting and certainly a bit more patriotic. We often associate the pumpkin with Thanksgiving pies and Halloween spooks, but the pumpkin was one of the early American sources of nutrition widely available to the early settlers. As those settlers looked for ingredients to continue their ale-drinking ways, the pumpkin offered all of the necessary requirements. But over the years, as American beer making simplified (that’s a nice way of putting it), the pumpkin was all but forgotten.
When a few small-batch breweries started to bring this variety back into the market, the interest outran the availability. Now, like I mentioned, the grocery store beer aisle is filled to the brim with pumpkin ales and having tried a number of them, it’s amazing how much they vary. I have personally found that Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road is my favorite of the six-pack varieties. The Southern Tier Pumking, mostly available in the larger 22 oz bottle (at least around here), is also damn delicious, and a bit stronger. If you were interested in drinking your Thanksgiving dinner, this would be the one.
There are a few watch outs as you go through the varieties to determine your favorite, however. There are a few breweries out there who simple add spices to their mash that we have referenced in our pumpkin memories. This means, pumpkin pie spices like nutmeg and cinnamon are used to make the sensorial connection in our brains. These are typically the beers I don’t end up liking. They tend to be sweet, and not at all complex. The reason for this method is that brewing with actual pumpkin isn’t that easy. The water and starch/sugar content plays a crucial role in the fermentation process and adding pumpkin will obviously tweak this a bit. There are amazing tutorials out there for the home-brewers but if you are simply drinking the stuff, head to your best beer distributor, make yourself a variety pack and get to drinking some true American brew!