What’s Brewing? Pumpkin beer is a fall tradition
The temperature has dropped and the leaves have started to turn. It’s time to break out the sweaters and light up a campfire on the cool nights. Now is the time to drink pumpkin beer if you haven’t already indulged.
Pumpkin beers, along with harvest ales, continue to mark the end of the harvest season. This is what makes them special right now. It’s disappointing to see the disregard of tradition which is validated by seeing pumpkin beer on the shelf and being consumed in August. I think to myself, “it’s just beer so who really cares, right?”
Unfortunately, there’s a bigger picture here along with pumpkin beers arriving in the summer. For example, we all see Christmas starting earlier and in many places, kids are receiving candy as rewards all year long. There is a plethora of other examples of things being so watered down it’s hard to imagine them as special in the future.
To keep anything special takes discipline, balance and moderation. How will the next generation understand the “special-ness” of anything if we’re teaching them they can have it any time of the year?
Pumpkin beers are special. We pick pumpkins for decorations only this time of the year, eat them in pies and use them in beer among other things. What has helped us associate these fantastic beers with this cooler season are the spices.
A little nutmeg and cinnamon go a long way in a pie, muffins, dashed on top of eggnog and certainly in these beers. Although actual pumpkin doesn’t provide much taste when used in beer, the aromas and flavors of ginger and clove are unique and work very well, and especially when they’re used in moderation.
In recent years we’ve seen peppers used in pumpkin beers. Perhaps they provide a little heat in addition to the campfires keeping us warm. The end result is a wonderful taste that fits the fall season perfectly.
Here are a few beers I’ve enjoyed. They are available locally.
Couch Brewery (Pittsburgh)
Atomic Pumpkin Spiced Amber Ale (6.3% ABV). This beer features cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Completely captures the great flavors of autumn in a glass.
New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, Colo., Asheville, N.C.)
Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin (6.4% ABV). This pumpkin ale features cinnamon and habanero chili peppers! Aromas of allspice, cinnamon, clove and a hint of chile. Light bodied with a dry finish. Flavors of allspice, cinnamon, light clove and a hint of chiles with a smooth dry lingering spiced finish. It’s not spiced over the top and has an amazing balance with just the right amount of heat.
Spoonwood Brewing Co. (Bethel Park)
Pumpkin Drop Porter (6.2% ABV). Brewed with Bethel Bakery spice cake, real pumpkin, milk sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla. Sweet but not so much to keep anyone from having a second!
Breckenridge Brewing (Littleton, Colo.)
Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte (5.5% ABV). This is a stout made with dark roasted malts and cold-pressed coffee beans. Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves complement the taste of rich pumpkin and spices. The velvety texture of nitrogen creates a distinctive and delicious beer.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of “Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.”