If there is one thing that sums up Halloween for a booze hound it's the Pumpkin beer. You either love or hate the style but for me it isn't truly fall until I see the pumpkin ales hitting the shelves at my local beer stores. Mark did a stand up job last year of sampling and reviewing a bunch of these beers so instead of downing three or four six packs I'll give you guys a little more insight into the exciting world of Pumpkin beers… while I downing a few six packs.
The Pumpkin beer style we all know and love was introduced into America by the good people at Pyramid Brewing back around 1985. Their Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale was a hit last year with Mark and has warmed it's way into my tiny black heart on many a October night. It's probably one of the better offerings out there for the style but that could be debated till the cows come home. There's no shortage of variations on the style so if you're turned off by one you shouldn't rule out the style as a whole. Most likely you'll be able to find one that hits your sweet spot. Heartland Brewery in New York City actually sells more beer on Halloween then any other night. And what's the top seller on all hallows eve? You bet your sweet as it's their Pumpkin Ale.
For the most part a pumpkin beer is all about the spice, since pumpkin doesn't really have much of a flavor. Ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice all normally get tossed into the brew pot in different amounts to help out the flavor. That's not to say that our good friend the pumpkin doesn't ad anything to the beer. A good pumpkin ale that uses real pumpkin can have a very nice thick mouthfeel to it along with a rich starchy flavor. Some brewers will also roast the pumpkin to help kick things up a bit. Others have been known to use other types of squash with more flavor in order to enhance the beers character. Just dumping a can of pumpkin pie mix into the wort during fermentation could have a pretty great affect also, and takes out all that pesky measuring.
So which beers should you try? Of course there is the original from Pyramid but why stop there? By no means am I am expert but I do have my favorites that might be a good starting point for everyone.
Outside of that there are a ton of other breweries out there that make a seasonal pumpkin beer. Around this time when it's starting to get a little colder out I'm always happy when I can find a new one to bring home and crack open. Do yourself a favor and do the same people, your beer gut will thank you.