Just as the intoxicating aromas and flavors of a baking Pumpkin Pie instantly warm your soul and let you know that Fall is well underway, the sight of newly arrived Pumpkin beer at your favorite retailer can instantly send a thrill of adrenaline into the psyche of Fall beer lovers. The rich colors of maple leaves, and the full bodied sweet and spicy flavors of brown sugar, clove, cinnamon, and pumpkin are like Autumn captured in a bottle. Not only are they great to quaff all by themselves, they are amazing to pair with many of our Fall and Winter food favorites. And, if you buy an extra supply and drink them in Spring or Summer, some might even consider you a genius.
Unbeknownst to many, is the fact that Pumpkin beers and ales are not a modern “flavor of the month” made by American brewers, but have a long, documented, and rich history in the fabric of brewing in America. Mentioned in Samuel Stearns’ “The American herbal” in 1801, and earlier in a 1791 history of Connecticut, the great supply of the indigenous Pumpkin became a substitute for the often inaccessible malt, and thus the Pumpkin beer was born – perhaps the most truly American beer in existence. In fact, a recipe exists in a paper from Ben Franklin’s The American Philosophical Society, which states: “Let the Pompion (Pumpkin) be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquid be hopped culled fermented & casked as malt beer.”
Some of our favorite food pairings for pumpkin beers in general:
– roasted nuts and dried fruits
– Thanksgiving feasts (make sure to make fresh cranberry sauce!)
– Chicken or Turkey Pot pies
– Herb crusted pork tenderloin (on your grill, of course)
– Sweet potatoes with a honey or brown sugar/cinnamon glaze
– Pecan pie (try it with a scoop of Vanilla bean or pumpkin ice cream)
Here are a few of our favorites at Wally’s, selected by our beer specialist, Stephanie Jensen.
Epic & DC Brau Fermentation without Representation
RateBeer: 97 points
Tasting notes for the brewery: Our first ever collaborative beer has all the familiar flavors of the season, but done with Epic style. To a base of strong, roasty, and chocolaty porter, we add 200 pounds of real pumpkin per batch, five spice and whole Madagascar vanilla beans. As you pour this deeply ruby brown beer, you’re greeted by the aroma of fresh cut squash, followed by rich chocolate. The flavor starts sweet with marshmallow, vanilla, and some pumpkin pie, then yields to a coffee roast and dark chocolate dryness. This beer is a great introduction for curious drinkers and a special holiday treat for fans of the style.
Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine
RateBeer: 96 points
Tasting notes from the brewery: This is a beer made with real pumpkins.
We hand-roasted over 500lbs of heirloom pumpkins from La Tercera Farms in Bodega Bay. The caramelized gourds were then added to our velvety American Barleywine and aged in brandy barrels for a year. Finally, we blended the barrel-aged beer with freshly brewed ale and added a delicate hint of pumpkin pie spices to round out this decadent autumn sipper.
Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin
RateBeer: 98 points
Tasting notes from brewery: Jacked is brewed with fresh pumpkin and fall spices and has been aging in Oak barrels for 6 months. The oak barrels add subtle nuances of toasted vanilla and bourbon notes. With an ABV of 10.31% (a play on the date of Halloween), Jacked is a big, unique pumpkin ale.
Personal note: This beer inspired me to make bourbon-spiked pumpkin pies. I’ve made them the last couple years and they are incredible, everything made from scratch: crust and pumpkin puree. Usually use Maker’s Mark bourbon, this year will try using Bulleit Rye.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale RateBeer: 90
Tasting Notes from brewery: Punkin’ Ale is a full-bodied, spiced brown
ale brewed with baked pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.
Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale is named after the annual Punkin’ Chunkin
Festival held near Lewes, Delaware the weekend after Halloween.
Personal note: This is the fastest selling Pumpkin beer Wally’s has ever
seen! Grab it before it’s all gone.