From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
As we have seen with Oktoberfest beers, Autumn swiftly ushers in sensations of harvest, and within the American craft beer paradigm, a generalized style (deemed “Pumpkin Ale”) reigns supreme.
The History of Pumpkin Ale
Unlike Oktoberfest beers, pumpkin ales are as uniquely American as a beer style can get. Indigenous to North America, pumpkins for purposes of brewing were an alternative source of nutrients compared to barley, a more expensive alternative. As a result, pumpkins made their way into the beer and wine of colonists as a result of their relative cheapness and their abundance of starch, which enzymes eventually turn into sugar for yeast to feast upon.
Fast forward several centuries and Pumpkin Ale is arguably the most ubiquitous fall seasonal in our country today. In my opinion, modern craft interpretations are not as concerned with the essence of raw pumpkin flavor so much are they are with emulating pumpkin pie in liquid form. More assertive examples of the style will infiltrate the nostrils with a potpourri of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger.
Generally speaking, beer can often be reminiscent of spices due to the individuality of the yeast strain used. In the case of Pumpkin Ales, you actually do smell some, or perhaps all, of the aforementioned spices due to their purposeful inclusion in the beer.
Best Choices for Pumpkin Ale, Where to Find Them
With fall officially upon us, there is no better time to seek out a burgeoning American classic. And while taste and perception of flavor is inherently subjective, the intensity of flavor of these beers begs to be paired with the substantial fall fare. The production of pumpkin ales has more or less kept pace with their increasing popularity, but it’s still wise to seek them out sooner rather than later.
- Southern Tier Pumking – 8.6% ABV
- Elysian The Great Pumpkin – 8.1% ABV
- Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – 8% ABV
Fortunately, all of these beers and more can be found at Borderstan watering holes such as The Big Hunt or Churchkey, and your better beer stores like Connecticut Avenue Wine and Liquor (1529 Connecticut Avenue NW) and the Logan Circle Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW). More importantly, beers across the spectrum of the harvest season can be found at P Street location of Pizzeria Paradiso during their annual Autumnfest celebration.
Of even more profound size is arguably the cannot-miss event of the season put on by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (which famously owns Churchkey in Borderstan) dubbed Snallygaster, which can allow you the enjoyment of nearly 100 beers via draft, cask and wood-clad gravity-fed keg. I’ll see you there.