Friday, November 11, 2011

Where are all the pumpkin beers?!

While Beer and Beyond is usually dedicated to reviewing the best Washington State has to offer, I did not get to taste nearly as many pumpkin beers this year as I would have liked. Granted, I was a little remiss in my pursuit of great beer, and did not attend Elysian Brewing’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest this year, but the pumpkins came and went too quickly. They were also released a little early for my taste. I’m just not ready for pumpkin beers in early September, when it is still 70 degrees outside. I want one when the leaves are changing, when the weather is cool, but the chill of winter has not yet set in. Most of all I want them with my Thanksgiving pies! It doesn’t take a master Cicerone to see that this is one of the most perfect beer pairings in all of gastronomy. There’s only one problem: when Thanksgiving comes around all the pumpkin beers have been shoved off the shelves to make room for winter beers, which seem to be coming out earlier and earlier every year. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter beers, but I would like to implore all of the brewers in our state to release their pumpkin brews a little later and extend the season a little. I understand the shortened season for harvest ales and fresh hop beers, but pumpkin spices are always available. Yes, it’s easy to get burnt out on pumpkin beers, but all I’m asking is that they be released after Oktoberfest ends, and made through Thanksgiving. I was only able to taste a few pumpkin beers this year, but the two standouts were Schooner Exact’s Gutter Punk’n (also wins for best name), and 2Beers’ Pumpkin Spice Ale.
I think what I liked about each of these beers is that they represent the two predominant schools of thought about pumpkin ales. On the one hand, you have the 2Beers Pumpkin that is very pumpkin spice forward, like a glass of pie. The other approach is a beer that is accented with pumpkin spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom, but still tastes like a barley brewed beer, like the Gutter Punk’in. I have noticed that a lot of people tend to favor one over the other. One of the reasons I was sad to miss The Great Pumpkin Beer Fest this year, is that I love what brewers are doing with this style; pumpkin saisons, pumpkin hefeweizens, barrel aged pumpkin beers, even beer aged in an actual pumpkin. It’s a style that we should be celebrating the variety of offerings, and enjoying each for their differences. Pumpkin beers are a great vehicle to show case a brewer’s creativity, and here in Washington we have some amazingly creative brewers, they just need a longer season to pour.


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