In honor of Halloween, we're posting an excerpt from a blog post we published back on October 31, 2013. In it, Steve 'Bossman' Siciliano explored the origins of pumpkin ale while pondering its growing popularity, which, in the two years since first publication, has not appeared to waver. To read the complete post, please go here.
The use of pumpkins in the production of beer is uniquely American. Our colonial forefathers occasionally added pumpkins to their beer recipes, not because they wanted to but because they had to. Good quality, inexpensive malt was hard to acquire back then and the indigenous gourd, with its requisite starches and sugars, provided a viable alternative. As malt became more readily available, the use of pumpkins in the production of beer became an historical footnote. It might have remained there if not for William Owens.
Back in the mid 1980s, "Buffalo Bill" Owens, who was at the time the owner of Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Haywood, California, was researching historical beer recipes when he came across one, allegedly formulated by George Washington, which used pumpkin flesh in the mash. Owens also happened to be a gardener. He took one of his prize 500 pound pumpkins, chunked it, baked it and then threw the pieces into a mash for his standard amber ale. After he fermented and carbonated the beer, Owens was disappointed that it had no discernible pumpkin flavor. But then he had a brewing epiphany—why not use pumpkin pie spices to achieve the flavor profile that he thought would be achieved from using the baked pumpkin? He brewed another batch, this time without pumpkin, and dumped a can of pumpkin pie spices into the bright tank. The first modern “pumpkin” beer was born.
Obviously it’s these spices, used in differing proprietary amounts and combinations, which are the main reason as to why pumpkin beers today are so popular. People equate the spicy flavors and aromas of these brews to those of pumpkin pie. And who doesn’t like pumpkin pie? But maybe there are other, perhaps subliminal, factors that are contributing to the wild popularity of pumpkin beer.
I would guess that most adults have fond memories of donning costumes and traipsing through neighborhoods collecting overflowing bags of treats on Halloween. Perhaps drinking a beer that exalts the most cherished and ubiquitous symbol of Halloween helps rekindle those memories and allows for a somewhat vicarious participation in a decidedly childlike activity. Then again, maybe the popularity of these brews is due to the fact that the pumpkin is such a photogenic fruit and its image looks so appetizing on a beer label. Other fruits are used in beer and make equally delicious pies—apples, cherries peaches and blueberries for instance—but they haven’t lent their names to a craft beer phenomenon. Can this be because they don’t have the same visually appealing impact and marketing panache of the pumpkin?
|Griffin Claw Screamin' Pumpkin, still available at Siciliano's ($2.19/16oz)|
New and Returning Beer
- Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown Ale, $7.59/22oz - "Our latest Rough Draft Limited is a collaboration with Heritage Coffee -- a delicious beer we call Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown Ale" (source).
- Brooklyn Insulated Lager, $1.59/12oz - "Brooklyn Insulated Lager is your protection against biting wind and soggy weather. German Munich, roasted Carafa, and Pilsner malts create a nimble, racy body, while a helping of American black barley adds just a hint of roast coffee. A light dry hopping of American and German hops pitter-patters across the nose and dives into the dry, warming finish. Try it with dark breads, hearty meats, and sturdy cheddars. If you still feel the chill, just add another layer and enjoy your insulation" (source).
- Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, $2.29/12oz - "This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, our award-winning rendition of the Imperial Stout style once made exclusively for Catherine the Great. We use three mashes to brew each batch of this beer, achieving a luscious deep dark chocolate flavor through a blend of specialty roasted malts. We brew it every year for the winter season. It is delicious when newly bottled, but also ages beautifully for years" (source).
- Founders Backwoods Bastard, $3.89/12oz - "Big and delicious for your ’perty mouth. Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts. A bit of earthy spice and a scintilla of dark cherries. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate" (source).
- New Holland Mischievous, $4.79/22oz - "Mischievous presents flavors derived from its 100% brettanomyces fermentation. This wild yeast contributes earthiness, spice, mineral-character and slight tartness" (source).
- Stone Coffee Milk Stout, $1.99/12oz - "From imperial stouts to IPAs, we’ve discovered the tantalizingly roasty lift that comes from adding coffee beans to just about any kind of beer. This English-style milk stout, originally a limited-edition offering at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station, proved the perfect foil for beans from San Diego-based Ryan Bros Coffee. The bitterness of the coffee is balanced out brilliantly by the milk sugar we used to add a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the stout’s smooth, easy-drinking texture. Cheers to the coalescence of two highly artisanal (and delectable) mediums" (source).
- New Belgium Ben and Jerry Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, $1.69/12oz - "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream beer. Our newest collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s brings together two different types of pint-makers for one common goal: To help Protect Our Winters combat climate change. When two foodie B Corps join forces for good, delicious ideas are created. Our Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale scoops the lip-smacking fun of dessert from a bowl right into your pint glass. Brewed with specialty ingredients and a healthy sweet tooth, this beer’s rich chocolaty, salted-caramel, vanilla goodness is worth savoring to the last drop. Reward yourself, and dig in" (source).
- New Belgium Accumulation, $1.69/12oz - "This winter, IBUs start accumulating like snow in Colorado with our new ACCUMULATION WHITE IPA . Brewing a white IPA was not only a way to salute the white beauty falling from the sky, but a direct revolt to the longstanding tradition of brewing dark beers for winter and WINTER SEASONAL BEERS . At least that’s what our rebellious brewer Grady Hull likes to claim as he shovels in plenty of new hop varietals and a bit of wheat for a smooth mouthfeel. Stack up a few cases of Accumulation White IPA to keep your long nights glowing blizzard white" (source).
- Arcadia Nut Brown, $1.79/12oz - "This English-style brown ale has an alluring mahogany color capped by a rich foam head. It is brewed with six different varieties of premium malted barley, creating a robust body and delicious flavor profile featuring hints of chocolate, raisins, dates and almonds. Its ripe fruit notes and malty, sweet finish are counterbalanced by a subtle hop bitterness and aroma" (source).
- Frankenmuth Christmas Town, $1.69/12oz - "For many, our little town of Frankenmuth is known as Christmas Town. So, it's no wonder we created an ale to celebrate the Merry Season. Enjoy toasted sweet dark malts and American hops which combine with holiday flavors to create a taste and aroma that is unmistakably Christmas" (source).
- Blake's Beard Bender, $1.99/12oz - "Blake's Beard Bender is a 100% natural hard cider. It's funny when nothing's added you taste the true characteristics of the apple. Not for the faint of heart. Beard Bender packs a punch not expected from hard cider. Derived from a variety of Bittersweet and Bittersharp apples. Beard Bender is tart, crisp and amazingly drinkable. And, of course, 100% grown at Blake Farms in Armada, Michigan" (source).
- Deschutes Foray IPA, $4.99/22oz - "Foray is all about the journey. Belgian yeast delivers hints of apple and pear which blend with the citrus hop aroma for a clean even finish. So no matter where you’re heading, this a trip worth taking" (source).
- Deschutes Hop Trip, $1.99/12oz - "Part of the Bond Street Series. This Fresh Hop Pale Ale is all about celebrating the hop harvest in the fall. Fresh picked hops have to be added to the brew immediately and in abundance. Roughly 270 pounds of Crystal hops from Doug Weathers' farm outside Salem, Oregon will be added to the 50 barrel batch in addition to some dry kilned whole flower hops. That adds up to approximately 5.5 pounds of hops per barrel brewed" (source).
- Shorts Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, $2.39/12oz - "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is a Double Belgian IPA brewed exclusively with Galaxy hops. The nose is an impressive blend of citrus aromas reminiscent of guava and lemons. It also has subtle Belgian yeast esters. An intense, clean bitterness dominates the flavor profile, with little malt character to compete with. A fruity yeast sweetness is noticeable in the finish, alongside a resounding bitterness" (source).
- Great Lakes Ohio City Oatmeal Stout, $1.69/12oz - "Dark and roasty yet light and smooth as a fresh coat of snow, our Oatmeal Stout will kick your cabin fever and inspire you to toss another log on the fire" (source).
- North Coast Grand Cru, $16.69/500ml - "Reminiscent of North Coast Brewing's Gold Medal-winning Twentieth Anniversary Ale, North Coast Grand Cru is brewed with pilsner malt and agave nectar, then aged in oak bourbon barrels" (source).
- Southern Tier Choklat, $4.99/12oz - "Moving through centuries, the circular journey of cacao has been realized in our brewing house, encompassing the complexity of the darkest, bitter-sweet candy together with the original frothy cold beverage of the ancient Maya to bring to you our Blackwater Series Choklat Stout. We have combined the finest ingredients to tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle" (source).
- Lagunitas Born Yesterday, $2.19/12oz - "Quite possibly the freshest Fresh Hop ale you'll get your paws on—Born Yesterday. How? Our farmer friends in Yakima, WA harvested and rushed straight-to-our-breweries the freshest virgin, un-kilned hops. Then a herculean effort involving Lagunitas folks from across all different departments commenced with a quickness … sorting and picking through the hops to remove twigs, twine and other stuff from farming. After all the lupulin glands are sufficiently tickled, the hops go into a proprietary Borning Process which allows us to take these whole-cone hops (not pellets or oils or other sorcery) and deliver their absolute essence and liquid likeness to you in bottles and kegs for an immaculate reception" (source).
Video of the Week | Killer Beer
We posted this last year on Halloween. It's too good to only post once.
Happy Halloween, everyone!