As temps dropped and rain settled over Tacoma yesterday, autumn felt like it was peaking its head through the clouds. With the rain, a certain beer flavor peculiar to America also arrived: Pumpkin beers have descended like a Yankee Candle. It seems early, but Peaks & Pints says that every year. American colonists might have made the same statement, too. The colonists would substitute pumpkin for grains in their beer. The popularity of the style began to wane in the 1800s as whole grains became more widely available. Eventually, pumpkin beers were rare — a seasonal sideshow, showing up only in the breweries daring enough to make them and enjoyed only by drinkers willing to take a chance on the oddities. As the craft beer craze took hold in the ’80s, so too did the revival of the pumpkin ale with Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale arriving in 1985 claiming to use an original recipe from George Washington, followed by Elysian Brewing’s pumpkinpalooza. Today, however, brews made with pumpkin have officially become mainstream, with nearly every brewery worth its yeast churning out bottles and kegs packed with pumpkin, nutmeg, ginger and more. Peaks and Pints has enough pumpkin in the cooler to make it a thing. We present a to-go flight of pumpkin beers that we call Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Pumpkins On the Fly.
Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Pumpkins On the Fly
While most breweries have one or two pumpkin beers in the portfolio, Elysian Brewing Co. brews more than a dozen. Night Owl, brewed with more than 7 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, seven different malt varieties, green and roasted pumpkin seeds, bittered with Magnum hops and spiced in conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice, is their most lauded. It leans more toward Christmas than Halloween. Maraschino, banana-nut, cinnamon, pecan and graham cracker hit the tongue. Cinnamon dominates with some caramel and a touch of biscuit malt sweetness to support.
Elysian introduced its Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale at the brewery’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival in 2013 (It’s postponed this year). The beer’s a pumpkin milk stout loaded with Stumptown’s cold-pressed coffee with just a shake of cinnamon and nutmeg, plus, of course, pumpkin added into the mash, kettle and fermenter. Pale, brown, biscuit, C-77 crystal, chocolate and kiln-coffee malts provide the body, German Northern Brewer lends a touch of bitterness, and lactose sweetens the beer just a touch. The java turns the beer roast-forward; the lactose and pumpkin smooth out the sip.
6.1% ABV, 25 IBU
Pumpkin were planted in late spring alongside the Rogue Farms hops, jalapeños, marionberries and buzzing honey bees. As soon as they were picked, the pumpkins were driven to the Rogue brewery in Newport, Oregon just 77 miles away. The pumpkins were hand-chopped and seeded, roasted in pizza ovens, and pitched fresh into the brew kettle along with vanilla bean, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and Rogue Farms Independent hops to create flavors of caramel, burnt brown sugar, dry floral spices, cinnamon stick, and some tang. It’s heavy on spice, but whatever.
7% ABV, 28 IBU
Dogfish Head calls its Punkin Ale a brown pumpkin ale. Hmmmm, don’t you need some nutty, toasty malts notes to fit into that category? Whatever. The pumpkin and spice flavor is here with cinnamon, allspice and a tiny dollop of brown sugar that settle atop soft burnt biscuits and earthy pumpkin rind with each sip; a mild hop bitterness brings balance at the close.
6.4% ABV, 10 IBU
Not too spicy, not too sweet, and not like any pumpkin beer you’ve had before. New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin ale is brewed with Saigon cinnamon, plus habanero and Chile de árbol peppers for a sweet start and spicy finish with a little bitterness in between. The medium body ale pours bright pale amber with a light white lacing, and features Nugget hops combined with Pale Mena, Pale Rahr, Caramel and Munich malts to create a spicy and warming mouthfeel.