It’s almost that time of year again: when leaves start turning from green to gold, and everything we eat and drink suddenly smells (or reeks, depending on your opinion) of nutmeg. It’s nearly Pumpkin Beer season, in other words, and this week we asked members of The Fervent Few: what would their ideal Pumpkin Beer be?
Of course, we had to get the easy jokes out of the way. I started by making the most timely one: my ideal Pumpkin Beer would be a hazy, double dry-hopped seltzer. Brad Redick, king of the Kölsch, simply wanted a jack-o’-lantern to watch us make a Kölsch—that was pumpkin enough for him. Dave Witham suggested we use Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins in place of actual pumpkin … which isn’t a terrible idea, unless you’re allergic to peanuts. And David Purgason wanted to brew his beer in a cauldron, using pumpkins to feed the fire. There were several requests to just ferment the beer in a pumpkin and call it a day, but Matt Paonessa won the joke contest by suggesting we put the beer in … a ghoulschip (ba dum tish).
But what about the serious contenders? Carla Jean Lauter proposed a Pumpkin Brown Ale. “So, my favorite pumpkin-spiced beers have always been those with a darker malt bill, like Dogfish Head’s Punkin' Ale (made with a Brown Ale base) and Cape Ann Brewing’s Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout. I vote for a Brown Ale as the base, with as many natural notes of molasses as possible,” she said.
Ian Davis wanted to add some yam to the mix. “I’m going to go ahead and say it needs to be a lightly spiced yam-and-pumpkin-hybrid Saison,” he said. “A local brewery here makes a yam Saison that really works for the style.”
For his suggestion, Ian Graham went creatively off-piste. “Start with a Wee Heavy, use a small percentage of a lightly smoked malt (maybe smoked with beech or cherry wood) to stop it from getting cloyingly sweet. Add in pumpkin spice towards the end of the boil. Serve the beer on nitro. Call it ‘Pie in the Face’ or something to that effect.”
Nick Yoder hit us with a Golden Sour, meanwhile. “I vote for a Golden Sour base beer, aged in oak with roasted pumpkins. Finish with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla.”
You can also do as Lana Svitankova suggests and just forget about your beer for a while. ”We brewed a Porter (high in ABV) with cardamom and buckwheat honey-baked pumpkin two years ago,” she said. “Forgot one keg in the fridge, and found it last year. It may have been aged on steel, but it was super delicious.”
Matthew Curtis suggested we let nature take its course. “If cidermakers and winemakers can ferment their products using only the yeast present on the skins of the fruit, then why not pumpkin too? Brew up a turbid mash, Farmhouse Saison-style wort with tons of tasty sugars for those yeasts to chow down on, then stick the whole pumpkins in the tank. Not sliced, roasted or anything—I don’t want any pumpkin flavor in my damn beer—but if there’s yeast living on that pumpkin, I’m giving it all the permission in the world to go ahead and ferment. I’m sure it would be universally popular.”
No matter the recipe, Josh Chapman had some sage (and contradictory) advice: “Roast. The. Pumpkin.” And Arvo had a suggestion for the release. “Having the launch party for the beer in a pumpkin patch is about as close as I want pumpkins to my beer,” he said.
In the end, The Fervent Few decided to go with Matthew Curtis’ wild-fermented Pumpkin Ale—if we’re lucky, it might just be ready by next Halloween. Do you have a dream Pumpkin Beer? Join The Fervent Few, and let's talk about all the delicious ways we can incorporate pumpkin into our favorite beverage.