The weather cools down, landscapes change dramatically, bursting with gorgeous colors, and beer styles shift from the light, easy drinking thirst-quenchers to fuller-bodied, warming, and spiced concoctions; welcome back fall!
Pumpkin beers are unique in that they are evocative, and embody fall to a T, their aromas and flavors suggesting the harvest season and all characteristics of it; falling leaves, Halloween, crisp, cool air, family gatherings and all the hearty fare that comes with them.
The “style” originated with the colonists as pumpkins were used in lieu of more traditional brewing ingredients which weren’t readily available, and based on the resurgence of the style, it worked out well! Roasting a pumpkin is a good method of converting starches to sugar; fermentable by the yeast, while adding more flavor to the beer through caramelization. Pumpkin also pairs well with spice and the sweeter malty attributes! This style, however, is quite open to interpretation; some breweries use copious amounts of pumpkin while others rely more on spice additions to evoke nuances of pumpkin pie. Either way, these beers are generally brewed with a brown or amber base and are typically fermented as an ale but some breweries have success producing them as lagers.
Look for pumpkin beers to be a deep orange to copper in color, either hazy from spices left in fermentation or crystal clear but should always be topped by a decent head. Their aromas can range from subtle and nuanced to bold and spicy, typically mirrored in flavor. Each brewer interprets this style differently and some prefer for the base beer’s malt and hop additions to show through as the focal point while others prefer the “beer” to be a vehicle for robust pumpkin pie taste.
Like the variety in flavor, pumpkin beers can be crisp and clean lighter lagers while others might be thicker, rich beers with higher alcohol, perhaps an imperial pumpkin! They should always show some sort of focus on pumpkin addition though, using the gourd as a cohesive and complimentary ingredient.