Jun 10 2012
When is Oktoberfest? September 18th-October 3rd. When is the first day of fall? September 23rd. When do the first pumpkin beers hit stores in a hurry to end our already short New England summer? July 28th.
I believe everyone has heard me gripe about the beer industry and its rush to change the seasons so I’ll keep it short this time. Everyone knows that ale companies are in a never ending rush to get the subsequent season started. I venture that a well made beer of any style is enjoyable at any time of year.
My real question here is as follows: Is the fall seasonal ale shortly to be pumpkin ale and no longer Oktoberfest? I suspect that this year we may see as many, if not more, pumpkin beers on the shelves as traditional Oktoberfest styles.
I have read that pumpkin beer originated with the Pilgrims and is a very traditional New England style beer. I suspect that in those days the pumpkin was employed to help fermentables, as malt was less bounteous, whereas today the pumpkin is utilized primarily for flavor and body. Furthermore, those historical brews were surely not loaded with spices and other flavourings as they are now.
As such, I’m forced to declare pumpkin beer a modern invention and yet one more fulfillment of America’s unique and adventurous brewing style. Of course, that statement stems from my pride in American brewing overall and the decidedly American foundation on which this style was built. Having said that, I haven’t quite warmed up to pumpkin beer.
I find the ales that utilize pumpkin flavoring and a plethora of spices as if they were bottling a pie to be most unpleasant. The brewers that painstakingly cut entire pumpkins to contribute to the mash appear to offer a lot more in terms of body and rich flavors. Like with any brew, the foundation on which the brew itself is made is imperative. A listless ale with some pumpkin pumped in will show its true colors as a sub-par product. A well built ale made to be great on its own will take full advantage of any additions.
The flavour profile of pumpkin beers hasn’t excited me as much as the idea behind making something original that many folks appear to genuinely enjoy. The fondness for pumpkin brews is spreading madly and the increase in selection over the last few years has been wonderful. It’s getting to the point where pumpkin brews may shortly overshadow my long time favourite seasonal style of Oktoberfest.
Tim Bush found his way to Colonial Spirits, a Harvard liquor store, in 2002. It was beer that brought Tim to Colonial Spirits and ale that permitted him make a considerable contribution to the store. At this point beer is only a tiny part of what Tim does at the store. Nonetheless, he enjoys ale now more than ever. Check out Colonial Spirits’ beer blog for more of Tim’s thoughts on beer.