What’s the Deal with Pumpkin Ales?

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I give up already! September rolls around and we are inundated with pumpkin spiced everything. I’m pretty sure I don’t require any pumpkin spiced deodourant. Are pumpkin ales a bandwagon style or did they help start (or cause) the recent trend?

It seems that pumpkin ales have been a part of the North American brewing scene since before US confederation. Early settlers fermented a variety of squashes in addition to malted grains to scratch their alcoholic itch. Though these beverages more closely resemble pumpkin wine. Wikipedia suggests that the first commercially brewed pumpkin ale was produced by Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, in California in 1985.


A Special Beer for a Special Season

Today we are spoiled by a number of seasonal and specialty beers and the official beer of fall seems to be a pumpkin beer of some description. When I waltzed into my local LCBO to peruse their selection, I had 6 different pumpkin beers to choose from. Not particularly liking the style, I chose four different pumpkin beers and will be profiling one each week in our weekly beer profile.

Pumpkin has a distinct and sweet flavour and brewers have come up with some creative ways of incorporating pumpkin into their beers. One of the most popular ways is to add some roasted pumpkin to the beer after fermentation – “dry pumpkining”, if you will. This method imparts roasted pumpkin flavour without risking any problems or off flavours from the yeast.

Tricks of the Trade

Pumpkin or squash can also be added in the mash or boil stages of brewing. Some breweries are skipping the pumpkin altogether and just adding ‘pumpkin spices’ to their beer. I may be old-fashioned but I think all pumpkin beers should have at least some pumpkin in them.

The sweet, roasty, and spicy flavours tend to pair best with darker ales such as porters and brown ales. Be sure to tune in every week as we profile another pumpkin ale. Cheers!