Style Profile: Pumpkin Ale

Posted on September 10th, 2009


With the fall quickly approaching it’s time to begin looking at the beers of autumn. September is traditionally harvest time, in which the fruits and vegetables of the summer are collected and there’s plenty of good food and good cheer to go around. The root vegetables gathered this time of year frequently make for great beers; the most well known of these is of course the pumpkin beer.

Although pumpkin beer as we know it got its start by American craft brewers during the 1990’s people have been brewing beer with pumpkins for ages. The pilgrims were even known to brew pumpkin ale when they arrived on Plymouth Rock, because they was a lack of other fermentables like barley available. While pumpkin beer is associated with the autumn these days, because pumpkins weren’t typically available to brewers in colonial times until harvest, pumpkin beer couldn’t be enjoyed until the winter months.

Today modern pumpkin ales typically fall into two schools: beers which taste like actual pumpkins, and beers which taste like pumpkin pie. Although beer which replicates the taste of real pumpkins is generally more difficult and sometimes more respected by beer snobs out there, both types can be wonderful and a great way to celebrate the fall. Brewers striving for the first type will use a variety of methods to create their brew, sometimes using canned pumpkin filling while others will use actual roasted pumpkins for a more authentic taste. Brewers hoping to replicate Grandma’s pumpkin pie on the other hand will typically use pumpkin filling with a variety of associated spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; some lazier brewers will sometimes even just use the spices and leave out the pumpkin all together.

There are countless brewers who craft a mean pumpkin beer. Some favorites of Team Beeriety include are the pumpkin beers of  Smuttynose, Dogfish Head, Post-Road and Shipyard. What are some of yours? Next time you enjoy a pumpkin ale let us know what you think about it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.