Pumpkin beer! Nothing divides the ranks of beer lovers so deeply as the fastest growing seasonal specialty in the craft beer universe.
When the first settlers clambered off their ships and looked around the Atlantic shore, they needed something to ferment. Grain was hard to come by, but native pumpkins provided an obvious starch and sugar source. The same early creativity that led to our traditions of holiday pies had pioneers growing pumpkins for both food and beverage purposes.
The early brews (and the pies, for that matter) lacked the sumptuous qualities granted by “pumpkin pie spices” such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.
By the time Bill Owens dug up a recipe for pumpkin ale from the papers of George Washington and made a batch for his Buffalo Bill’s brewpub in Hayward, California in 1986, the association with spices had become baked in to the American palate. He had to add a can of blended holiday pie spices to the brew to give it the familiar “pumpkin flavor.”
Love it or hate it, almost all modern pumpkin beer is now spiced beer. Sometimes there is no actual pumpkin killed in the making of your pint. The style appears on the shelf as early as late summer and can usually be found through Halloween and Thanksgiving, perhaps into the Christmas beer season.
Some local brewers embrace the style, others eschew it. If you do like a mug of “liquid pie,” you may enjoy comparing the offerings each year, since brewers often adjust their spice and sweetness levels over time. Some interesting variations include bourbon barrel aged pumpkin ales and darker roast variations such as pumpkin porters.
For a delightful guided tour including access to all seasonal beers and special releases found en route, please contact us. We’ll make sure you can drink the beers you love (and laugh at the ones you hate) as you adventure into Denver’s world-class beer community.