Cambridge Park Beer Club

Coming together over craft beer.

History of Pumpkin Beer

The craft beer renaissance, which only began about 30 years ago, has yielded any number of interesting (strange?) flavors and ingredients to the beer drinking community.  Brewers are always trying different fruit, and of course chocolate and coffee are popular in the porter and stout arena.  For some reason however Pumpkin beer has evolved recently into an almost cultish obsession among the craft beer crowd.  Everyone has their favorite, and even the once jaded (like me) have waded into the nutmeg and cinnamon scented waters to give these beers a try.  But what is it about pumpkin that holds the appeal to American beer drinkers?

Well for starters, it is worth noting that pumpkins are a native vegetable to America.  There could not have been pumpkin ale prior to the colonies, because they didn’t have pumpkins!  So, that fact alone makes the notion of pumpkin ale inherently American.  Poke around the web a bit and you will find the same story repeated about pumpkins being one of the only available ingredients that brewers could use as a malt substitute since barley was scarcely available.

Many references refer to pumpkin falling out of favor as the traditional ingredients became more available in the mid and late 1800’s.  Interestingly, this is also the time that German migration began to increase.  According to a History Channel documentary on the history of beer, the decline in ale production in America had more to do with the colonies becoming disenchanted with anything English than with any ingredient shortage.  The German Lager beer was there to take its place.

If there is any accuracy to this historical account of the pumpkin beer in America, then I think it is even more interesting that today’s pumpkin beer has become our own rival to the German Marzen, or Oktoberfest.  Sure, the German’s have way more rules for Oktoberfest then there are for pumpkin beer (ok, so there really are no rules for pumpkin beer), but that just makes them all the more american, right? Oktober and Pumpkin stand next to each other on the shelf and taps and go toe to toe in stores and pubs across the country each fall.

Whatever the exact history, pumpkins and pumpkin beers are naturally American, so instead of apple pie grab a glass of one of these brews while watching some fall baseball:

Southern Tier Pumking – kinda like a piece of pumpkin pie in a glass.

Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale – If you generally like ales, the pumpkin won’t overwhelm you here, a gateway into the pumpkin world

Saranac Pumpkin Ale – Sometimes you try a beer and it is just a solid good beer.  This is one of them.

Wild Bill’s Pumpkin Ale – Supposedly the first to bring back pumpkin.  I didn’t love it, but it is worth a shot.

Dogfishhead Pumpkin Ale – I have not tried it, but it ranks high on a lot of lists.


One comment on “History of Pumpkin Beer

  1. Pingback: If Spring Came In February, Please Tell Me Next Month Is October… | Cambridge Park Beer Club

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This entry was posted on October 25, 2012 by in Culture, History and tagged , , , , , , , .
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