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Opinion: In Defense of Pumpkin Beer

Andy Farrell

Pumpkin spiced lattes have become part of an unfortunate cultural uniform. Pumpkin fans are sarcastically dubbed "basic bitches"; others shiver when supermarket cereal aisles become packed with pumpkin-spiced frosted flakes and everything is suddenly, frighteningly orange. I suppose it's easy to get jaded on all things pumpkin. It's a bit over the top, I'll admit, and perhaps cynicism is becoming America's new favorite past time, but with each passing year, there seems to be more and more craft beer enthusiasts scoffing at the release of dozens of seasonal pumpkin beers.

Here's my plea: We’re better than tumbling down the path of cynicism. Pumpkin beers need to be revered and celebrated.

Now I'm not asking anyone to drink any poorly made beer; there are plenty.  But a beer shouldn't merely be cast aside by novices or snobs because of the inclusion of the gourd!  

First, let's honor the history. Pumpkin beer is not an innovation of modern craft brewing. Back in the days when colonists first landed and malts were few and far between, it was the discovery of the sugary fiber rich pumpkin that provided fermentable sugars for beer making, as far back as the 1650's. Beer folks love getting wrapped up in the celebrity and reputation of certain brands and even specific beers. Let's respect the pumpkin and it’s long history in American craft. 

Secondly, when we talk about Pumpkin beers, the majority of the time, we're talking about pumpkin pie spices (i.e. cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, molasses) and not the vegetable itself. If it's those spices you dislike, then it's about finding the least pie-forward pumpkin beer for you. Many breweries in recent years, have expanded the pumpkin repertoire beyond ambers and brown ales to saisons (Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin), Scottish ales (Ballast Point Pumpkin Down) ciders (Downeast Pumpkin Blend), porters (Southern Tier Warlock) and more.

Years ago working as a chef, enjoying post-shift drinks with a mix of back of house and front of house staff was the nightly ritual. Never one for Miller lites, I'd always ask the bartender to grab me the beer that was most recently tapped. I would try all kinds of styles. If I didn't like it, I'd slug it down and order a Sierra Nevada Pale. I was handed what I though was a New Castle Brown Ale, but before I sipped it, the brown sugar and pie spice of what would be my first pumpkin beer overwhelmed me. In fact, it overwhelmed me so much I bought a six pack for Thanksgiving dinner two weeks later. 

On October 8th, City Tap University City is hosting our 6th Annual Pumpkin Smash, our carefully curated list celebrating the diversity of one of American craft's truest stalwarts, Pumpkin beer. The Germans have their lager focused Oktoberfest. Why can't we American craft drinkers embrace pumpkin beers the same way?

Here's our list for the day. We hope to see you there!

Fat Heads Spooky Tooth
BrewWorks Devious
2SP Imperial Pumpkin
Troegs Master of Pumpkins
Southern Tier Rum Barrel Aged Pumpking
Southern Tier Warlock
Down East Pumpkin Blend
Jolly Pumpkin La PArcela Sour
Dogfish Head Punkin
Brooklyn Post Road
Ballast Point Pumpkin Down
Saucony Creek Maple Mistress
Breckenridge Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte
Saugatuck Pumpkin Chai
New Belgium Pumpkick
Cigar City Good Gourd
Neshaminy Creek Punkless Dunkel
Springhouse Braaaiins!!

In Boston? Don't worry, we got you! Pumpkin Smash is happening at City Tap Boston too

Cheers!

Andy Farrell