Fall is in the air, which means it’s time for all things pumpkin! This autumnal squash has taken over our pies, scones, and muffins, it’s invaded our porches and stoops, it comprises about 80% of seasonal decorations, and, most importantly, it’s in our beer! But, hey—we LOVE it! We’ll look the other way when people rip on pumpkin spice lattes, but pumpkin beers…they’re in a league of their own and deserve respect.
But what exactly is pumpkin beer? Where did it come from? And why do people love it so much? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this seasonal beer; plus, we have some recommendations for the best pumpkin brews to find in a store near you!
What is Pumpkin Beer?
To put it simply, pumpkin beer is a beer that is brewed with pumpkin, pumpkin puree, or pumpkin flavoring. It can be either type of beer—ale or lager—and almost any style of beer—amber ale, IPA, spiced lager, imperial, the list goes on! Predominantly released in the fall, you’ll know that when the pumpkin decorations hit the big box stores and when the marketing begins for pumpkin spice lattes that pumpkin beers are also making their debut in breweries and on the shelves.
Today’s pumpkin beers usually include complementary seasonal spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. However many breweries have upped their game to include additional flavors like coffee, habanero, or vanilla, or they bourbon barrel age their beer to give it a hint of oak and smoke. One thing’s for certain, modern pumpkin beer has come a long way from the original pumpkin beer.
The OG Pumpkin Beer
Believe it or not, pumpkin beer has been around for centuries. In colonial America, pumpkins were commonly used in brewing due to the fact that they were abundant and easy to grow. Although pumpkins were an unfamiliar thing to early settlers, it did not take long for colonials to figure out they could use these squashes for the fermentable sugars needed in the brewing process. Malt, which is what was (and still is) normally used as a fermentable sugar, was hard to come by in colonial times, thus pumpkin proved to be a handy and widely available substitute.
Fun Fact! Did you know that George Washington had his own recipe for pumpkin beer?
Of course, pumpkin beers of ye olden days were a bit different from the beloved beverage we enjoy today. These early iterations were usually dark and heavy and relied exclusively on actual pumpkin meat for their recipes versus modern pumpkin beers which are balanced with malt, hops, and spices.
Although pumpkin beer fell out of popularity in the early 19th century—which is when pumpkins were viewed as rustic and rural during an era where urbanization and materialism were en vogue—it made a comeback in the 1980s. We can thank America’s first brewpub, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, for this reintroduction. They sought inspiration from one of George Washington’s pumpkin beer recipes and the rest is history.
Why Do People Love Pumpkin Beer?
Reasons to love pumpkin beer can vary from person to person, however there are at least several reasons many of us can agree upon. Firstly, people love pumpkin beer because it evokes feelings of warmth and nostalgia. This time of year can be chilly and pumpkin beer is the perfect way to warm up. For many of us, drinking pumpkin beer is like taking a step back in time—It reminds us of cooler autumn days spent with family and friends around campfires, bundled up on porches, or gathered around the warm dinner table.
Also, it’s the fact that pumpkin beers are only available for a limited time each year! This makes them feel special and helps bring about a sense of anticipation as fall approaches. Then, as fall wanes and winter approaches, pumpkin beers are whisked off the shelves before we overdo it on them.
Others of us love pumpkin beer because of the distinct flavor profile that pumpkin brings to the table. Boasting notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, pumpkin beers are perfect for those who enjoy spicy flavors. And lastly, It’s the perfect combination of two things that we absolutely love—beer and pumpkin! It’s the perfect fall beverage for beer-drinkers, and it just puts us all in a good mood.
The Best Pumpkin Beer Near You!
These days, there are hundreds of pumpkin beers on the market, each with its own unique flavor. And while you should check out the local micro- and nano breweries around your parts for their version of a pumpkin beer, we have some recommendations of widely-distributed pumpkin beers that could be in a store near you! Check out our list of beers to try this season.
ABV: 7% Style: Full-bodied Brown Ale Tasting Notes: Pumpkin (brewed with pumpkin meat!), brown sugar, and spice
ABV: 6.7% Style: Spicy Pumpkin Ale Tasting Notes: Pumpkin (made with pumpkin juice), Saigon cinnamon, and hint of habanero and aji and del arbol peppers
ABV: 8.6% Style: Imperial Ale Tasting Notes: Pumpkin, malty sweetness, vanilla, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pie crust
ABV: 5.0% Style: Pumpkin Ale Tasting Notes: Real Dickinson pumpkins and warming nutmeg
ABV: 7% Style: Nitro Pumpkin Ale Tasting Notes: Pumpkin, coffee, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger
ABV: 8.0% Style: Pumpkin Ale Tasting Notes: Fresh pumpkin, ginger, caramel, spice
ABV: 4.4% Style: Pumpkin Beer Tasting Notes: Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg
There you have it—everything you need to know about pumpkin beer! If you’re looking for a delicious way to enjoy the autumn season, look no further than pumpkin beer. This unique beverage has a long history dating back to colonial America, and today it’s more popular than ever. So next time you’re at your local brewery or grocery store, be sure to pick up a six-pack of this fall time favorite.