What season is it?

I think everyone has heard me gripe about the beer industry and its rush to change the seasons so I’ll keep it short this time.  If you haven’t seen the new seasonal packages yet you will.  Pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest beers are pouring in.  When is Oktoberfest? September 18th – October 3rd.  When is the first day of fall? September 23rd.  When did the first pumpkin beer hit stores in a rush to curtail our already short New England summer (an industry move rivaled only by fashion)? July 28th.  Ok – enough.  We all know that beer companies are in a never ending rush to get the next season started.  I suppose that a well made beer of any style is enjoyable at any time of year so get ready to enjoy some fresh brews.

My real question here is; is the fall seasonal beer soon to be pumpkin ale and no longer Oktoberfest? I think that this year we may see as many, if not more, pumpkin beers on the shelves that traditional Oktoberfest styles.  I have read that pumpkin beer originated with the Pilgrims and is a very traditional New England style beer.  I think that in those days the pumpkin was used to supplement fermentables as malt was less plentiful, whereas today the pumpkin is used primarily for flavor and body.  Furthermore those historical brews were surely not laden with spices and other flavorings as they are today.  As such, I am compelled to declare pumpkin beer a modern invention and yet another success in America’s unique and adventurous brewing style.  Of course that statement stems from my pride in American brewing overall and the decidedly American foundation on which this style was built.  That said I haven’t quite warmed up to the style.  I find that the brews that utilize pumpkin flavoring and a wealth of spices as if they were bottling a pie most unappealing.  The brewers that painstakingly cut whole pumpkins to add to the mash seem to offer a lot more in terms of body and rich flavors.  As with any beer though the foundation on which the beer itself is created is critical.  A listless ale with some pumpkin pumped in will show its true colors as a sub-par product.  A well built ale made to be great on its own will make the most of any additions.  Either way the flavor profile hasn’t excited me as much as the idea behind creating something original that many people seem to really enjoy.

The popularity of pumpkin beers is spreading like crazy and the increase in choices over the last 4 years has been amazing.  Since I can only resist for so long the seasonal change over you will be pleased to find the beginnings of a huge selection of pumpkin beers that is growing each week.  Perhaps to overshadow my long time favorite seasonal style of Oktoberfest.

3 thoughts on “What season is it?

  1. If it was up to me, fall and winter beers would never leave the shelves…

  2. any suggestions on which pumpkin beers have less spice? (I am intrigued by the pumpkin, but can’t stand the spice)

    1. Smuttynose has less spice and is more focused on the taste of pumkins. They use a crazy amount of fresh pumpkin in each batch. Fisherman pumpkin stout is one of my favorites and is not spicy.

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