Did you know the second most popular craft beer style, after only pale ale, are seasonal brews? Seasonal brews are specialty ales released periodically during the year. Amongst the most popular of these are pumpkin ales brewed by local brewers such as Garrison Brewing Company and Propeller Brewery, amongst others. The fall season is a particularly popular time of year for seasonal beers. Last year seasonal beers accounted for X% of craft beer sales at the NSLC and Pumpkin Ales represent x% of those sales during October and early November.
Unlike many seasonal brews, which have been inspired by traditional seasonal European beers, Pumpkin Ales are a North American invention. At their simplest, they are sweet and simply flavoured with artificial spices reminiscent of pumpkin pie but local brewers, such as Propeller, rely on natural ingredients including, of course, fresh pumpkin. The inaugural batch of Propeller Pumpkin Ale was brewed with one of Howard Dill’s legendary Atlantic Giant Pumpkins and traditional pumpkin pie spices. Garrison Brewing Company likewise takes the natural approach to Pumpkin Ale brewing as they also rely on pumpkins gathered from Dill’s farm in Windsor. They add cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice to create a brew they describe as “pure, pumpkiny perfection.” Garrison’s version isn’t simply sweet as ample hops – the beer registers at a surprisingly high 30 IBU (International Bitterness Units), providing it ample backbone to support the sweetness of the pumpkin and malt.
The rich, intense flavours of pumpkin ales work well with autumnal food, and not just dessert. In fact, drier, more complex, versions such as Propeller and Garrison pair best with savoury seasonal favourites.
Beer is a fantastic match to cheese. Try a pumpkin ale with a mildly spiced Gouda or Harvarti, such as Fox Hill Farms’ Fennugreek Havarti.
Not surprisingly pumpkin ales pair well with squash soup, but don’t season the soup with classic pumpkin pie spices. When the flavours of a beer or wine exactly mimic the food, theirs is little benefit. Try seasoning the soup with sage or another savoury herb or drizzle the top of the soup with pesto.
Fuller styles of pumpkin ale are a great match to a traditional roast turkey or chicken dinner. The nutty and caramel-like flavours find harmony sweeter dark meats while the spices combine nicely with stuffing, especially recipes using lots of sage.
Perfect with Pork
Roast loin of pork is an excellent match with many pumpkin ales. Stuff the loin with apples, toasted walnuts, sage and blue cheese and you might just discover a new favourite weekend meal.
Sweeter versions of pumpkin ales are good with dessert. Again, don’t automatically pair a pumpkin beer with pumpkin pie. Better options include nut based desserts such as pecan pie or sweet desserts such as crème caramel.
For Hell of it! We get introduced to the brewers of Hell Bay and Propeller.