Here we go… Time to ruffle some feathers. I know I can’t be alone here, but I am apparently in the minority on this one.
We’re in the middle of autumn, leaves are falling off the trees and for whatever-the-fuck-reason, pumpkin and “pumpkin spiced” beers from what seems like every brewery in the country have filled the shelves of your local beer stores and the taps of your local bars. Perhaps this is in response to a consumer demand for pumpkin-tasting products. Or, maybe consumers are being tricked into drinking what amounts to liquid bullshit. It’s not that these beers can’t taste good. In fact, some of them taste great.
Personally, I believe pumpkin beer is the absolute worst trend in the craft beer craze.
Why, you ask? What is wrong with pumpkin beer? Isn’t it possible, Mr. H. Vulgare, that you are a grumpy bastard? Maybe you should let people drink what they want and shut the fuck up.
Not this time, dear reader. Not this time.
Let me answer your question in three parts.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with putting pumpkin in beer. All fruits and vegetables are, and have always been (with the exception of German brewing) fair game. In fact, exploration is encouraged in the name of creative brewing. But from a brewer’s perspective, pumpkin is one of the most overrated vegetables you can use in beer. It contributes almost no flavor and leads to an extremely negligible increase in alcohol by volume. Then why add it? One word–marketing. During the fall season, Americans are fast approaching the addictive consumerism that is around the corner with the big holidays. People are ready to spend money and breweries are ready to take that money. I don’t blame them.
The second argument is that 99% of the “pumpkin flavor” in pumpkin beers comes from the spices that you’d put in pumpkin pie, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I would have no problem if the breweries made these spiced beers and marketed them as “Fall Spiced Ale” or something of the like. Calling these brews “pumpkin flavored” is misleading and has created an entire category of beer I won’t buy, and has taken up limited shelf space at my favorite bottle shops.
My last point is that the trend of all these breweries to produce “pumpkin beer” has thwarted creativity. I am all for experimental, crazy concoctions, but tell me this, where are the “Squash Beers?” Where are the “Spooky Halloween Beers?” Where are the “Turkey, Stuffing, and Gravy Beers?” Where are the innovative post-Oktoberfest, pre-Biere de Noel autumn seasonal releases? It’s not like pumpkin beer is an inherited style from our European brewing forefathers. In fact, I can’t think of a single English, Belgian, German, French or Czech brewery that makes a pumpkin beer (there may be some, but I can’t name you one). Maybe it’s because pumpkins are from North America, not Europe. Or maybe it’s because they’re total bullshit (I can’t stress this point enough).
So now that you have read my frustrations you have a choice. You can choose to spend your money on a trick (“pumpkin beer”) or a treat (good beer). As for me, I’ll be taking this next month to drink delicious beers that mimic the color of falling leaves. Brilliant red ales, toasty brown ales and plenty of dark, soothing stouts.
Agree or disagree?
Man Beer School is a new regular series on Manbque.com exploring everything you ever wanted to know about beer. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to write me at write.h.vulgare [at] gmail.com