Each year, I savor the autumn with seasonal beers—including pumpkin beers. And, I begin making pumpkin pies in October. I truly enjoy the seasons here in Missouri. In early October, I found an interesting pumpkin at the Blue Springs Farmer’s Market, and it is my colorful decoration at the doorway, along with a beautiful mum from my friend Cindy’s greenhouse. I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to decorating, but it is fun to put out the Halloween decorations each fall. Now, it’s time for some harvest decorating—getting out the cornucopia that belonged to my mother, and the pilgrim and Indian figurines. I hang onto the pumpkin décor for Thanksgiving; they provide the transition between the holidays. In the surrounding countryside, I cherish the color changes through October and November; this year the leaves of our oaks and maples gave a spectacular display of colors that is now blending into shades of rust, beige and brown and of the grasses, fields, and bark.
So, for several weeks I’ve been sharing pumpkin beers with friends. My friends at Gomer’s in Lee’s Summit stock a nice assortment, and I purchased an assortment 6-pack and a few other bottles for parties. Many beer geeks frown upon pumpkin beers—but being a fan of pumpkins, I really enjoy them. I must not be the only one—I overheard a guy asking for seasonal “pumpkin” beers in a new brewpub (Broadway Brewery) in Columbia last weekend. Pumpkin ales have become a popular seasonal beer in the last few years. I must say, some pumpkin beers are really over-spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. One of those that I’d say was over-the-top in spice this year is Southern Tier’s “Pumpking”. I shared the “bomber” bottle with a friend, and neither of us could finish a glass. I'm rather surprised at the high score this beer is given on Beer Advocate--and suspect it has something to do with the high alcohol content.
Other pumpkin ales that I tried this year included Schlafly’s, Buffalo Bill’s, Arcadia, O’Fallon, and Harvest Moon. Pairing these with foods depends upon the level of spices. To enhance the enjoyment of the flavor, I first paired pumpkin beers with homemade pretzels—because they offer a neutral flavor. The yeasty aroma and chewy salted goodness went well with a glass of O’Fallon’s Pumpkin Beer.
I had heard good things about Schlafly’s pumpkin beer; Gomer’s got another supply just before Halloween. Saturday I shared a bottle with my son at his off-campus apartment—he was not too enthused by the pumpkin/spice beer. The sweet & spice did not appeal to him.
Finally, this evening, I enjoyed the most subtle pumpkin beer of my selection; Harvest Moon. This is the fall seasonal in the Blue Moon/Coors production lineup, and probably my favorite because the spices and pumpkin flavor are subdued; the spice level is low enough that the mild pumpkin comes through. I’ve tasted it annually for several years, and I think this year’s Harvest Moon is much improved. In the sunny afternoon yesterday, I was lucky to glean the remaining harvest of peppers from Cindy’s garden, and used them to spice up some chili for dinner (I also added some stout to my chili)—then paired a bowl of my chili with a goblet of Harvest Moon. I began the meal by enjoying several sips of the pumpkin beer; the slight sweetness of the beer tamed the spiciness of the chili. It was a truly enjoyable end to a beautiful fall weekend.
As the temperatures drop, I will move on to enjoy hard ciders, hop-harvest ales, and stouts through November. Although retailers try to make the jump directly from Halloween to Christmas--and the Christmas beers have begun appearing on the shelves, I prefer to continue to focus on the harvest season! I would suggest making a trip to your local liquor store this week, to purchase a 6-pack of pumpkin beer—if you can still find it--to share at Thanksgiving.