It’s October—and that means pumpkin beer
Autumn has finally swept the summer away with falling leaves and breezy days. People are starting to trade sweat for sweaters, and, with the beginning of October, Halloween is right around the corner. As we transition from Arnold Palmers to hot chocolates, we need some sort of middle-man drink to help us into winter.
And what could be better for ushering in the new autumn than der pumpkin beer? With Oktoberfest upon us, these seasonal beers are available almost everywhere in every form.
You can drink a local or an import, a traditional or a craft. Some taste as if you shoved an entire pumpkin into your mouth, and others hint at orange and autumn and you can smell the pumpkin in them.
With the arrival of all of these pumpkin beers, I had to know: How do you fit the taste of a 10-pound pumpkin into a 16-ounce beer?
So I went over to the recently opened World of Beer on Market Street and talked to bartender Brittany Cox who told me all about the world of pumpkin beers—a world I had never considered.
Pumpkin beers tend be brewed around March and fermented until late September or early October, which coincides directly with Oktoberfest, which in most cases runs from Sep. 20 to Oct. 5. The March brewing date gives one of the original autumn German beers its name—Märzen—which literally translates to “March beer.”
The German Märzen is brewed in accordance with Germany’s Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law. The law essentially limits the ingredients used in beer production to water, barley, and hops (and, since 1993, yeast, wheat malt, and cane sugar as well).
You can imagine how difficult creating a pumpkin beer without pumpkin would be. So the German pumpkin beers stand in stark contrast to our American craft pumpkin beers.
The American crafts tend to be heavier, thick with pumpkin flavor. If you want more pumpkin than beer, the American craft beer is for you; if you want more beer than pumpkin, the traditional German is the one.
I tried one of Brittany’s favorites—Ayinger’s Oktober Fest -Märzen—and the Southern Tier Brewing Company’s pumpkin craft beer—Imperial Pumking. The Märzen danced around the flavors of autumn, and the Pumking left no room for argument with its blast of pumpkin flavor.
But pumpkin beer won’t be here forever. German or American, traditional or craft, you’ve got to get out among the leaves and taste autumn for yourself.