But because pumpkin beers are so popular, it would be criminal if October came and went without me highlighting one in this column. What could possibly be more fitting than carving your jack-o-lantern while sipping on a brew made from the guts of the gourd you're slicing up?
Note that not all "pumpkin" beers actually have pumpkin in them. And in most cases, unless the brewer specifically states the ingredients, you won't know whether pumpkin is used or not. Pumpkin alone doesn't add much other than a vegetal quality to alcoholic beverages. Imagine what it would be like if you combined steamed squash with beer. Not too exciting, eh?
The thing that distinguishes most pumpkin beers is the use of some of the same spices you'll find in pumpkin pie. When found in beer, the particular spices you're familiar with in pumpkin pie will trick your mind into thinking you are sipping on liquified pumpkin pie — only better.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery, does use real pumpkin as their website indicates. But it is also spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, which is what really gives it that pumpkin pie zing.
The reason I chose Post Road Pumpkin Ale for this column is that the spices are kept in check, while many examples of the genre are heavy-handed with spicing. And few things turn me off of a beer faster than clumsy over-spicing. If I want to drink cinnamon tea, I can make it myself thankyouverymuch. I don't need to pay good money to buy it prepackaged with a little alcohol included. Post Road pretty obviously has cinnamon and nutmeg, but those flavors don't overwhelm you as they do in some pumpkin beers.
If you haven't figured out by now that this beer would go well with pumpkin pie, then some sort of horrendous communication breakdown has plagued us and perhaps I should be goat-herding instead of writing a weekly column. But I recently got a little creative with this one by pairing it with some chicken and vegetable stir-fry that I cooked up with curry and Garam masala. The latter spice blend happens to commonly include cinnamon and nutmeg along with cloves and cumin. So I took a beer commonly associated with American holiday meals and found a way to put it with an everyday Indian-style dish. The end result was a great pairing.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org