September is definitely a beer month. While your sitting there wondering, let me explain.
First, there is Oktoberfest which traditionally begins the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday of October. It all started in 1810 with the Royal Wedding. Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony. After the ceremony, there was this big kegger out on the lawn in front of the castle. It was such a great party, it continues every year.
This year, the festivities in Munich begin with a parade and the tapping of the first beer barrel on September 19th. It ends on Sunday, October 4th with a gun salute at noon, at least, they claim it’s guns.
Today, Oktoberfest beers are malty lagers brewed for brisk weather and festivals. But before refrigeration, beer was made in the cooler months as hot weather is not the best time to ferment. Beer made in March was stored and consumed over the summer months. Bavarian brewers went a step further and developed Märzen (March), using bottom fermentation and making use of caves and cellars, sometimes packing them with ice for lagering.
September is also pumpkin beer release month. After wandering the Kitsap County Fair last week and seeing one of the biggest pumpkins ever, all I could envision was a barrel of pumpkin ale. I first heard about pumpkin ale many years ago, when the fledgling West Sound Brew Club would flex their brewing muscles with really wild beers. In September, pumpkin was one of them. I thought they were goofy.
But they were really on the cutting edge. Nowadays, many harvest beers are made with pumpkin and fresh hops. Pumpkin Ales are varied but typically it’s mild amber-colored, malt-forward ale, with prominent caramel and nutty flavors, little hop bitterness and a malty tone. There are also Pumpkin Porters, Stouts and Barleywines. Many will contain a full bodied mouthfeel from the addition of pumpkin. These beers range in ABV from moderate 5% lagers to 17% behemoth ales.
Some brewers opt to add roasted pumpkins into the mash while others use puree. They are usually spiced with traditional pumpkin pie spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Unusual additions could include chocolate, cocoa and coffee. Then some may be aged in brandy, bourbon, rye or wine barrels.
Pumpkin beers are an ideal pairing for some of our favorite
autumn meals. Hearty harvest fare such as Reuben Sandwiches, a
spicy bowl of Chili, Chicken Mole, Beef Stroganoff, Turkey with the
Trimmings, or Pumpkin Ale Braised Beef Short Ribs would pair well
with a full bodied pumpkin brew.
Let’s not forget the dessert. The flavors of pumpkin, caramel and spice are great with Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Apple Pecan Crisp, or Caramel Flan. As with wine, your beer should be sweeter than the dessert.
Here’s a few to look for:
Almanac’s Dark Pumpkin Sour is a rich, dark sour ale brewed with organic heirloom pumpkins and spices and aged in used red wine barrels for a year. Serve this complex ale as a counterpoint to savory Thanksgiving fare. This wild ale was aged in used wine casks with the house “Dogpatch” sour culture, a cocktail of wild Belgian and American yeasts, including San Francisco sourdough starter.
Punkuccino is an Elysian Brewing specialty. It’s a Northwest favorite that could have been brewed by your favorite barista. Punkuccino packs pumpkin and a short shot of Stumptown coffee toddy in your pint with just a shake of cinnamon and nutmeg. Sounds perfect with a slice of homemade pumpkin bread with sweet cream butter.
In the spirit of the season, Laurelwood Pumpkin Ale is an amber colored beer made with pumpkin puree and the usual pie spices, “sure to chase away the evil spirits!” A Day of the Dead brew to pair with Chicken Mole.
Avery Pump[Ky]N Porter is highly unusual at 17.22% ABV. This “monstrous pumpkin porter” is aged in bourbon barrels and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and hops. Please pass the Bittersweet Chocolate Cake.
Elysian The Great Pumpkin is the world’s first imperial pumpkin ale. Brewed with five different malts, roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash, and extra pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter and spiced with the usual cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. This one is perfect for hearty fare such as the Beef Stroganoff or Braised Short Ribs.
Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza Barrel Aged Strong Ale is another monster of an ale. It begins as a Belgian Christmas ale, all malty, raisiny and lightly hopped and then its aged in oak barrels. May I have an extra helping of the Pecan Pie, please?
Southern Tier Brewing Rum Barrel Aged Pumking is dessert style ale made from roasted pumpkins and aged in 30 year old rum barrels. A serving of bread pudding with a Rum Barrel Aged Pumking hard sauce would be divine.
Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Ale is the dessert beer made with real hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins. The caramelized gourds were then added to the American Barleywine and aged in rye and brandy barrels for a year. Finally, the barrel-aged beer is blended with freshly brewed ale and a delicate hint of pumpkin pie spices are added to round out this decadent sipper. 50% of the ale brewed with pumpkins aged in rye and brandy barrels and 50% ale brewed with spices.
Cheers and Happy Harvest!