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Sep 19, 2011 02:55 PM

Pumpkin Ale food pairings

Got a batch of pumpkin ale going and I want to plan a small party for when I bring it out. I'm thinking something akin to small plate foods, cheese, etc., but I'm not entirely sure about where to start thinking on the pairing.

Supposing it turns out like it did last year, which it should, the beer is fairly light with a noticeable caramel malt, a very tiny citrus-y hop element and noticeable, but far from over the top pumpkin pie spicing.

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  1. I'd suggest another seasonal treat - candy corn, since candy corn is to real corn as pumpkin beer is to real beer.

    14 Replies
    1. re: JessKidden

      Jess, I share your curmudgeonly disinterest in the pumpkin (pie) beer concept and its baffling craze lately, but is your response a reference to the fact that most breweries dont use pumpkin in the brewing process but instead use pumpkin pie spices? If so dont forget that although the Pilgrims brewed with pumpkin (out of necessity since barley would not grow well in the dampness of the new world settlements) they still enhanced their beer with persimmons and maple sugar. So even then there was an effort to sweeten up and alter what is generally a flavorless vegetable.

      As for a response to the question, I would recommend pairing pumpkin beers with things like turkey and stuffing. Perhaps to be served after the main meal... ;)

      1. re: Insidious Rex

        I have no interest in pumpkin beer, but have noticed that while it appeals to many who would not be described as beer enthusiasts, it is also popular with a lot of serious beer geeks.

        1. re: Jim Dorsch

          Agreed. And I dont necessarily have anything against pumpkin beers. I do like pumpkin pies after all. Its just the whole phenomenon has baffled me a little bit. Seems random. Maybe if they called them Thanksgiving Beers or Fall Seasonals (like we have Winter Seasonals which are also brewed with spices) the pyschology would be a little different for me and brewers would feel they had a little more room to experiment instead of devoting it ONLY to pumpkin pie spices. But maybe the term Fall Seasonal would imply Marzens and confuse people.

          1. re: Insidious Rex

            I think there's a certain whimsical quality about pumpkin beer that draws people in. From the producer's standpoint, it's great because you can run all the way to Thanksgiving with it, maybe even later, whereas Oktoberfest is pretty much done a week or two into October.

        2. re: Insidious Rex

          Yeah, I'd forgotten I'd already made a snarky comment re: pumpkin beer in another thread here on CH. I used to be somewhat ambivalent to the pumpkin beer phenomenon- Somewhere between the "Who am I to judge?" and "Whatever..." attitudes.

          I guess my increasing hatred of it is because it's become a symbol of the modern "beer geek" belief that anything a pre-craft era "macro" brewery did/does is evil, and anything a "craft" brewer does is NEW! INNOVATIVE! and TRADITIONAL!

          I've seen people claim that "pumpkin beers have brewed in the US for over 300 years". Really? I think there were close to several centuries or so in there where it was something beyond a "white whale" in modern geekery lingo.

          Are there some footnote references to colonial Americans, desperate for alcohol, using pumpkin (as well as other available other fruits, grains and vegetables) for a fermentable? Yeah, there are, but they are just that - interesting footnotes. And, by my way of thinking (which was in agreement with traditional thought up to the "craft beer" era in the US) an alcoholic beverage fermented from a fruit or vegetable source is a "wine" not a "beer".

          But the current "pumpkin beers", which use pumpkin (but only sometimes) and the associated pumpkin pie spices as flavorings rather than a fermentable source have very little in common with those colonial beverages. Yet the modern geekery buys into the myth but still ridicules the "macros" for their lime flavors, orange slices hanging off a glass or even the use of “evil” adjuncts like rice or corn. I mean, really- rice and corn - which once had a very real utility and purpose in US brewing - is bad, but pumpkin is good?

          “It tastes just like pumpkin pie!” I don’t get it.

          How are the stories of pumpkin ale being the same beer that "George Washington brewed" any different that A-B's old PR about getting the original Budweiser recipe from German monks? Or Miller calling Miller Lite a "fine pilsner beer"?

          I suppose the difference as I see it is that some beer drinkers (like myself) saw the rise of “craft beer” as a return to brewing traditional styles in the US, after a century or so of the ever-increasing dominance of “light lager”, the disappearance of ales and all the other styles and then the rise of the even lighter “light beer”. I have no problem with innovation, as long as it’s not simply for innovation’s sake alone, I guess.

          Other beer drinkers are apparently attracted to “craft” because they seem to be after a constant parade of new flavors and styles - the more extreme, the more outlandish, the better. “What’s New? What’s Next?”

          I see some of the posters on the beer forums complain that, having been drinkers of craft beer for well over a year now, with hundreds of "ticks" they are getting “bored”. I don’t know- I don’t have that problem. 40+ years of drinking beer and I can still appreciate a “boring” pilsner, whether from Pilsn or Downingtown, PA.

          1. re: JessKidden

            But isn't the bottom line whether or not the brewer is making a serious attempt at brewing an interesting and quality product? I don't care for several pumpkin ales while on the other hand think that Weyerbacher and DFH do brew a quality pumpkin beer. So I'd judge each brewery separately.

            1. re: Chinon00

              I see some merit to what both you and Jess say. We must also bear in mind that craft brewers are in business to make money, and that they aren't doing their jobs if they leave their wholesalers without something like a pumpkin beer, which, as we know, sells incredibly well in the fall. I expect we will continue to see various inconsistencies such as this as craft beer sales increase and craft continues to become more like the 'real' beer business in many ways.

              1. re: Chinon00

                "But isn't the bottom line whether or not the brewer is making a serious attempt at brewing an interesting and quality product?"

                But aren't those things - "serious" "interesting" "quality" - in large part a matter of judgment on the part of the individual? Is A-B not "serious" about Bud Light Lime? Or Michelob Pomegranate Strawberry, for that matter?

                Wasn't Joe Owades trying to create an interesting, quality product that met what he saw as a market demand when he developed "light beer"?

                I was sort of surprised that DFH included a brewer opening and dumping large food-service cans of pumpkin puree into the brew kettles on that short-lived cable TV show. I don't recall that step in the oft-quoted 1771 "Pompion Ale" recipe. Again, pumpkin puree is OK, but corn - much less corn syrup - isn't?

                (OTOH, the saliva was real for the Dogfish Head Chicha.)

                1. re: JessKidden

                  I'll say this if a product was introduced to the craft community as craft and tasted like Bud Light Lime it would not be successful among them. Similarly if those who drink Bud Light Lime and the like were introduced to a beer like Punkin I think they'd be equally disappointed. So each beer wishes to serve two different communities; one craft and the other non-craft.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    You have craft products such as Abita Purple Haze that I would think appeal primarily to non-craft drinkers. Then you have white beers that seem now to appeal to everyone.

                    I read the other day that Blue Moon and Shocktop are blowing the doors off their craft competitors in sales growth. The lines are becoming blurry, and brands made by Bud/Miller/Coors are growing fast in the 'craft' category.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      You've always had traditional styles of beer that might appeal to light beer drinkers (i.e. Hefeweizen, Wit, Bitters, Kolsch, Munich Helles Lager). On the other hand beers produced by BMC that are an excepted part of the craft rotation are limited. I can't think of a solid example of IPA, Pale Ale or Pilsner produced by BMC. Budweiser American Ale isn't bad tho'.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Yes, Kolsch is pretty common in brewpubs as their gateway beer.

                        I was disappointed that Bud American Ale didn't fare better. It's darn good for the price, but I think it was rejected by drinkers because of its name.

                        You're right that BMC are limited in their range of craft styles. White beer seems to sell a lot (Shocktop and Blue Moon), and that's about it so far.

                    2. re: Chinon00

                      You think so? I'm not so sure.

                      It'd make for a good experiment:

                      Pour one of those Southern Tier super-sweet dessert beers into a can labeled "Joose Chocolate Birthday Cake Icing X-Treme" and some Bud Light Lime into bottles labeled "Cigar City Florida Citrus Kölsch" and give them to some craft beer fans to review.

                2. re: JessKidden

                  Well said.

                  Modern beer geekery is bugging me these days. The mindless repetition of long-disproven lore (IPA origin), the worship of anything high-ABV/highly-hopped, the weird, knee-jerk disparagement of lager, etc.

                  Not to come across like one of those "I liked them before they were cool" types, but I definitely remember a time when the people you'd meet at beer events seemed to be much more knowledgeable about what they were drinking. Now the events all seem to be people checking off the list from BA of the obscurities they haven't tried yet.

            2. I always enjoy DFH "Punkin" this time of year. It's one of the few pumpkin ales that nicely balance out the malt and the spices used to make the beer. As for pairing it's a tough one. I typically drink it alone. If I had to pair it I'd do so w/ something very innocuous like biscuits w/ butter and honey maybe, dry cookies or scones, etc. I don't see any protein including cheese working w/ it.


              1. Try it with dark chocolate!!

                1. Pour one of the sweeter ones (Weyerbacher, Pumking, etc.) into a tall glass with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. beer floats are always crowd pleasers