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Veggies in Your Brew: Pumpkin Beers

09-04-2013

Veggies in Your Brew

Pumpkin Beers

 

Apart from the whole alcoholic aspect, beer pretty much sounds like a green smoothie. Consider the ingredients. There’s yeast, which provides an alternative bacteria to yogurt eating, a bit of grain, some nice bitter hops and then water. The healthy aspects increase to even higher levels when beers are brewed with vegetables, such as the fall-fashionable pumpkin beer.




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Health Benefits

Pumpkin beers, although not always brewed with the root vegetable itself, are arguably a somewhat healthy lifestyle choice. According to the Beer Babe, many pumpkin beers are around 140 calories, whereas a pumpkin spice latte clocks in at around 250 calories. Caloric content aside, pumpkin beers such as Arcadia Ales Jaw Jacker are brewed with a complex mix of spices to create that pumpkin pie flavor. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves are all commonly found in pumpkin ales and have many noted health benefits. With a low calorie count and antioxidant-rich spices, this brew may be a somewhat healthy option for an adult beverage.



History

These brews also are a part of America’s history, with references to pumpkin beer going back as far as 1643. Pumpkins are a native plant of the American continent and when the first Europeans arrived they used the vegetable to replace malt in the beer mash. The gourds provided the necessary fermentable sugars, although the flavor most definitely varied from what is now the signature flavor profile. By the 19th Century, the popularity of pumpkin beer waned as grains became more available and beer making reverted to the traditional ingredient list.


Just like high-rise pants and Disney child stars resurface and regain popularity, pumpkin beers eventually came back into style. In the early 1990s Buffalo Bill’s Brewery created a pumpkin beer inspired from a recipe belonging to George Washington. This was just one of many pumpkin beers, such as Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin, that helped innovate the vegetable beer recipes while still referencing and respecting the beer’s historical origins.



 

Innovation

Of course, the craft beer community is known for innovation, which can be seen with the varying pumpkin beer styles. Samuel Adams Fat Jack is a double pumpkin beer, loaded with 28 pounds of pumpkin meat in each mash. New Belgium Brewing just released Pumpkick, its fall seasonal that is brewed with cranberries for a tart twist to a traditional pumpkin beer.  These innovations are welcome additions to the pumpkin beer world that continues to thrive due to a balance between tradition and change.



 

Style Notes 

Despite the subtle and not so subtle differences amongst various pumpkin beers, most tend to possess the same style profile. Pumpkin beers are a golden to deep amber color, ranging from hazy to a clear clarity. The nose is full of fall spices with a hint of pumpkin. Many have a low hop level, which allows the pumpkin pie flavors to make a bold statement that is often partnered with robust fall spice and slightly sweet notes. Think Thanksgiving dinner when pairing pumpkin ales with food; roasted ham, turkey and macaroni and cheese are all suitable options.

 

The most important thing to remember about pumpkin beer, at least for me, is that it tastes like fall and fall is my favorite season.


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