Brewers manipulate starchy substances – the most common being barley grain – to generate the sugar that interacts with strains of yeast and transforms into alcohol. But during the colonial period in America, brewers decided to try some experimenting.
They used other starchy fruits and vegetables when barley became too expensive. Among the alternatives used were roasted pumpkins.
Pumpkin ales re-emerged from obscurity with the rise of craft breweries in the 1980s.
Two local breweries – The Matt Brewing Company (Utica, N.Y.) and the Brooklyn Brewery (originally from Utica, but now in Brooklyn) – use pumpkins to supplement grains in their own seasonal suds. They pair well with Thanksgiving dinner and make enjoyable dessert beers, but neither one should be the brew du jour at Halloween parties this weekend.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale (Alcohol content: 5 percent)Brooklyn Brewery
Two and a half mugs out of four
The beer pours a brown-orange hue with a half a finger’s width of creme brulee-colored head. Wafts of cinnamon and nutmeg sting your nostrils. A second sniff hints of pumpkin rind. But Post Road’s spices overwhelm the pumpkin flavor of the beer. Brooklyn Brewery uses exceptionally bitter and spicy Willamette and American Fuggle hops, which explains the zing that lingers on your tongue and taste buds after each sip.
Saranac Pumpkin Ale (Alcohol Content: 5.4 percent)The Matt Brewing Company
Three mugs out of four
One finger’s width of manila-colored foam sits atop cloudy, dark amber ale after the pour. The scents of vanilla, nutmeg and pumpkin pie rush upward from the pint glass. A sugary sweet flavor and smooth texture – think pumpkin ice cream – endures throughout all 12 ounces of the beer.
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