You know how I know it’s fall now? It’s certainly not the weather, because even my scarecrow has quit because of the heat. It is because pumpkin spice and pumpkin beers are everywhere. Pumpkin spice is all over Starbucks, it’s on the sign at McDonald’s, your grocery store has a whole aisle dedicated to it, and we are just a short step away from pumpkin spice communion wine. Over the past decade we’ve seen the rise of pumpkin spice and it’s made it’s way into beer as well. It started small with a few breweries pumping out pumpkin ales, and now it’s hard to find a brewery that doesn’t have at least one pumpkin beer in their fall lineup. Hell, our friends over at O’Fallon Brewery have an entire pumpkin series consisting of multiple different flavors of their fan favorite pumpkin ale. They pumped out Jack O’ Latte, Apple Cinnamon, Vanilla, Peach, and an imperial version of their brew. On top of that they are having a pumpkin themed beer festival. They aren’t the only brewery putting out multiple pumpkin ales, and you’ll likely see more people following this trend through the next few years. Are we reaching a point of overkill?
Personally I’m a fan of a good pumpkin beer. Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale is a perennial favorite of mine, and usually warrants opening the wallet for a couple six packs to take to events during the fall. I also make sure to pick up a bit of Crown Valley’s Imperial Pumpkin Smash, which is my favorite beer they brew. In fact, I tend to pick up a few new choices every year to save for a nice crisp fall afternoon on my patio or deck. So, I’m a bit biased. I don’t think drinking a spiced beer makes you less of a person. I don’t think pumpkin beers are a sign of the collapse of craft beer. And I don’t think pumpkin beers are going away.
On the other hand, just because I like them doesn’t mean they haven’t reached a breaking point in the craft beer market. In fact Forbes Magazine this week reported that many brewers are scaling back production of their pumpkin beers after listless sales last fall. According to the article, there are some breweries who have dropped pumpkin beer from their schedule altogether. The article tells a story of a market overcrowded with pumpkin beers that leaves some sitting on the shelves long after their seasonal expiration dates. Anyone who has seen shelf space for pumpkin beer explode like the big bang over the past few years won’t find this hard to believe. So, now we’ve established that maybe we have reached a point of overkill with pumpkin beer. Does that make it a bad beer? Let’s weigh out the pros and cons, and see which side has the more valid argument.
- It’s an abhorrent beverage that appeals to a wide demographic, and brings too many people who are going to craft beer who are going to change craft beer trends for the worse.
- It’s a spiced nightmare. If I want something filled with spices I’ll go to my local curry joint down the road.
- Pumpkin is taking over every style during the fall. It’s leaving less shelf space for other seasonal favorites like Oktoberfest (Märzen), Browns, Dunkelweizens, and hop-friendly Harvest Ales.
- It’s a dessert, not a beer. Who wants that sweet of a beer?
- Most of what you are tasting isn’t even pumpkin (if it even contains pumpkin), but an obnoxious amount of spices like allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- It’s a tasty beverage that appeals to a wide demographic of people, including people who are traditionally non-craft beer drinkers.
- The spices bring a variety of flavors not normally found in beer.
- It’s flavors work well with many different styles beyond just a standard ale. There are a number of popular pumpkin beers that use imperial stouts, brown ale, and wild ale as their base.
- Screw you, I like it!
Listen, it all comes down to personal taste. If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. Shitting on other people’s choices is something a high school student does, and if you are drinking beer you should be past that. Let’s also get past the notion that beer should taste a certain way, and that sweetness isn’t a flavor that belongs in beer. There have been sugary sweet beers around for hundreds of years, and pumpkin beers aren’t the first of them. Don’t decry the sugary sweetness of a pumpkin beer and then trade a number of beers for a barrel aged imperial milk stout or a fruited sour you’ve been wanting to try. Beer runs an insane spectrum these days, and what is defined as beer has grown even broader as craft brewers continue to push boundaries. No one is saying you have to like pumpkin beer, but it’s time to stop pretending that it’s just a fad. There are a few styles that aren’t at the top of my list, but I’d never decry anyone for drinking what they like.
Yeah, pumpkin beers might be a bit basic, but there are far bigger things in the craft beer industry to focus on instead of freaking out over pumpkin beers. So, next time you feel that irrational hatred welling up about pumpkin beers, just remember we live in a time where there is more craft beer available than ever before.
Do you have a strong opinion on pumpkin beers? Continue the conversation in our comments or on our Facebook page!