The pumpkin beer debate

Featured Contributor Bill Mayeroff @bill_mayeroff

Pumpkin beer is kind of like Christmas.

Some people love it. Some people loathe it. Some people spend all summer waiting for it to appear on store shelves, while others can’t wait for it to be replaced by the stouts and porters of winter. And like Christmas, each year, pumpkin beer seems to arrive earlier and earlier.

Love it or hate it, pumpkin beer is bound to generate debate. Photo by Bill Mayeroff.
Love it or hate it, pumpkin beer is bound to generate debate. Photo by Bill Mayeroff.

There are few things that generate heated debate among craft beer enthusiasts like pumpkin beer. Hate it or love it, most have strong feelings on it.

Tom Dozois said he used to “not mind” pumpkin beers until he tried Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking. He said he tried it after seeing his friends checking into the beer on Untappd.

“While I know that Southern Tier beers can be over the top with flavor, I didn’t expect to hate Pumking,” Dozois said. “I had it on tap and couldn’t finish the glass. I maybe got half way through. Now, every time I smell spice and nutmeg in beer, it makes me nauseous.”

Seanie Daly, a beer enthusiast from Chicago’s south suburbs, has what he calls a “love/hate relationship” with pumpkin beer.

“I love the theory behind pumpkin beer,” Daly said. “But I almost always hate the execution.”

Daly said a big problem with many of the pumpkin beers that appear every fall is that they don’t actually taste like pumpkin. Rather, he said, they typically taste like the spices we typically associate with pumpkin pie.

That is precisely why Adam Vavrick, director of sales and marketing  at Waunakee, Wis.-based Octopi Brewing, calls pumpkin beer (and the other “pumpkin flavored” foods and beverages that tend to appear every fall) “a perfect example of simulacrum.”

“When people think ‘pumpkin beer,’ they think of the spices used in pumpkin pie – mace, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, etc. – not the flavor of pumpkin itself,” Vavrick said. “The flavor of pumpkin itself is … very rich and earthy and tends to disappear into the malt notes.”

Bill is on Untappd under the handle @billymax and he tweets at @bill_mayeroff. He also writes about his two favorite things – beer and dogs – at Pints and Pups.

From David – the founder of Sommbeer:  This is a polarizing subject.  Beer fans fall into one of two camps; they love pumpkin beer or hate it.  ‘Cept for me.  I like it because it’s a fun seasonal beer that marks the beginning of fall.  Unlike most other seasonal beers, this one really has a unique ingredient(s) as opposed to those fizzy summer beers or the heavy stouts and porters for winter.

Pumpkins are unique to the fall season and by extension they contribute to fun and unique beers, but I don’t drink them.  No no, these are fun beers for somebody else.  Keep all that spice from Bath and Body Worx out of my beer. That said, I have a refrigerator full of this stuff because my wife likes it.  She thinks it’s fun beer that marks the beginning of the fall season, and tastes good.    – Cheers!


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Bill Mayeroff

AP style freak, White Sox fan, drinker of bitter coffee and beer, roller derby enthusiast, proud Chicagoan. Find me on Untappd:

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