Style: Spiced Beer
Grain: Pilsner, Munich, CaraMunich, Brown
Extra: brown sugar, milk sugar, pie spice blend
Fermented with English yeast
Tasting notes: cinnamon, allspice, ginger, graham cracker crust, caramel and toast
Pair with: great as a post-meal dessert on its own
Pumpkin beers have been the butt of a lot of jokes the past few years. Do a quick search on pumpkin beer memes and you'll be hard pressed to find any that put this style in a positive light. It makes sense that there would be backlash after we've pumpkin spiced everything. It used to just be lattes, but it's in our breakfast cereal, our liquors, granola bars, and even cat litter. And when it comes to beer, more often than not, the brewer either had too heavy of a hand when adding the spice or seemingly forgot about the trend and tossed spice into whatever beer they had trouble selling. This results in beers that are either under- or overwhelming -- I totally understand how we got here. So let's bring this back.
How do we save this style? I think it starts with shifting the focus away from the spice and back into what we like about the OG pumpkin spiced thing, pumpkin pie. There's a creaminess from the filling, a soft spice and buttery flavor from the graham cracker crust, and then there's that classic pie spice blend. I build this beer with a full creamy body, add graham cracker flavors, and trick this particular strain of yeast into producing just a little bit of butter flavor. And then I go light-touch with my own pumpkin spice blend.
Allow me to drop some science here: I believe a lot of why people don't like pumpkin spice in beers is due to the flavor compound 4-vinyl-guaiacol (4VG), which is perceived as clove. It's an unwanted flavor in most beers (with the exception being weizens and some Belgian styles) indicative of something having gone wrong during fermentation. Even in the acceptable 4VG styles, Americans tend to prefer the beers with less clove and more of the flavor compound on the other end of this seesaw, isoamyl acetate (perceived as banana). Clove just isn't a common flavor in American cuisine, leading many of us wired to think something is off when we taste clove. Guess which spice blend includes a healthy dose of cloves... Many brewers of pumpkin spice beers are adding this perceived off flavor into their beer! /science
So let the haters hate and enjoy yourself a tipple of pie.