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Beer with Bruce: For The Love of Pumpkins

Fall is in the air and many of us are enjoying tasty fall beers. In fact, fall beers are among the most popular beers today. How’d that happen? As you might expect it all centers around a party; the world’s biggest beer festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is somewhat of a misnomer as it’s actually held in late September. The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Prince Ludwig to Princess Theresa. Thanks to those wild and crazy kids, we’ve continued to celebrate their anniversary every year since. Naturally, no one wants to be left out of a great party and first on that list would be brewers. Being an innovative bunch, recipes for more beers that celebrate the fall harvest have emerged and what speaks better to autumn than the pumpkin.

Fast forwarding to today’s fall beers, pumpkin ales have grown in popularity to rival the original amber Oktoberfest beers. Some folks view this as a recent phenomenon of the craft beer movement but in fact, the pumpkin has far deeper roots in America’s beer history. Pumpkin beer in early colonial America was born out of necessity. The availability of quality malt was in short supply, so brewers had to find an alternative source of fermentable sugars. Enter the pumpkin.

Pumpkin beers remained popular through the 1700s, but by the early 1800’s the increased availability of quality brewing malt led to the decline of pumpkin beers. The pumpkin was to return, but now typically as a flavoring for the craft beers of today and normally in combination with pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove.

For all of us in the New World, we now can’t conceive of celebrating autumn without a great pumpkin beer. So, celebrate an American original today. Enjoy a Shipyard Pumpkinhead!