I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
– Henry David Thoreau
I am especially thrilled to announce the beginning of an exciting collaboration with myself and local distributor Lakeshore Beverage! I’m partnering with them on a monthly series called “Beer Prints,” in which I’ll create a unique piece of artwork to coincide with the seasonal or new to market release of a Lakeshore Beverage-distributed beer. These special edition prints will be available September 9th for purchase on my Etsy store, or you can enter to win a free print via the Lakeshore Beverage Blog! (Hooray beer art!) But why am I just so thrilled, you may wonder?
The first beer I’ll be illustrating is none other than Schlafly Brewing Company’s 2015 Pumpkin Ale, and believe it or not, Schlafly Brewing Company in St. Louis, Missouri is singularly responsible for my love of craft beer. I attended undergrad at Saint Louis University – you can just call it “SLU” (pronounced “slew”) – at a time when craft beer was just gaining ground in the midwest, and it all went a little something like this …
The waitress placed the petite serving of dark auburn liquid in front of her. “Why such a small glass?” the penny-pinching, college student wondered. “I want my money’s worth!,” she grumbled as she raised the small snifter to her lips. As the aroma of sweet raisins and caramel filled her nostrils, the Schlafly Barleywine caressed her tongue, oft visited by light beer, and cascaded down her throat. Her eyes opened wide. And now, for the first time, she could truly see.
OK, it wasn’t that dramatic (or pretentious), but Schlafly will always hold a special place in my heart–I will never forget that first sweet, sweet sip of barleywine. Thank you Schlafly, and if it’s not too forward to say, I love you. But, I digress.
Schlafly first released their pumpkin ale in 2006, and as the Schlafly website reminds us, pumpkin beers were an important part of our American heritage:
“Colonists used pumpkin and squash as the fermenting medium, since malted barley was scarce. Once malt became more readily available, it replaced these alternatives to grain.”
Joshua Bernstein (The Complete Beer Course: Bootcamp for Beer Geeks) expounds upon this list of colonial fermentables, claiming that “crafty brewers grabbed anything and everything that contained fermentable sugars and flavor, such as Jerusalem artichokes, persimmons, spruce tips, molasses, corn, and pumpkins.”
The pumpkin ales we know and love today are an evolution of these colonial creations, which are rumored to have been less than delicious. Randy Mosher (Beer for All Seasons) reminds us that pumpkin ales re-appeared in the American beer market in the 1980s, when Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub in Hayward, California released a pumpkin pie-esque ale that was so popular, it sparked the eventual explosion of pumpkin beers we now see on the shelves today.
In fact, while the Beer Judge Certification Program still considers pumpkin ales a subcategory of style group number 30, “Spiced Beer,” placing them within “Autumn Seasonal Beer,” the Great American Beer Festival has actually carved out a special style category just for pumpkin beers because there are so many.
Schlafly’s version clocks in at 8% ABV, making it the perfect nightcap to a cool autumn’s eve, or maybe even a liquid dessert for your fall party guests. Or maybe you should open one right now, just because; it’s delicious:
Appearance: Clear, bright pumpkin skin-orange with orangey-red and copper highlights. An active head of cream-colored, bubbly foam formed when I poured the beer, and soon dissipated. A thin ring of active bubbles continues to encircle the glass, fed by active carbonation towers tumbling up from below. The head leaves a beautiful lacing down the glass as I sip.
Aroma: Brown sugar, roasted almonds, golden raisin, pie crust and cinnamon
Mouthfeel: Medium-full, effervescent, creamy, bubbly and filling
Flavor: All the makings of a pumpkin pie: cinnamon, vanilla, raisin, nutmeg, clove, malty raisin sweetness, bready pie crust hints
For many Americans, pumpkins are synonymous with crisp, cool sweater weather, steaming mugs of apple cider, and falling leaves. As we enter into the Fall of 2015, take a moment and raise a glass of this delightful autumnal offering from our friends down in St. Louis. As Thoreau reminds us, a pumpkin might not make the most comfortable seat, so why not try drinking one?