Like it or not, we’re now in the thick of squash season – and that means pumpkin beer is back on the shelves. As a good American, I’ve been on the pumpkin bandwagon practically since birth, but I can understand, too, those who are less than keen on gourd-laced brews. Many examples of the style are overly sweet, cloying, unbalanced. Sip a poorly made pumpkin beer, and it’s easy to get turned off the style forever.
But hang on a minute there, skeptics – there are some world-class pumpkin beers out there that strive for balance, keep sweetness in check and are uniquely satisfying when the weather begins to chill. Exhibit A: Beavertown’s Stingy Jack.
Made with whole roasted pumpkins and a generous helping of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, Stingy Jack is amber-hued, warming, and decidedly boozy, clocking in at 7.2%. While its spiced character evokes pleasant associations of pumpkin pie for this American, it’s also a notably balanced beer, with a solid Columbus hop backbone and only moderate levels of sweetness. This is a pumpkin beer you can enjoy for more than just a few sips (my preferred serving size is a few cans).
To get away from pumpkin’s saccharine associations, I wanted to showcase Stingy Jack alongside something savoury, and butternut squash risotto was the autumnal answer. Squash and nutmeg do their part to complement Stingy Jack’s flavour profile, and the dish’s rib-sticking creaminess makes it ideal fare for cold evenings. Topped with toasted pecans, fried sage leaves and a snowy mound of Parmigiano, it’s impressive, decadent – and relatively simple to make, provided you’re not averse to a good amount of stirring.
Butternut Squash Risotto
1 1-kilo butternut squash
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
400g Arborio rice
950ml chicken broth approximately
400ml dry white wine, approximately (I used an Italian Pinot Grigio)
1.5 tsp nutmeg
100g pecans, toasted
15-20 fresh sage leaves
3 tbs butter
Freshly ground black pepper
First, prepare the butternut squash. Slice off the top and bottom and, using a chef’s knife or a strong peeler, carefully remove the skin from the squash. Once the squash is peeled, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and gunk from each half. Dice the squash in approximately 2.5cm pieces.
In a large pot, heat several tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add the butternut squash; season with a good sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stirring regularly, cook for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly softened. Remove the squash from the pot and set aside.
Add 1 more tablespoon olive oil to the pot and heat until hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, for approximately 5 minutes, until softened and beginning to turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
Next, add the dry Arborio rice directly to the pot. Stir until evenly coated with oil, and allow to lightly toast for 2-3 minutes.
For your first addition of liquid, add 475ml of chicken broth and stir frequently. Once the broth has been nearly absorbed, add the butternut squash back to the pan and then add 250ml wine. Stir frequently until liquid has mostly been absorbed, and then add 120ml broth.
For the next 30 or so minutes, alternate between adding broth and wine in 120ml additions, stirring frequently and waiting for absorption between additions, until the risotto is thick, creamy, and the rice still has just a bit of bite to it. The squash should have partly melted into the risotto, though larger pieces will remain. Taste as you go until you’re happy with the texture; you may not need to use all of the broth and wine. Next, add the Gorgonzola and stir until melted in. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Turn the heat down to the lowest setting; meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium- high heat and melt the butter. Once the butter has just melted, but before it starts to foam, add the sage leaves in a single layer. Allow the leaves to fry for approximately three minutes, until they are crispy and the butter has browned (but not burned – watch attentively, as this process happens quickly). Remove from the heat.
Serve the risotto, topping each portion with a generous handful of toasted pecans, a bit of extra crumbled Gorgonzola, the sage leaves – pouring a bit of brown butter along with them – and, finally, generous amounts of Parmigiano.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And pick up Beavertown Stingy Jack via our online shop while stocks last!.