Pumpkin beer is perhaps the most misunderstood of all beer styles. Each autumn, when it makes a return, these sweet, malty and spicy concoctions are repeatedly lambasted by their detractors, while those who love them revel in their amber-hued deliciousness.
Up until a few years ago, I was among those naysayers. As I mentioned overleaf, I don’t have a sweet tooth, so felt I didn’t want much to do with pumpkin beers. However, I now realise how short-sighted this was. In fact, it was thanks to my fellow HB&B columnist and pumpkin beer enthusiast Claire Bullen that I had my opinion corrected.
Back in 2016, Claire wrote a 3,000-word epic explaining the fascinating history of pumpkin beer, and its origins within her home country of the US, for my old blog Total Ales. In it, I learned that the history of pumpkin beer stretches back almost four decades to 1985, where Bill Owens, founder of the California brewpub Buffalo Bills, decided to brew a pumpkin beer, but also included an additional pumpkin spice mix from the supermarket in addition to the pumpkin itself. Those who’ve cooked with pumpkin will know that the flavour is subtle and benefits from reckless seasoning.
So these beers are not pumpkin per se, but pumpkin pie, and it started a craze that would return each year. I happen to be in the US as I write this, and it is also autumn (or fall, if you will). Pumpkin beers are very much still on local shelves and taps.
Like most American trends, pumpkin beer eventually took off in the UK, but in a much smaller way. One of my favourite takes is this pumpkin coffee porter from Berkshire’s beloved Elusive Brewing.
What I love about it is that it takes the idea of a pumpkin beer but in a way that is very much of the brewery. Instead of a malty, amber, sweet beer, you have one that is dark, rich and roasty.
The coffee from roaster Hasbean has subtle sweetness and berry-fruit acidity, which accents the molasses and roasted coffee notes of the base beer. The pumpkin spicing is noticeable, but subtle, balancing the other elements, while also integrating it into a complete whole. It’s surprisingly drinkable, too, and will make you feel cosier after each and every sip.
If you don’t like pumpkin beers, it’s very possible that after drinking this you now do. And, as they say, there’s no one more devout than a convert.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.