One of the surefire signs that autumn is upon us is the influx of pumpkin spice in everything from lattes to cookies. Almost as synonymous with the season as changing leaves is the tap takeover at bars and restaurants, shifting from light summer ales to predominately pumpkin offerings. Long Island is no stranger to this phenomenon, as more than 10 pumpkin beers are brewed right here. With all this talk about pumpkin beer we started wondering, where did it all begin?
Turns out pumpkin beer dates back to colonial times, but not as the sweet spicy beverage we are familiar with. At the time, malt was very hard to come so North Americans substituted parsnips, cornstalks and pumpkins. In fact, one of the earliest references to pumpkin ale was found in a 1771 recipe written by Benjamin Franklin. Once malt became more readily available, pumpkin based ale fell by the wayside until the 1980s when Buffalo Bill’s brewed the first modern day iteration. Instead of focusing on only using the vegetable in the brewing process, spices like clove, cinnamon and nutmeg were added to enhance the flavor. Today almost every major brewery has a pumpkin offering .
As you may have noticed, pumpkin beers seem to make their way onto the shelves earlier and earlier each year. This isn’t by accident; many brewers attest a large chunk of their yearly sales come from this one seasonal brew. Because of the time it takes for beer to ferment, most pumpkin ales are brewed during the summer and are ready to go by late August. With Halloween approaching and about a month left in “pumpkin season” here are some readily available Long Island brews to try: Great South Bay Splashing Pumpkin, Blue Point Pumpkin Ale, Port Jeff Boo Brew, Long Ireland Pumpkin Ale, Greenport Harbor Leaf Pile and Southampton Publick House Pumpkin Ale.