You All Need to Calm Down About Pumpkin Beer
I am in love with the coloring of this pumpkin – which took me over 10 minutes to select. However, I now realize it looks like a bunch of butts from this angle.
It’s been one of those weird weeks where, in the middle, it felt like it was never going to end. But now that I’ve made it to Friday, I’m wondering where it all went. Hell, where did the entire month of September go?
Oh, well. Regardless, both the week and the month are pretty much toast. And after a long (albeit very fun!) day at the office, with our day-long video production event, I’m home. I’m home in my pajamas, eating a pre-made salad from Trader Joe’s, drinking Flying Dog’s Gourd Standard – a swoon-worthy pumpkin IPA – and watching Nugget try in vain to get Horatio to fall in love with her, while blocking my view of the season premiere of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
This, my friends, is what I assume most nights are like for Kid Rock.
Cheers, Mr. Rock.
Originally, I was going to try and go out on a Friday night for once (ha), because those of us who went on camera today were treated to some time with a professional makeup artist.
(Sidebar: I just about died when I found out she sometimes works with the PBS Newshour – and has done the makeup for my queens, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. But the fact that they aren’t moderating a debate this cycle is killing me.)
Sadly, Mr. Pint already had plans for some much needed “bro time.” And the few others I asked were planning to visit in-laws or sleep or do something else dumb like, “spend time with their children.” (Who does that?) It ended up being for the best, though. As delightful as a pint over happy hour sounded, doing the complete opposite also sounded amazing – especially since we have a packed weekend ahead of us.
So here I sit, in yoga pants and a “gently loved” hoodie… and a full face of professional makeup. Not only that, it is the second day of fall. FINALLY.
This is a thing that happened. I stand by it.
For those who know me, I make no secret of my disdain for warm weather or the summer season.
In fact, even though it was still well above 80 degrees yesterday, I celebrated the first day of autumn by going a little nuts in the pumpkin section of Trader Joe’s, as evidenced above. Because, c’mon – who doesn’t want pumpkin-shaped butternut squash pasta?
Not someone I want to know, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. You see, this is also the time of year when a bunch of people who love sucking the fun out of everything swoop in and complain about pumpkin. As if pumpkin were some sort of squash-based food and beverage Antichrist that undermines the basic fundamentals of human decency.
This is particularly true in the beer world, where I’m half-convinced some people would rather die, judgmental pinkies out, than admit that it’s okay enjoy something, just because it’s fun.
I rang in the first day of fall with this little ditty from Anderson Valley last night. Not groundbreaking, but it got the job done.
I’ve written about this topic in my column before, but essentially there are two arguments. First, pumpkin beer hits shelves when it’s still summer. Second, pumpkin doesn’t taste like anything, rendering the style overall an unapologetic abomination, as most offerings are more about pumpkin spice than anything else.
The first argument is a fairly simple one to diffuse, since everything arrives too early – Valentine’s Day cards at CVS on January 2; spring fashion lines, when there is still snow on the ground; Halloween candy the day after Labor Day; Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel before Halloween.
So while I get that many of you out there loathe seasonal creep, this is hardly a crime one can lay solely at the feet of the poor little pumpkin.
Plus, no one seems be beefin’ over turf when winter warmers start popping up in November, even though fall goes right up until December 21.
As to the second argument, I think I said it best last year:
On its face, the beer industry seems to be a welcoming place, where ingredients — both “pedestrian” and innovative — are called upon and leveraged equally to create delicious brews. Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout, Jailbreak’s Welcome to Scoville IPA made with jalapeno and cilantro and RAR Brewing’s Big Lizz made with locally-sourced, roasted butternut squash are just a few examples.
And yet, while these are allowed to peacefully coexist alongside the more “standard” fare on our shelves, for many the pumpkin is still an unwanted interloper. It’s a shame, too, considering how the iconic orange squash figures into the tapestry of our history as a country.
In a 2014 interview with All About Beer magazine, “Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon,” author Cindy Ott noted of the Colonial era: “When there was no wheat for bread or sugar for cake or barley for beer, they could substitute the prolific pumpkin.” Future generations would also come to rely upon the hearty pumpkin in tough times, and thus it evolved into a “symbol of American survival.”
Okay, I want to pause here for a moment and say that for those of you who just don’t like pumpkin beers, I’m not waging a war on personal preference. We all have our own tastes, and I’m not here to sway you. For example, I myself prefer to respect the Hefeweizen style from a distance… across a room… in someone else’s glass.
Also, I am honest enough to admit that I get the angst to some degree. There are a lot of brewers out there capitalizing on a trend and flooding the market with really shitty pumpkin beers – where you might as well be choking down a bottle of alcoholic vanilla extract, with 17,000 tablespoons nutmeg for good measure.
Guess what? There are crappy versions of all different beer styles being made every single day. Again, the pumpkin isn’t making waves in this category.
However, if we are talking about tearing down some of the good ones out there – I’m looking at you, Great’ER Pumpkin and Smashed Pumpkin – why do you have to be so strangely aggressive about something that is (a) a nice little nod to American culture, (b) an adult way to get hyped for the holiday season, and (c) just plain fun? Were you not hugged enough by pumpkins as a child? Did you and a pumpkin show up to your eighth grade dance wearing the same dress, and you never recovered?
Whatever the reason is, I don’t care. If you’re one of those malcontents reading this and aching to verbally bludgeon me for the 100th time about why pumpkin beers are all that is wrong with society, I invite you take a seat and calm down.
Seriously, just take a deep breath. I’ll wait.
Feel better? Good. Now, listen.
The world is not going to end in a blaze of fire and pumpkin. Yeah, yeah. You don’t like it and think it’s a bullshit style. But just like my friends who understand that I think pineapple has zero business being on a pizza don’t try to figuratively and literally force-feed me their Hawaiian pizza-based belief system, I humbly request that you to stop peeing in everyone else’s fun cereal. Go drink a traditional Märzen – they’re delicious. Or shove 800 pounds of habanero pepper into your quad-chocolate stout hybrid and then age it in rum barrels for 28 months – because that’s way more legit, right?
Maybe, if you’re feeling really creative, you could pass the time complaining about how that new IPA from the brewery down the street could have been hazier or more dank.
The point is, I need you to find another way to expend all of that pent up anger and energy, because I’ve just about had it. Otherwise, if I see one of you pumpkin beer haters out there eating even the tiniest sliver of pumpkin pie over the holidays, I’m going to throw it on the floor and lecture you about how pumpkins don’t have any flavor, and that your slice of pie is just a big pile of spice and lies.
Happy fall, everyone!