We looked at pumpkin cocktails the other day, so it's only right to look at a more, shall we say, serious way of drinking your October pumpkin, in the form of beer. Pumpkin ales are a popular sort of post-Octoberfest seasonal beer, and there are lots around to choose from.
The freshest and most exciting is probably the one that was actually brewed here in SF, Magnolia Brewpub's Barking Pumpkin, which is made with baked pumpkins and pumpkin seeds with barley and baking spices. Try it on tap at the pub.
But there are lots of bottled versions around too. The Whole Foods Beer guys tout their selections here (note: I only saw the Buffalo Bill's and the Indian Wells Spicy Pumpkin at the 4th St WF).
The highly knowledgeable and ever-opinionated Dave Hauslein, beer buyer for Healthy Spirits, said that he's very apprehensive when it comes to pumpkin ales. "I think the tendency of using pumpkin in brewing is more like pumpkin in cooking—they like the texture more than the flavor, so they just load up on sweetness and spices like cinnamon and clove and end up with a cloying mess." Hauslein gives his stamp of approval, though to two pumpkin beers, which he carries: The Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (widely available) and the Elysian "Night Owl" Pumpkin Ale.
He also offers a delicious alternative for those who, like he, are wary of cloying pumpkins ales: Autumn Maple from The Bruery in Placentia, CA. As the website describes the beer: "Brewed with 17 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, and fermented with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, this bold and spicy beer is perfect on a cold autumn evening."
One Pumpkin Ale I'm interested in is the St-Ambroise from Montreal. I've been told it's in San Francisco, but haven't found it. If you locate it, please let me know.
Otherwise, happy drinking.