Beer Column: Great pumpkin brews a craft beer mainstay

I bet Linus grew up to be a craft beer fan.

The pint-size philosopher from the 1970s Peanuts cartoons spent his Halloweens hoping to attract the Great Pumpkin to his patch.

Trick was that the Great Pumpkin would appear only in the most sincere patch with no hypocrisy in sight - writes

In the craft beer world, brewing a seasonal pumpkin-flavoured beer is as de rigueur as offering an IPA. It’s loved by many, scorned by others — who are quick to point out you’d never find such an abomination in Germany. Allspice? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? Nein.

But in North America, it’s a style that’s been around since log cabins. When crops like grains, corn or apples weren’t available, pioneers turned to pumpkins to ferment their beer.

Just like they did with IPAs, craft brewers have brought the style back from the discard pile.

Among the pumpkin ales at the LCBO, Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale makes up for its lack of a witty name by being the pick of the patch. Malty and slightly spicy, the Toronto brewers recommend pairing it with, predictably, pumpkin pie and, unpredictably, candy.

Bayside in lovely Erieau is releasing its pumpkin beer on Friday. Last year’s Bayside Pumpkin Ale was rejected by my wife, but embraced by me as we visited the brew pub. Of course, I could enjoy drinking anything at Bayside, which is top-of-my-list for brew pub atmosphere.

But the best spot for Linus-like characters to seek out the great pumpkin beers might not be the LCBO or in a shoulder-season beach town.

It might be in in London’s Old East Village, where neighbouring breweries have duelling offerings awaiting taste tests.

At London Brewing Co-op, the approach is organic and smoky.

LBC brewed Fire in the Pumpkin Patch with organic pumpkins from HOPE Eco Farms of Aylmer, and, because pumpkins themselves don’t add much flavour, organic cinnamon and nutmeg.

The smokiness comes from the same malts used to brew Ode to the Wick, a popular LCB offering which paid homage to the Brunswick Hotel, the old-style working man’s beer hall.

“We brewed a very limited edition, only 500 litres, and we don’t expect it to make it too far beyond October,” said David Thuss, the co-op’s secretary-director.

Its base is a nut brown ale and the “Fire” in the name refers to smoke, not spiciness.

“What makes it really special is that this is the last time we will ever brew this beer, as the particular malts required are no longer available: This is the reality of brewing with local organic ingredients,” David said.

Truth be told, the unique malts for this unusual beer came about by accident at Harvest Hop & Malt in Guelph. An issue with under-germination and some overheating inadvertently created it.

“Mike (Driscoll, owner of Harvest Hop & Malt) called it Speckled Gold due to its great range of colours with roasted malts and touches of yellow and gold,” David said. “We loved the results of this accident so much we bought up what we could, but once it’s gone, it’s gone, and this beer won’t be brewed again.”

Fire in the Pumpkin Patch is available at typical LBC prices, $13 for a growler, $7 for Boston rounds and $4.95 for 650 ml bottles at the brewery, 521 Burbrook Pl., London.

Around the corner at Anderson Craft Ales (1030 Elias St.), it’s as much about the glass as it is about the delicious pumpkin beer made with 45 kg of pumpkin and a blend of pumpkin pie spices.

There’s a patron’s option of adding a ring of cinnamon sugar on the glass — hands down the most novel approach to enjoying a pumpkin beer.

“We have the option for a cinnamon sugar rim for people who really want to enhance the pumpkin spice and add a touch of sweetness,” brewmaster Gavin Anderson said.

Can’t make it to the brewery? Anderson’s pumpkin ale is on tap in London at Western University, Beertown, Bungalow, and Fionn MacCool’s, to name a few.

Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist based in London.

Read also more news of London on our city site.

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