Since brewers carved out niches for pumpkin, the fall flavor has claimed larger and larger pieces of the craft-beer pie.
Pumpkin beers have wide appeal at local watering holes and retailers, including an east Medford market that offered 10 types of pumpkin beer this month. Medford's Apocalypse Brewing Co. anticipated tapping the first pumpkin ale brewed in Southern Oregon.
"The pumpkin beers are becoming the fall seasonals," says Chris Dennett, co-owner of Medford's Beerworks, which had 12 to 15 pumpkin beers and ciders on tap last week. The variety of pumpkin beers has tripled since Beerworks opened at 323 E. Main St. about two years ago, says Dennett.
While pie spices are commonplace in pumpkin beers, notes of plum, coffee, chai tea — even cucumber, habanero chili and the Mexican herb epazote — complement an array of brews created by Seattle's Elysian Brewing Co. and stocked this month at Quality Market's Growler King. Elysian put on its "Great Pumpkin Road Show," a chance for Quality Market customers to sample some of its rarer pumpkin beers last week. Growler King, at 1211 E. Jackson St., will sell pumpkin beers as long as they last, says tap manager Eddie McIntosh.
Although pumpkin looms largest for Halloween, beers flavored with the winter squash run out earlier than consumers may expect, says Dennett. Most breweries release pumpkin beers in September, he says.
"We've had people coming in asking for a pumpkin beer," says Joe Arena, partner in Jacksonville's Adit Public House, which started selling Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale this month.
Halloween was Apocalypse Brewing's target date for pouring pumpkin ale crafted last week from a local home brewer's recipe, says brewery co-owner Nick Ellis. Because pumpkin can clog brewing equipment, it does present a bit of a challenge, says Ellis. Apocalypse's ale — still nameless when Ellis kegged it — takes its flavor from commercially prepared pumpkin puree added to the mash, along with pumpkin-pie spices, for a sweeter beer than the brewery typically produces with 8 percent alcohol.
"I'm pretty stoked about how it turned out," says Ellis.
A 12-ounce snifter costs $5 at Apocalypse, 545 Rossanley Drive, Suite C. The taphouse is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Friday, from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Since Elysian's Night Owl popularized pumpkin beer in the late 1990s, the genre has only become "more solid every year," says Ginger Johnson, head of the Ashland-based Women Enjoying Beer. The wide range in flavor profiles means there's a pumpkin beer for everyone, she says.
"Pumpkin beers are also outstanding to pair with and to cook with."
Try replacing some of the liquid in muffins and quick breads with pumpkin beer, says Johnson. Whisk pumpkin beer into a vinaigrette or pour over a cut of meat for slow-cooking, she says.
And if you want to serve beer from a hollowed-out pumpkin, she says, scorch the squash's inside first, so it doesn't soften and start to collapse.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email email@example.com.