PEOPLE WHO SAY they hate pumpkin beer remind me of people who say they never watch TV, as if they're too good for something so unsophisticated. They stick up their noses and piss all over the spicy brew because it's a gimmick, because it's crass, because they're oh-so-busy rereading War and Peace.
So, as they repeat the same, tired criticism (You can't drink it in this kind of heat!), they're missing out on some pretty good entertainment.
Well, put down the Tolstoy, Mr. Snoot, and tune into six things the pumpkin haters get wrong.
* They come out too early.
It's true, pumpkin beers now show up on the shelves in July and seem out of season. But every beer style - from springtime bock to wintertime holiday brews - comes out too early.
You might've noticed, also, that Christmas decorations go on sale in September and the Kmart mannequins are wearing bikinis in February. That's the way the retailing works. The demand for products actually precedes the season.
* It's too warm to drink pumpkin beer.
Really? Tell that to the people of Tampa, Fla., where last year the temps hit 81 degrees on Halloween. Somehow the locals managed to suck down plenty of hometown favorite Cigar City Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
In the age of climate change, you better get used to drinking beer in warm weather, which leads me to a similar gripe:
* It's too hot to drink spiced beer.
C'mon, people eat spicy food all summer, so why not spiced beer?
In fact, one of the most popular warm-weather ales - Belgian-style witbier - is made with spice (coriander). So how is it that cinnamon and nutmeg are suitable only for Thanksgiving?
Indeed, Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter goes perfectly with hot dogs and baked beans. Give it a shot before you pack away the Weber this summer.
* Pumpkin beer ought to be made with fresh pumpkin.
Nobody except jack-o'-lantern-carving Cub Scouts ever made anything with fresh pumpkins. That's because pumpkins are essentially big lumps of fleshy pulp that we'd leave rotting in the field if early brewers hadn't discovered that, in a squeeze, they're a barely acceptable replacement for malt.
They aren't particularly flavorful (in fact, they taste like something you'd scrape down the disposal), so while picking them fresh off the vine might sound cool, all that work adds little to the character of the beer.
Think about it: If canned pureed pumpkin was somehow bad, do you think your Aunt Florence would be using it all these years in her pumpkin pie?
Consider also that that neither malt nor hops are actually "fresh" when they go into the brew kettle, and most fruit beer is made with puree. So why should you care if the pumpkin was picked last year?
* Pumpkin beers taste like . . .
Saying you hate the flavor of pumpkin beer is like saying you hate the flavor of beer, period. Not all pumpkins taste the same.
The ever-popular Southern Tier Pumking is big on vanilla; Dogfish Head Punkin Ale goes heavy on the nutmeg and clove.
The bottle of Elysian Punkuccino I enjoyed down the Shore over Labor Day weekend was one of the best coffee-flavored brews I've ever tasted. The fresh pint of Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress they poured for me last month at Kutztown's Saucony Creek Brewing went down like a sweet but balanced blend of maple syrup and buttered rum.
Think of pumpkin as blank pages in a book, waiting for a creative brewer to fill.
* They're a gimmick.
They're no more gimmicky than session IPAs.
Don't be a hater - give one a try. I've got a bunch of them in my Joe Sixpack seasonal case share with Bell Beverage of South Philly, now available online at joesixpack.net.
Meanwhile, Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant's Chestnut Hill location will have a nice lineup on tap on Saturday. And look for four-packs of its Pumpkin Ale at all locations starting Friday.