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Is there actually any pumpkin in pumpkin beer?
Pumpkin beer has evolved a lot since its invention in 1771, when New World colonists, looking for another fermentable sugar, used pumpkins to make an alcoholic beverage. It more closely resembled cider than it did the pumpkin ales and lagers lining supermarket shelves today.
Personally, I believe pumpkin beers should honor their history and at least contain some actual pumpkin in the brew, but, alas, that’s not always the case. As pumpkin beers have evolved, many brewers have leaned into the flavors of pumpkin pie, creating beers with aggressive flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla. In many of these beers, pumpkin isn’t used at all — the spice flavors are what drinkers associate with pumpkin beer, not the flavor of actual pumpkin.
If a squash is used, it often isn’t pumpkin. As we continue to battle seasonal creep, and brewers begin releasing these pumpkin beers in late August, there’s not necessarily any fresh pumpkin to be had. Some brewers get around this by using canned puree or frozen pumpkin from last season, but a lot more just as easily substitute squash, or simply flavor the beer with pumpkin pie spices to satisfy the tastes of most pumpkin beer drinkers.