For more than a decade, pumpkin beer has had a stranglehold on fall, and each year it seems to appear earlier than the year prior. It’s unclear what makes pumpkin beer so appealing to a mass audience other than a desire to “drink with the seasons,” as the quality of the brew continues to decline — in this year’s VinePair pumpkin beer tasting our panel was unable to find enough decent beers to even release a ranking.
So how did we get here? Much of the quality decline has to do with the fact that pumpkin in and of itself doesn’t taste so great to begin with. But, when it does have any taste at all, the pumpkin is usually fresh and it isn’t possible to use fresh pumpkin if brewers are brewing their pumpkin beers in order to release those beers in late August, well before the best pumpkins would be ready for harvest. It would be like making a BLT prior to peak tomato season. The sandwich just won’t be that great. On top of this, the flavors most of us consider to be “pumpkin” have nothing to do with pumpkin at all, but instead are the spices associated with that quintessential dish: pumpkin pie. The result is a sweet and spicy, syrupy, liquid pumpkin pie brew that may taste like fall, but certainly isn’t very pleasing for more than a couple of sips.
And yet pumpkin beer continues to be popular. Even with one of our podcast hosts. So this week on the podcast, Adam and Zach welcome VinePair senior staff writer Cat Wolinski to talk all things pumpkin beer as we try to understand what continues to make this not-so-great beer style so insanely popular.