I know it's fun to rip on pumpkin beers. Hell, it's practically an annual tradition: too soon, too many, not really pumpkin-made, etc. But you know what? I really can't wait to see them taking over the taps this year, and the sooner the better.
Why? Because for as much as we make fun of them, pumpkin (or pumpkin spice, or squash) beers have become, at least in my humble opinion, some of the better seasonal beers on the market, in a market where almost everything seems to be a seasonal beer (or an IPA...or both).
It's September. Bring on the pumpkin beers.
Changing of the Seasons
The "anti-pumpkin" crusades made a bit more sense to me when there were genuinely few seasonal beers on the market. I don't mean one-offs or limited releases or beers generally made at a certain time of year, but actual seasonal beers. Lately I've been seeing (in part thanks to my self-imposed no-repeat beer challenge for 2017) an impressive cavalcade of spring beers, summer beers, hop harvest beers, and more, all tuned to a specific available ingredient or seasonal affectation or condition. In that context, it feels much more that pumpkin beers are simply a logical extension and progression and less like a kitschy gimmick.
Not only that, but the other seasonal beers aren't always well-tuned to the season in which they're offered. A few weeks back I picked up a mixed "summer celebration" case from a major regional craft brewer, and the thing had a Pilsner (makes sense), two IPAs of 6.8 and 7.2 percent ABV, and a double IPA. What are you "summer celebrating" there? Alcohol poisoning and/or heat stroke?
Say what you will about them, but at least pumpkin/spice beers are well-fitted to their season. Temperatures start to drop, the beers get a little darker, and we all get that nice sense memory of pumpkin pie to get us primed for football and Thanksgiving. Works for me.
An Island of Consistency
This is, admittedly, just my subjective interpretation, but it also seems that pumpkin beers are an island of consistency in the otherwise heaving, frothing maelstrom of beer quality.
Last year I attended an event with about a dozen pumpkin beers available to taste and evaluate. And you know what? They were all at least OK. None were exceptional. But none were bad, either, and many were genuinely good.
I've had to dump three beers in the last three weeks (the most recent a fruited Gose that tasted like it was brewed with straight seawater). I'm ready for a little generic amber/brown ale with some obvious spice additions, even if it isn't the next "hot" thing.
At Least It's Not...
...fill in the latest craft beer trend. Probably hazy IPAs. Those damned things are everywhere, which at least might hopefully mean they'll disappear soon (except for the good ones, which with some luck the market might be able to sort out). Pumpkin spice beers might be cliche and annoying, but you can't pretend they're trendy. They're probably the most hated-on beer style in the world, and yet every September, back they come.
You gotta respect that.
So, it might not be a five-star, life-changing, Earth-shaking beer, but grab yourself a pint or a sixer of something with an orange label and a punny pumpkin name, and sniff deep.
And know that the Christmas beers are right behind it.
Keep it simple.