Beer and pumpkins go way back. During colonial days, early Americans used pumpkin as a less expensive, locally sourced ingredient to replace or supplement imported malt, which was harder to come by. Nowadays, by September, pumpkin is in everything. McDonald’s in Japan is pushing chocolate pumpkin fries this fall. And stateside, pumpkin continues to prevail as one of the most sought-after seasonal beers, regardless of increasingly mixed reviews.
Colorado Springs beer fans have plenty of pumpkin beer options. Whether you think the best way to enjoy a pumpkin beer is to throw it in the trash (as the popular meme suggests) or quaff while watching The Shining on Halloween, there’s no denying that pumpkin beer has carved out a distinct craft beer niche that is uniquely fall. Here’s a drinker’s dozen of local brews that pay homage to the big orange gourd.
Venetucci Pumpkin Ale
Bristol Brewing Company
Probably the most familiar and arguably the most coveted is Bristol Brewing Company’s Venetucci Pumpkin Ale. This year marks the beer’s 10th anniversary in partnership with Venetucci Farms, the oldest and largest working farm in Colorado Springs. The celebration is still on despite severe hail storms that decimated Venetucci’s pumpkin crop on top of water contamination in the Fountain Creek Watershed. This year, Bristol is still showing its philanthropic side, cranking out bombers with help from Milberger Farms in Pueblo.
Bristol opts to cut and gut baby Pam pumpkins, usually used in pie, then roast them rind and all to caramelize the sugars. The gourds then bathe for two hours in the mash, and out comes the anticipated fall staple. “We use the beer to tell the story of Venetucci giving pumpkins to youth over the years,” says owner and brewer Mike Bristol. Tapping is on Sunday, Oct. 30, 12 to 3 p.m. as part of Bristol’s Community Ales Program, and 100 percent of the proceeds go back to Venetucci Farms.
1604 S. Cascade Ave., bristolbrewing.com
The Whole Pie
Trinity Brewing Company
Trinity Brewing Company is offering up two variations of pumpkin beers, and owner and brewer Jason Yester shares that they, “used pumpkin in over 20 other beers for texture.” The Whole Pie is brewed in the balanced saison style, using graham crackers and substituting garam masala and white sage for the usual spice blend. Fresh pumpkin is baked and torch roasted. Then the meat is scooped out, and the skin is tossed. Trinity brewers add the pumpkin in during the boil; then it is dry hopped. “We want the beer to shine, without the bitterness of the squash,” Yester says. “It’s a tool, not a hype train. It should have a presence, and the spices can be distracting.”
The Caucasian Anti-Stout is not a pumpkin-forward beer at all, but it is a great illustration of how pumpkin can add superb mouthfeel. Brewed with white cinnamon, cocoa nibs and lactose, the pumpkin is almost undetectable. It actually merits little flavor on its own and is overshadowed by the creamy vanilla and chocolate notes.
1466 Garden of the Gods Rd., trinitybrew.com
Nano 108 Brewing Company
You wouldn’t know it from all the pumpkin brews, but there is a short supply of pumpkins this year. Nano 108 is dealing with it by taking an unconventional approach: utilizing different varietals, like blue-green Jarrahdale pumpkins and Hubbard squash to make a field beer. Co-owner and brewer Keith Altemose says the Harvest Ale will contain “brown sugar, oats, rye, vanilla and traditional spices in a more muted box, creating a warming, bread-like effect.” “We’re an offshoot,” Altemose says. “We’re done changing it up and want to do something new.” The ale should be ready by Nov. 13, just in time to celebrate the brewery’s three-year anniversary.
2402 Waynoka Rd., nano108brewing.com
Classic Pumpkin Cravings
If traditional pumpkin pie is what’s tempting, there are numerous local brews to satiate the classic craving.
Gourd Hoarders Pumpkin Ale
Manitou Brewing Company
Manitou’s Gourd Hoarders Pumpkin Ale is a popular take. Spice forward with mild hops, it leads into a faint, malty pumpkin finish.
725 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, manitou-brewing.com
Iron Bird Brewing Company
Iron Bird’s The Gourdy is a proportional blend of meaty pumpkin with caramel notes that transitions into a complimentary pumpkin pie spice blend. Ask for it on cask, providing a full-bodied, velvety nuance.
402 S. Nevada Ave., ironbirdbrewing.com
Peaks N Pines Brewing Company
Peaks N Pines owner and brewer Paul Vieira has been making his Peak Pumpkin recipe for over a decade. It has a vibrant nose, like a gingersnap cookie, courtesy of what Vieira says they affectionately call “a spice bomb.” The east-side brewer says he set out to brew a “spicier Autumn type of beer.” But he adds, “We didn’t want it to overpower. You can easily drink two or three.” A good pairing choice while enjoying some neighboring Schnitzel Fritz you can order in.
4005 Tutt Blvd., peaksnpinesbrewery.com
Red Leg Brewing Company
Red Leg is embracing the season by releasing its Pumpkin Amber at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28. It’s pumpkin rendition is brewed with Madagascar vanilla bean to create a rich, sweet and spicy ale. “Pumpkin beers are always fun, and we want to make something people enjoy,” says president and founder Todd Baldwin.
4630 Forge Rd. Suite B. redlegbrewing.com
Spiced Pumpkin Cream Pie
If you can’t imagine your slice of pumpkin pie without a dollop of whip cream on top, then JAKs Brewing may be your top pumpkin pick. The recently unveiled Spiced Pumpkin Cream Pie encompass the entire experience: a simple cream ale base, brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla plus a generous amount of lactose. “You can taste all the spices, pie crust and whip cream,” says owner and brewer Jason Tepool.
7654 McLaughlin Rd. Peyton, jaksbrewing.com
Rocky Mountain Brewery
Mashing Pumpkins debuts at Rocky Mountain Brewery’s Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 10 p.m. Head brewer Nick Hilborn describes the beer as, “specifically different, with a lot of pumpkin flavor.” He says, “We make our own pumpkin spice blend. I buy all the separate spices whole and grind them myself. We also use more specialty grains to make it slightly more complex.” Hilborn’s homemade blend is for sale in the tasting room. If you miss the tapping party, Mashing Pumpkins will be available in cans the following week.
625 Paonia St., rockymountainbrews.com
Great Storm Brewing
Great Storm’s golden Pompion Ale is based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe and made with nearly 100 pounds of pumpkin. It releases on Monday, Oct. 31—Halloween day—with a truffle and beer pairing, including Pompion, starting at 1 p.m. and lasting till confections run out.
204 Mount View Lane, Ste 3., greatstormbrewing.com
Phantom Canyon Brewing Company
This year’s Halloweenhead contains 300 pounds of air-dried pumpkin, double the amount used in previous years. According to head brewer, Alan Stiles, the beer will sit in secondary fermentation before the pumpkin is introduced, allowing it to steep and provide a smoother flavor. “It’s like the difference between hot and cold brewed coffee,” Stiles says. And it alleviates the spices from being too harsh on the palette. Specialty Saigon and Indonesian cinnamon, plus New Guinea vanilla, make this a more pronounced variation than 2015.
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., phantomcanyon.com
Smoked Pumpkin Porter
Fieldhouse Brewing Company
Fieldhouse is the only brewery putting out a smoked pumpkin porter—and gluten-free pumpkin brew. The release takes place at the brewery’s Halloween soiree and fundraising event on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. “The pumpkins are smoked on pecan wood before going into the mash, giving the beer a subtle, woody, smoky flavor,” says owner and brewer Travis Fields. Raffle tickets will be available to raise money for local, nonprofit collective COSiLoveYou, working to battle homelessness and hunger in Colorado Springs.
521 S. Tejon St., fieldhousebrew.com