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Russ Phillips: Pumpkins prove their worth for Valley brewers

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at that time of year in which the local landscape has become speckled with the bright orange colors of pumpkin fields.

Yes, fall is upon us and along with pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bagels (the ones at Tandem Bagels in Easthampton are delicious by the way), pumpkin donuts, and pumpkin pies, this is the time of year in which we welcome pumpkin beer.

If you’re a fan of history, especially the Colonial kind, you might not be surprised to learn that beer brewed with pumpkins has been around for hundreds of years. Pumpkins, rather conveniently, are indigenous to North America and therefore provided early settlers an easily accessible source of fermentable sugar needed to brew beer.

Although those early pumpkin beers were likely much different than those we have today, present day pumpkin beers owe a debt of gratitude to their forebears. In fact, pumpkin ale, as a style of beer, is part of a relatively small list of styles that originated here in North America. A quick scan of the shelves and coolers in local package stores will show just how popular this seasonal style has become. There you’ll find a plethora of pumpkin ales, pumpkin lagers, pumpkin stouts, and even Imperial pumpkin ales available from breweries around the country.

And, if you’d like to support craft brewers from here in Massachusetts, you’ve got quite a few options. Here are three worth checking out:

1. Wachusett Brewing Company’s Pumpkan is a pumpkin ale that comes in a can, hence the name. Wachusett also bottles an Imperial pumpkin ale for those looking for something a little more intense.

2. Cape Ann Brewing Company’s Fisherman Pumpkin Stout is a different take on a pumpkin beer. The rich, malty flavors of stout mix extremely well with the spicy, earthy flavors of pumpkin.

3. Jack’s Abby Brewing Pumpkin Crop Lager, of Framingham, lords of lager don’t disappoint with this crisp, refreshing, and lightly spiced brew.

Now, if you’re looking for something even closer to home you’ve some great options brewed right here in the Valley. To try these you’ll need to go to the source for a freshly poured pint.

Amherst Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale — brewed with locally sourced pumpkins and blue hubbard squash from Smiarowski Farm in Sunderland. Look for this on tap at the brewery in a few weeks.

Northampton Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale — brewed using fresh sugar pumpkin and then fermented with the addition of pumpkin puree. In the end you get an ale that is light bodied with a mild sweetness from the malt and pumpkins, with a dry finish.

Editor’s note: Originally from California, Russ Phillips has called the Pioneer Valley home for the past five years. He is the founder of www.CraftCans.Com (a website devoted to the canning segment of the craft beer industry), a member of the North American Guild of Beer Writers, and the author of Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can (being released by Schiffer Publishing this fall). His musings on beer have appeared in magazines and online.

A lover of all things craft beer, Russ has been writing about the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage for almost a decade. He lives with his wife and two children in Easthampton.

He has a Facebook page called “The Piobeer Valley.” https://www.facebook.com/thepiobeervalley.

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Upcoming events: Oct. 12-13: Riverside Blues & BBQ returns to Beacon Field in Greenfield for two days of blues music, two days of beer sampling, two days of crafters and vendors, and two days of kids activities. 12 to 6 p.m. both days. Oct. 10: Valley Malt will be hosting their annual Barley Fest and celebrating their third anniversary at …

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wachusett Brewing Company’s Pumpkan Wachusett Brewing Company, located in Westminster, introduced this appropriately named pumpkin ale in a can last fall. It fills your glass with a bright amber colored hue along with an inch or so of fluffy, white head adorning the top. Aromas are earthy and sweet with subtle hints of brown bread and piecrust. A few sips …

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