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Column: The art of pumpkin brewing
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Tis the season for pumpkin beer. - photo by Kelsey Podo

Now that Oktoberfest is officially over, it’s time to turn our gaze toward another fall favorite — pumpkin beer.  

You’ve probably realized by now that just about any type of produce can be incorporated into the brewing process, including squash. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat. 

Rick Foote, brewmaster of Left Nut Brewing Co. in Gainesville, recently brewed a pumpkin-centric beer called Ichabod’s Head, which will be released in the next week or two. The name, as you’ve probably noticed, is inspired from the protagonist of “Sleepy Hollow,” which I find extremely fitting. 

The beer is a milk stout brewed to resemble a pumpkin spice latte in flavor. It’s currently aging in bourbon barrels. Foote said the members of Chicken City Ale Raisers, a homebrew group he founded years ago, collectively came up with the idea and recipe for the beer. 

“It was inspired from our discussions and we conceptualized it as a group,” he said. “The brewery’s staff brewed it at the brewery.” 

To make Ichabod’s Head, Foote said around 30 pounds of pumpkin had to be cubed and baked to soften them up. The entire batch will come out at around 46.5 gallons.  The pumpkin was incorporated into the brew’s mash (mix of grains). Foote said the trick with brewing with pumpkins is avoiding the mess.  

“There can be a challenge from the standpoint of a stuck mash,” he said. “They can get mushy, and it could get stuck to your outlet.” 

To solve this problem, he added rice hulls, or rice husks, to the mash, which acts as a filter enhancer without affecting the beer’s color, flavor or mouthfeel.  

When Foote brews beer with pumpkins, he said they impart a subtle sweetness, but not enough to bring a bold notes to the drink.  

“The bulk of the flavor comes from the spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger,” he said. “Pumpkin is not that potent.” 

Foote makes a fair point here. In my couple of years of exploring pumpkin beer around spooky season, I’ve noticed that the spices seem to take the spotlight. However, the same can be said about most baked goods like pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins.  

Fun fact: Some breweries will opt for butternut squash or yams instead of pumpkins because they embrace a richer, more pumpkin-forward flavor. I admit, felt a little betrayed the first time I drank a pumpkin-labeled beer only to find out it was brewed with yams, but I eventually got over it.  

Now that October is here, you’ll probably begin to see pumpkin brews popping up in your grocery store’s beer section either as a stout or wheat ale. I personally relish any opportunity to drink pumpkin beer, so please, if you find something interesting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. 

Left Nut Brewing Co. is located at 2100 Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. For updates on its upcoming beer, visit leftnutbrewing.com

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