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   BECK ON BEER

                                                                                                                                                             
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LORDS OF THE GOURDS


Headless Horseman  as seen in American Public House Review
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane by John Quidor 1801 - 1881




 Alas, for poor Ichabod Crane!

Felled by a pumpkin, it would seem.

Actually, Washington Irving's classic tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow leaves the reader to decide for himself what the actual fate of the poor doomed Crane really was.  Supposedly he was knocked off his horse crossing a bridge when The Headless Horseman threw his own detached cranium at Ichabod.  However, the next day only a splattered pumpkin was discovered, leading one to question whether the actual assailant might have been the dastardly Abraham "Brom Bones" van Brunt, Crane's arch-rival in pursuit for the love of the same woman.  Regardless of the truth in the matter, the dark tale only adds to the  mysterious, almost pagan-like image that pumpkins can possess, especially when they are seen lying in great numbers together under the moonlit skies of the lengthening nights of late autumn.

But since we're safely past Halloween now, let us take a look at the more practical side of a pumpkin as well.  Rarely across the land is a Thanksgiving table set without a succulent pumpkin pie featuring  prominently on the menu. But is a pumpkin only good for eating?  After all, if beer can be properly described as “liquid bread” as it is often referred, then why not liquid pumpkin pie as well?  It is alleged that George Washington himself experimented with brewing beer using pumpkin, as well as other varieties of squashes.  If it was good enough for the Father of Our Country, then why shouldn't it be good enough for us as well?  

This idea was not lost on the pioneer maverick craft brewer “Buffalo” Bill Owens, who founded the Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, California back in 1983. Owens was never a traditionalist when it came to making beer, and he loved to push at the boundaries of the brewer's art.  In 1985, taking a lead from General Washington, Owens decided to try his hand at brewing a beer with pumpkin himself, and Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale became the first commercially brewed pumpkin ale in the United States.  His pumpkin ale is of a conventional strength of about 5 percent alcohol by volume, and features a blend of malt and mild vegetative flavors, complimented with the gentle pleasantness of several spices.  The hop level is kept fairly low, so as not to overshadow the spice flavors in the beer.  As bizarre as the concept of a pumpkin ale might initially sound to some, Owens' original recipe allows the eclectic combination of beer and gourd to actually work, and it makes for a surprisingly appealing and drinkable brew.  As the perfect accompaniment to a cool fall day, Owens' prototype beer has emerged as a new classic on the  American craft brewing scene.  Numerous other breweries have followed his inspiration with their own interpretations of the style, even such commercial giants as Anheuser-Busch. 


Not to be outdone, however, some ambitious brewers have decided to build upon Buffalo Bill's idea and take pumpkin ale



to the next level.  This has led in recent years to theemergence of so-called “imperial pumpkin ales,” brewed in the spirit of that timeless Yankee mantra that bigger is better.

These hefty brews are somewhat higher in alcohol than standard pumpkin ales and generally feature an even bolder, more pronounced pumpkin flavor, as well as increased spiciness.  They are generally the beer equivalent of the effect you might receive from eating a strong rum cake!  One such vegetative heavyweight is the Imperial Pumking Ale brewed by the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York.  It is a moderately dry version of the style, balanced with just a touch of modest sweetness from the use of caramel malt.  It delivers a potent blast from its alcohol strength of nine percent by volume. It also features a pronounced spiciness, that is predominantly from it's use of Magnum hops for flavor, and Sterling hops for aroma.   The name “Pumking” is supposedly from an ancient lyrical ode to Puca, a mythical creature of Celtic folklore.  Drink enough tall bottles of this strong ale and no doubt Puca itself will appear to materialize right in your living room!  Another fine  example of the imperial pumpkin ale is brewed by the Weyerbacher Brewing Company of Easton, Pennsylvania.  Weyerbacher's interpretation is somewhat sweeter, and employs several spices that you would find in a traditional pumpkin pie.  This ale is similarly potent, clocking in at about eight percent alcohol  by volume.


Home brewers can successfully make a pumpkin ale of their own if they are willing to employ a full grain mash in their recipe.  To do so, the pumpkin must be cooked first by roasting it in an oven.  This gelatinizes the starch in the pumpkin to make it available to be converted to fermentable sugars by the  enzymes present in the barley malt.  The cooked pumpkin is then added to the barley malt grain mash.  After mashing, traditional spices can be added to the wort during the boil, such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg (care must be taken with the nutmeg because it can be easily overdone!).  Using these methods, I have home brewed several delectable pumpkin ales myself over the years.   

I must admit, I was not an easy convert to the enjoyment of pumpkin ale.  In my earlier drinking days, I could be somewhat of a curmudgeon at times when it came to my beer, and I didn't like the idea of any “foreign additives” being brewed into it to pervert its originally intended flavor.  However, my eventual evolution to a more open-minded attitude toward the brews I consume has opened up a whole new world of exciting beers to enjoy, not least among them pumpkin ale.  I just make sure that I look over my shoulder every time I cross a bridge, lest there be a phantom pumpkin flying at my head!

Cheers,
Glenn  


                                        Photograph by Kathleen Connally

Glenn P. Beck as seen in American Public House Review



Glenn Beck was born in 1962 and raised in Livingston, New Jersey.  He graduated from Seton Hall University in 1986 with a B.A. in Communication.  Glenn was previously the owner  and operator of the Hunterdon Homebrew Shoppe in Frenchtown, New Jersey. While there, he taught an adult education course in the fundamentals of homebrewing beer.  He  won a blindly judged national  homebrewing competition (Memphis 1995) in the German Ale category with a delectable altbeir that he created.  Our resident beer meister was also hired as an accounts representative with the River Horse Brewing Company in Lambertville, New Jersey from 1997 to 1999. Glenn is a passionate scholar of the brewer's art. He has extensive knowledge as to the history, lore, brewing techniques, ingredients, and last but not least, the enjoyment of beer. He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife Nancy and their faithful malamute, Sam.





Pint of lagerr as seen in American Public House Review
IT'S ALL BEER . . . REALLY.
Glenn expounds on the difference be
tween beer and ale.
Pint of Stout as seen in American Public House Review
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL

Glenn  samples a pint of Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery.
Glass of Bud Pilsner as seen in American Public House Review
RIDIN' WITH THE KING 
The beer meister reminices about his youthful audiences with the King.
A glass of Bunratty Mead as seen in American Public House Review
ELIXIR OF LOVE

Glenn  examines the ancient and mystical elixir called Mead.
Pint of stout as seen in American Public House Review
WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILIN'

Glenn  shares some thoughts about the holy elixir out of Dublin, Ireland.
Pint of bock beer as seen in American Public House Review
BECK ON BOCK
Glenn  expounds on the pleasure and tchniques of bock beer
A glass of Corona as seen in American Public House Review
CERVEZA POR FAVOR

Glenn  dons his sombrero and heads south of the border.
A glass of Corona as seen in American Public House Review
MISTY MOUNTAIN HOP

Glenn  goes mountaineering with his pint glass in hand.
Pint of bock beer as seen in American Public House Review
PATRIOT GAMES
Glenn  takes a look at the early brewers of our country.
A glass of Corona as seen in American Public House Review
LIGHTS CAMRA ACTION

Glenn  visits The Great British Beer Festival in London.
A glass of Corona as seen in American Public House Review
THE SAN FRANCISCO TREAT

Glenn  "hops" a cable car in Saint Francis Town.
A glass of Corona as seen in American Public House Review
BEST OF THE FEST

Glenn virtually follows his dream to visit Octoberfest.
amber ale
LORD OF THE GOURDS

Glenn pours us a taste of Fall with a pint of pumpkin ale.



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