August may not seem like fall, but it’s the start of pumpkin beer season. Elysian Brewing Co., of Seattle, Washington has announced the dates of its fifth annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival (October 10 and 11 at its Capitol Hill location), and is releasing both draft and bottles of Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, one of many pumpkin brews to be highlighted at the fest.
The phenomenon of pumpkin beer dates to colonial times, when because of prohibitive taxation on imported (English) malt many other materials were pioneered as ingredients in beer. Fast forward to the 1980s craft brewing movement, when Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub in Hayward, California produced a spiced pumpkin ale, and the pumpkin revival was underway.
Elysian has taken the whole thing several steps further. In addition to the Night Owl, the festival will showcase The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Dark o’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout, Hansel and Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner, Jack o’ Bite Barrel-aged Strong Scottish Pumpkin Ale, Mr. Yuck Sour Pumpkin Ale, Bete N’Owl Dark Belgian-style Pumpkin Ale, and a few others, all from Elysian’s brewers. In addition, 16 guest pumpkin beers will be poured from several Seattle-area brewers as well as special efforts from some of America’s best and most innovative brewers.
The high point of each GPBF is the 4 o’ clock tapping of the Great Pumpkin, a huge gourd filled with pumpkin ale which has been sealed up with wax and allowed to undergo a second fermentation before having a tap hammered home for serving. Patrons line up dozens-deep to enjoy and comment on the year’s effort.
This year, in addition to expanding the festival to run the entire weekend, the folks at Elysian will also take GPBF on the road, with festivals scheduled for the South Philly Tap Room in Philadelphia (October 18) and the Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village, New York City (October 14).