Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).
Pumpkin beers first got popular a couple of decades ago, when some breweries, both big and small — like Coors-owned Blue Moon and Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Hayward, Calif. — released them as a way to celebrate the fleeting flavors of the fall.
One of the first (and most popular) pumpkin beers in Colorado was Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, which Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs first made as a fundraiser in 2007 with real pumpkins from a local farm and released in October. People would line up around the block to get a few bottles back in the early and mid-2000s, and the beer is still highly sought after today.
These days, there are dozens and dozens (and dozens) of Colorado pumpkin beers available at craft breweries and liquor store shelves around the state every year, but you no longer need to wait in line to get them. And you definitely don’t need to wait until October.
No, like a ghoul rising from a cemetery on Halloween, pumpkin beers now begin showing up in early August, shocking people who are still drinking chilled white wine an sweltering in 90-degree heat.
The reason: liquor stores, bars and restaurants become inundated with pumpkin beers quickly and stop ordering them. So breweries that want to sell their creations need to get in early on the action. Furthermore, breweries have said, people stop buying and drinking pumpkin beers on Nov. 1 – the day after Halloween. So if beer makers wait until September or October, the selling season becomes really short, like the length of heavily-shadowed autumn days.
And for pumpkin lovers, that is perfectly fine.
A few Colorado pumpkin beers hit taps or store shelves last week, including Tommyknocker Brewing’s Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Great Divide Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale, Eddyline Brewing’s Pumpkin Patch Pale and Spice Trade Brewing’s Pumpkin Spice Latte.
But many more are on the way, including one of the biggest and best pumpkin beer releases of the year: Arvada-based Odyssey Beerwerks’ Fluffy Pumpkin, “a toasted marshmallow pumpkin porter” that arrived last Friday. It’s a beer that mashes together all the pumpkin spices that go so well in beer, with roasty, toasty notes from the dark malts and sweetness to round it all out.
Odyssey has been brewing some version of this beer almost since it opened in 2013, and it has been a hit. But things really took off in 2020 when demand far exceeded supply. As a result, Odyssey now brews the beer off-site. Otherwise, said Deanna Hill, who owns Odyssey with her husband, Chris, the brewery wouldn’t have the space to make any of its other beers.
“It gets brewed in the beginning or middle of July and packaged at the beginning of August, and released for distribution and taproom sales in mid-August,” she added.
So which pumpkin brews should you seek out? It depends on what you like. Upslope Brewing in Boulder and 4 Noses Brewing in Broomfield have both won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival for theirs. Station 26 Brewing makes a lighter pumpkin lager, while Strange Craft Brewing, Our Mutual Friend Brewing and Odyssey all make pumpkin porters or stouts.
Some other faves of mine: Great Divide Pumpkin Spice Yeti and Left Hand Brewing’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Nitro. I’m also looking forward to trying a 13% ABV, pumpkin-infused version of Dry Dock Brewing’s Bligh’s Barleywine Ale, aged for a year in whiskey barrels.
Here’s to fall in August.
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