Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.
The character of the particular spices, herbs and/or vegetables (SHV) should be noticeable in the aroma; however, note that some SHV (e.g., ginger, cinnamon) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., some vegetables)—allow for a range of SHV character and intensity from subtle to aggressive. The individual character of the SHV(s) may not always be identifiable when used in combination. The SHV character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and overpowering. As with all specialty beers, a proper SHV beer should be a harmonious balance of the featured SHV(s) with the underlying beer style. Aroma hops, yeast by-products and malt components of the underlying beer may not be as noticeable when SHV are present. Appearance should be appropriate to the base beer being presented and will vary depending on the base beer. For lighter-colored beers with spices, herbs or vegetables that exhibit distinctive colors, the colors may be noticeable in the beer and possibly the head.
As with aroma, the distinctive flavor character associated with the particular SHV(s) should be noticeable, and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive. The individual character of the SHV(s) may not always be identifiable when used in combination. The balance of SHV with the underlying beer is vital, and the SHV character should not be so artificial and/or overpowering as to overwhelm the beer. Hop bitterness, flavor, malt flavors, alcohol content, and fermentation by-products, such as esters or diacetyl, should be appropriate to the base beer and be harmonious and balanced with the distinctive SHV flavors present.