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Friday, 06 September 2013 06:31

Iron Hill in the pumpkin patch

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Chris Lapierre IHMapleShadeIt didn't take pumpkin ales showing up on the shelves in July this year to signal that a bumper crop of the wildly popular fall seasonal is at hand.

Probably more than last year, but who's counting?

And speaking of last year, 2012 figures big into the pumpkin ale release set for this Saturday (Sept. 7, 1 p.m.) at Iron Hill brewpub's Maple Shade location: The bourbon barrel-aged version of the imperial pumpkin ale that tops the day's marquee was actually brewed last year, then stowed away in a Heaven Hill whiskey barrel for tapping at this year's event. (All 10 Iron Hill locations will release pumpkin ales on Saturday for the annual "Welcome, Great Pumpkin" party.)

"We brew a batch of beer that's meant to be released in a couple of months, then we pull off some of that beer and put it in a bourbon barrel, and it's saved for the next year," says brewer Chris LaPierre.

That means this year's imperial pumpkin brew is already reserving space on next year's calendar at Iron Hill.

And so the rotation goes.

But for this year, what beer enthusiasts need to know is Saturday will be a pumpkin ale lover's dream. The two imperial pumpkin ales will share the tap lineup with five more pumpkin brews, including a Belgian one called Cinderella's Carriage, plus guest brews by Dogfish Head (Punkin), Elysian (Night Owl) and Weyerbacher (Imperial Pumpkin).

A sour version of the Cinderella's Carriage will also be among the brews, not to mention there are plans for pushing Dogfish Head Punkin through a Randall loaded with cinnamon sticks, star anise, vanilla bean and possibly some hops. (This year's edition of imperial pumpkin will also be available in 750 milliliter bottles.)

A big pumpkin ale, Chris says, is ripe for bourbon-barrel aging.

"The sweetness and body in general go well with it, and that's with any big, rich, sweet beer, like a barleywine or a Russian (imperial stout) ... The imperial pumpkin has a lot of those characteristics," Chris says. "Definitely the cinnamon, the vanilla and molasses character, they all tie in very well with the bourbon."

Saturday may just be a teaser of more gourd things to come when the leaves turn.

Like over at Iron Hill Voorhees.

The brewpub chain's Voorhees location opened just a month ago, so its pumpkin lineup on Saturday will be shorter than Maple Shade's (as in no Cinderella's Carriage) as it gets up to speed.

Kevin Walter IHVoorheesThat has brewer Kevin Walter thinking down the road: a pumpkin stout and pumpkin märzen – Punktoberfest – are in the works for staggered release deeper into the fall.

The timing will afford Kevin the opportunity to use fresh pumpkin (pumpkin beers out there now were made with canned pumpkin puree, the byproduct of a seasonal beer running well ahead of harvest time for its signature ingredient).

Kevin plans to give his pumpkin stout the bourbon-barrel treatment, with release targeted for December. 

If you think pumpkin beer and bourbon barrels are a good match, consider how easily pumpkins fit in the Oktoberfest tent. Kevin's Punktoberfest was well-received at Iron Hill's Lancaster, Pennsylvania, brewpub, his assignment before coming to Voorhees.

Like so often with pumpkin beer, it's not so much the fruit as it is the spice. It works that way in a märzen, too.

"The spicing lends itself really well to that big chewy, bready, biscuity, caramelly Oktoberfest. They go perfectly hand in hand," Kevin says.

Read 14620 times Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2013 12:48

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