There’s a meme on social media that says, ”Remember, my dear, at midnight September 1, everything will turn into Pumpkin Spice.”
People either love it, or shake their heads, wondering what all the fuss is about.
If the mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice unleashes happy thoughts in the mind and tastebuds, chances are that person is a true pumpkin spice aficionado.
A Little History
The spice giant McCormick originated Pumpkin Pie Spice, a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice, in 1934 as a shortcut for flavoring the pumpkin pie, the traditional harvest dessert favorite.
What makes this mix so popular? Theories range from its warm, comforting taste to nostalgia of Thanksgivings past.
“There’s no doubt that this quintessential spice blend cues all things autumn,” states the McCormick website. “Pumpkin spice is an iconic fall flavor and aroma — making its way into drinks, candies, cookies, cereal and beauty products.”
Today, pumpkin spice lovers can thank Starbucks for fueling the all-things-pumpkin-craze.
Starbucks began offering the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003, and it became a runaway success. This year, Starbuck’s began serving the seasonal treat Aug. 24, with variations Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino — along with food delights, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, pumpkin scones and pumpkin loaf.
Starbucks’ web site boasts a Pumpkin Love O’Meter, which can be downloaded to let “customers find out just how much of a pumpkin lover they really are.”
Pumpkin Spice K-cups are on shelves now, too. Grocery stories have end-aisle displays of all things pumpkin to herald in the fall season.
There is even a pumpkin spice latte Christmas ornament offered by Old Word Christmas to spice up the holiday tree.
Celebrating Pumpkin Spice in a Glass
Coffee pumpkin spice lovers are not the only ones celebrating the return of pumpkin spice; the flavor has become a hit in the brewery business, too.
A prime example of popular and great tasting pumpkin beer is Catawba Brewing’s King Don’s Pumpkin Ale.
In the late 1990s, legendry brewer Don Richardson brewed a pumpkin ale at Cottonwood Brewery in Boone. Brewing brothers Billy and Scott Pyatt were extremely impressed with its flavor. During this time, the Pyatts were cooking up brews that became Catawba Brewing in 1999. The brothers remain co-owners of the highly successful Catawba Brewing, along with Jetta Pyatt.
When Cottonwood Brewery was sold, Richardson didn’t brew for them anymore. His friend, Scott Pyatt, invited him to come hang out and brew some beer — specifically the pumpkin beer Scott remembered. They did, and Richardson gifted his pumpkin ale recipe to Scott.
“People line up for this brew at fall beer festivals,” Scott said. “It fits the timeline of what people want to taste in the fall.”
“This beer is pretty special,” said Billy. “Back many moons ago, Don made the best pumpkin beer Scott and I’ve ever had. When Cottonwood was sold, and Don didn’t brew for them anymore, he and my brother Scott got together to make a pumpkin beer. The pumpkin beer is King Don’s Pumpkin Ale, and of course, is named after Don.”
Catawba brews King Don’s with five separate barley styles, with spices normally used for baking and fresh pumpkin.
“Catawba doesn’t buy pumpkin pie spice and blend it in the kettle,” Scott said. “All the spices are original in form. We use cinnamon, ginger, all spice, nutmeg and clove — and some more.”
What makes the brew so tasty?
Scott said it is the blend of the base beer malts that complement the spice mixture. The flavors meld into a smooth dark orange-hued ale, at 5.5% ABV.
Catawba began brewing and distributing King Don’s in 2003 and its popularity has soared.
“It’s the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever tasted,” said Scott. “And I still feel that way after all these years. Pumpkin beers are great, and you should try King Don’s. It’s a successful time-tested product and something everybody can like.”
King Don’s Pumpkin Ale is distributed from late August — October and is on tap at all Catawba tasting rooms and at retail locations.
Catawba Brewing has Asheville tasting rooms at 32 Banks Ave. on the South Slope, and at 63 Brook St. in Biltmore Village. Visit www.catawbabrewing.com.
For those who love the great pumpkin and quintessential fall spices, the time is now to enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin baked goods, pumpkin beer — and all things pumpkin.