The Great Pumpkin Party

Party-Gyle by | Oct 2011 | Issue #57

It may be cliché, but once fall rolls around, leaves start to blush, and sweaters come out of the closet, it’s time for a Pumpkin Ale. In my experience, this is either a beloved pastime or annual annoyance for the serious beer drinker. Pumpkin beer: You either love it or hate it. But with so many different types of and so many varying approaches to the spiced, pumpkin-infused ales that are added to the roster each year, who’s to say you won’t like it this time around?

I have a solution for the skeptical fall pumpkin beer party-pooper. Host a soirée with a handful of craft pumpkin brews. Cook up a variety of dishes that focus on just that winter squash, and have some other fun, seasonal activities to pair it all with. It’s harvest season, after all—what better time to entertain?

The Dishes Du Jour
Stuffed, Roasted Pumpkin Soup Au Gratin
For the past three years, I’ve copied a friend who copied a recipe in a magazine that we can no longer remember, but it involves stuffing a whole, scooped-out pumpkin with chicken stock, and the ingredients for soup of any kind (shredded pieces of chicken, corn, caramelized onion, etc.) and topping the liquids with grated Gruyère before baking in an oven until the pumpkin flesh becomes soft. Then, the entire “soup” can be scraped out of the pumpkin to serve alongside generous pieces of the roasted pumpkin flesh. It’s fun and easy, and the scooped-out seeds are great for roasting on their own, too.

Pumpkin Curry with Basmati Rice
Kick the spices up another notch with a garam masala-infused sauté of cubed pumpkin, onions, and hot and sweet peppers for a proper vegetarian curry. This is a tasty dish to produce on the fly, and makes for a relatively cheap and filling entrée. Add a splash of coconut milk and spices for a more exotic, tropical pumpkin flavor, and cover the pan while the pumpkin cubes soften.

Roasted Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seed Spinach Salad
Roasted wedges of pumpkin crisp easily in a high-heat oven and can stand in tastily for croutons, especially when combined with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds. So scatter these on top of a green salad of spinach, and dress simply with a vinaigrette, for a simple side dish.

The Beers
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale
Sometimes, it’s a seasonal beer that makes a brewery. And in the case of Shipyard, the Pumpkin Ale is one that helped get it on the map. So much so that last fall, the brewery released a more potent pumpkin beer, like a weird sister to the original, called “Smashed Pumpkin Ale.” Portland, Maine, clearly still has some ghosts—or pumpkin-headed horsemen—roaming through its foggy streets.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
Refreshingly hoppy yet tingling with spice, this beer is what you want from a Pumpkin Ale. With a nose reminiscent of fresh-roasted pumpkin, along with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, it’s sessionable, easy to find and fun to cook with, too.

Treat Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter
If you can get your hands on the stuff from this Alaska brewery, you’re in for a real self-titled “treat.” This chocolatley Pumpkin Porter is a hangover of too many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and beer after a night of trick-or-treating, or a wet dream from the days before you could drink. Appropriately, the sweetness from the Porter character coddles the rich, pumpkin-pie spices in this attractive dark beer. Its frothy head makes it a dessert in its own right.

The Fun Stuff
Carving, your way
You don’t have to make scary faces out of the sides of a hollowed pumpkin. Have your guests design their own logo or icon of themselves—or their neighbors—using just the handful of steak knives in your drawer. It’s fun to try and guess whose pumpkin is whose, even if it causes a few ruffled feathers.

Sugar pumpkin-bobbing
These cute little gourds are easy to pile up by the basket or bushel, so you can create mini-lanterns from a handful of them if you have the time. If not, try dunking them into a bucketful of keg beer instead for a round of competitive bobbing.

Pumpkin donation basket
Did your party just cost you the expense of that new roof? Or have you been meaning to finally shell out for a local charity? Make cute with your gift-giving and ask for donations by passing around a hollowed-out pumpkin. Even those who gave in the form of side dishes or beer might be inclined to throw something into the seasonal “pot.” If you don’t care for donations, it could also make for a fun thank-you note vessel for when guests are leaving.