Jordan St. John: Robin, it’s Oktoberfest and that means that it’s time for everyone’s favourite seasonal beer. You know: The one that everyone looks forward to. The one that has not yet become a year round fixture despite decades of opportunity. The one that really lets brewers show us what they’re made of.

Robin LeBlanc: Ah, yes. I love me some Märzen. 

JSJ: No, Robin. Not Märzen. The other one. 

RL: Festbier! Of course!

JSJ: Third time lucky?

RL: …harvest ale?

JSJ: It’s decorative gourd season, Robin…

RL: Oh, right, the pumpkin spice beers. I thought August was the season for it nowadays.

JSJ: Only if you’re super basic, Robin. I kid. Many people look forward to the seasonality and great taste of Pumpkin. Sometimes I’ll lie in wait and see if the Great Pumpkin Brewer will appear if I leave out enough cinnamon.

RL: Well, as you know, I’m rather a fan of pumpkin spice. We’re coming up towards the end of September and I’ve already had three pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks. The combination of cinnamon and nutmeg is a winner and honestly when it comes to beer I’m not sure why the style gets so much hate. 

JSJ: I think it may have something to do with reliability. No one really seems to enforce a standard as it relates to the genre. Everyone is basing their recipe on whatever pie their grandma made, and let’s face it: not all grandmas are created equal. Muriel might not have pie game. 

RL: I’m not too sure that I buy that reasoning, since no one really seems to enforce a standard on fruited sours or milkshake IPAs either. I think it may just be as simple as “I don’t personally like thing, therefore thing bad”.

JSJ: Well, I do hate them in a generalized sort of way. But mostly that has to do with the fact I used to have to try a large number of them annually for a column. Some have Pumpkin. Some don’t. Some have spices, some don’t.  Some have so much habanero that I need to run away and lie down.

There are exceptions, though.

RL: There are. I think we’re pretty reliable across the board in favouring subtlety over bombast in terms of flavours. I think one beer that might come to mind is Great Lakes’ Saison duPump.

JSJ: Set the scene for me, you subtle duck you.

RL: Well, you have a beer that’s a nice clear amber, subtle hop spiciness to it, and the pumpkin spice is more of an additional feature to a well-made beer rather than just a spice bomb.

JSJ: Maybe it isn’t subtlety so much as the balance between ‘oh is that pie spice’ and the cinnamon challenge. I find that Eastbound’s annual pumpkin beer is approximately in that wheelhouse. There’s no mistaking the spices, but they’re still gentle enough that I could probably have a second one. Now that’s an achievement.

RL: Yeah. I think it really helps to know that there’s a good beer underneath the spice and if it’s balanced enough that can go a long way.

JSJ: Did you ever do the cinnamon challenge, Robin?

RL: Oh, is that where you eat a spoonful of cinnamon and nearly die? No. I may have taken part in a hot sauce eating competition to impress someone in my twenties, but I’m not that much of an idiot, Jordan.

JSJ: Right, I forgot about the total lack of bombast.

Do you have an all time favourite Canadian Pumpkin beer?

RL: It’s been a while, but I’m a fan of the St. Ambroise Pumpkin, which incidentally is also the name of a local cryptid near where I live. It’s been around for a long time and I find the spice blends rather well with the caramel notes from the malt. Yourself?

JSJ: Oddly, the nod goes to Howe Sound Pumpkineater. It has nice balance to it, and actually contains pumpkin and ginger in addition to the other spices. Plus, 8% alcohol. If I gotta drink a pie I feel like I should get that sugary buzz.

Speaking of, I think it’s your round this time.

RL: Right you are. I wonder if they serve pie. 

JSJ: I’m sticking with festbier until the Masala Chai Brown Ales come out in January.