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Critics may sneer, but local pumpkin beer is here

Friday - 10/11/2013, 11:24am  ET

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Freshly poured Mad Fox Punkinator. (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Ask someone if they've ever had a beer made with pumpkins and they might scrunch up their face.

But making it has become an annual rite at many craft breweries, including Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, which this week released "Punkinator," its special seasonal beer made with the familiar orange gourd.

"We use around 250 pounds of pumpkin puree," says Charlie Buettner, Mad Fox's head brewer. To the mix, Buettner and his staff add what he likes to call "your potpourri of fall, which is your cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice."

The resulting liquid creation may be familiar to your taste buds.

"When you drink the beer you can easily associate it with the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie," Buettner says.

And, he adds, many customers look forward to the beer all year long.

"They start asking for it as soon as it goes away. And then I spend an entire year trying to say just wait, just wait, just wait. Then it comes out in the fall and we have about two and a half, three weeks of it being on (tap). But then after those three weeks, I start up my excuses again."

Inside the bar at Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, Va. (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)

The growing popularity of brews made with pumpkins has been watched by craft beer aficionados like Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director Greg Engert, who's also co-host of WTOP's regular Beer of the Week" report.

"I'd say that the popularity of pumpkin ales is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down," Engert says. "And, that year over year, the increase in sales is mirrored by the increase of interest in the style. Though often criticized by the most ardent of beer geeks, pumpkin ale remains a crowd pleaser for a crowd becoming more and more expansive."

He adds, "Some of my favorites include Southern Tier Imperial Pumking, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale and Great Lakes The Greater Pumpkin."

So cheers to all who raise a glass to The Great Pumpkin this year. Though you might not want to do it while carving that jack o' lantern.

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