I know I'm in the right place when a guy in a pumpkin suit parks next to me. That and the sea of people I spot dressed in spooky T-shirts, black-and-orange striped socks, pumpkin necklaces, pumpkin masks, and pumpkin costumes at Seattle Center. We're all here for Elysian’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival one early October weekend but I, decked in black and a denim jacket, realize I'm horrifically out of dress code. Not a great start.
I’ve never been fond of beer, my intense sweet tooth naturally leading me to fruity drinks. So as I accept my souvenir snifter and drink tickets amid a steady beat of bass and remixed techno, I dread what it's going to be like when I'm assaulted by hops.
At this annual event, orange gourds are the obvious theme: A giant pumpkin (1,534 pounds this year) punctured with black candles, wax drizzling from its sides, is scooped and tapped. The DJ spinning our personal club mix is set on a stage, engulfed in the mouth of a jack-o'-lantern, which puffs out smoke near the end of the night.
I head to the first station I can find and panic, blindly picking a line. This is something I immediately regret after it registers that I’m line for Beehaven’s Pumpkin Spice Mead. Mead. “Is it good?” I ask the woman pouring my drink. She shrugs: “I haven’t tried it, but people keep coming back so I’m assuming it’s good.” On my quest for beer, I've somehow ended up with fermented honey, but the instant I taste it, my eyes get wide. She was right; it's so good.
I run into Beetlejuice, get some cheese popcorn, and contemplate a free tattoo before I make my way to the rooftop, where people are playing corn hole and gathering around giant Jenga sets. My next stop: Station 20 for Spencer Trappist’s Monkster Mash, an ale brewed with real pumpkin. All I know is that it tasted like beer.
Back down the stairs in the main area, my fellow festival-goers are Halloween-ing it up: A duo of skeletons dance their way through the crowd. A live pumpkin carver slices into a massive specimen. There are even cartons of pumpkins and carving supplies because someone decided that was a good idea to offer to people at a beer festival. Then an announcement breaks through the air: “The costume contest will start in five minutes, so if you’re wearing a costume, even if it’s bad, get your ass down here.” I decide it's time to grab another drink.
Next up, not a beer: One Tree Cider’s pumpkin spice cider. I like it so much I go back for another as a conga line flashes their getups during the costume contest. The winner is Dwight Schrute, who beats out Knights of Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pi, and Harley Pumpquinn.
Soon after, the sun begins to set, and the Space Needle seems to glow behind the now-lit pumpkin stage. The techno music is still bumping, and Sir Mix-a-Lot even makes an appearance. It feels like a fitting way to ring in the spooky season. Do I like beer now? Maybe—at least the ones that reek of pumpkin.