This is a post from my foray into pumpkin beers last fall. With the weather turning so cold today and a very wide array of pumpkin beers on the market, I’ve reposted it and I will continue to add to the reviews as I taste more this season!
In the fall spirit, I wanted to take a moment to talk about pumpkin beers. People seem to have very strong feelings about pumpkin beer, and I find that most of the negative comments fall into the “artificial taste” or “heavily spiced” categories. Trust me, nothing turns me off like a chemically taste or aftertaste, so I can understand this criticism.
I went on a mission earlier this month to taste an array of pumpkin beers. I didn’t want to listen to the hype surrounding pumpkin beer, so I used a method most of my friends use: I went to my favorite beer store, Four Firkins, and I bought the ones with the coolest labels. I started with the first four that were released at the beginning of the month.
As I am a firm believer in extending the life of the humble squash through to Thanksgiving and beyond, there will be a second round. Here is the first!
I love the concept of pumpkin beer for one reason – pumpkin is native to the United States, including Minnesota. In an industry where very little is new and even less is uniquely “American”, adding pumpkin to beer is something we can claim.
First I tasted New Holland’s Ichabod Pumpkin Ale. Its an amber beer with a distinct pumpkin pie aroma. The taste was full and wet with a strong pumpkin pie spice flavor. Poignant clove and allspice notes throughout. One friend’s immediate response was: “it tastes like fall”. Perfect. This beer was probably my favorite or second favorite.
Next was Post Road Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn Brewery. What a pretty beer in the glass. The aroma was citrus with a bit of a spice. It was very light and subtle, bordering on too understated. To me, it seemed like a good choice for Indian summer days or early fall, but it didn’t have the warmth characteristics that late fall can require. Try this beer in September, before you need to break out the winter clothes box. It is a great beer.
Shipyard’s Pumpkin Head was the beer that stood out as the classic reason why people complain about pumpkin beer. It had the aroma of sparkling apple juice with a chemical-like pumpkin taste. There wasn’t enough body to make the beer palatable for me. Considering all of the excellent choices, I probably wouldn’t get this one again. I think it would be good as part of a mixed drink or beer cocktail, fall stew, or other application where the pumpkin would stand out and the artificial taste would be cut a bit.
Finally, I was pleased to try Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale. It was very dark and heady in the glass which surprised me quite a bit. The mild pumpkin flavor was accompanied by strong smoke and warm malts. In contrast to Post Road, this beer is appropriate for approaching winter temperatures. My only criticism is that it the smoke may have overpowered the pumpkin somewhat.
I look forward to tasting more pumpkin beers for as long as I can get my hands on them. Some people love their pumpkin spiced lattes, and I definitely look forward that coffee goodness, too. But what really gets me fired up about the change of seasons is seeing the new beer styles file on to the shelves. What pumpkin beers make the falling temperatures more bearable for you?