I’ve made it clear that I’ll taste anything made of pumpkin—coffee, cookies, pies, and most importantly, beer. I wait all year to go to Total Wine mid-September and find rows and rows of seasonal pumpkin ale. I buy a bottle of each kind, figure out which one I like the most, and then, return to Total Wine and stock pile. STOCK PILE! I have quite possibly ruined someone else’s day by way of buying the last three six packs of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale.
This year, I’ve been excited by a few and disappointed by others. To save you money and unwanted disappointment, I have compiled the following list of tasting notes for pumpkin ales, circa 2011 …
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale
Brewed in Hayward, California, they call this brew “America’s Original” Pumpkin Ale. They use baked and roasted pumpkins, along with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. This used to be my favorite pumpkin ale. Alas, it is no longer. It was kinda weak this year. Not much pumpkin flavor and a little lighter than I remember. Buffalo Bill, I am disappointed.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
We all know a lot more than we used to about this quirky Delaware brewing house thanks to “Brew Masters” on the Discovery Channel. They’re known for putting lots of wacky stuff in their beers, but this does not detract from the deliciousness. Many of their beers are a meal in a bottle. Punkin Ale is good, but it’s not my favorite. As Jake pointed out, it actually tasted like a beer, as opposed to the pumpkin pie flavor I seek out in pumpkin ales. This is perfect for a first visit to the world of pumpkin beer. Plus, it’s seven percent alcohol. Good.
I had never seen this beer until this year and so far, only at Trader Joe’s. It’s brewed by Kennebunkport Brewing Company in Maine. These guys also make Shipyard beers (which I’ll get to later). From what I can tell, the KBC Pumpkin Ale is the cheap version of Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead. The KBC label beer only costs $5.99 a 6-pack, but dang, is it delicious! Now we’re closer to pumpkin pie in a bottle! If you’re by Trader Joe’s, pick up a pack. At that price point, why not?
Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkinhead
Shipyard, as mentioned, comes from Maine. I guess you’d call this the big brother of KBC Pumpkin Ale. It’s a little heavier on the palate and has a yummy autumn nose. As usual, a safe bet. Just writing about it makes me thirsty.
Wasatch Pumpkin Seasonal Ale
Wasatch Brewery is in Utah. (They drink in Utah?) Anyway … Wasatch is always my favorite, and it almost won again this year. Almost. It is literally pumpkin pie in a beer bottle (with alcohol added). They says it’s “spiced like your favorite holiday pie.” It is. It smells like pumpkin pie. It tastes like pumpkin pie. After drinking it, you will burb pumpkin pie. No joke; this is the real deal. If you can handle drinking your dessert, go buy some—immediately.
Now, DRUMROLL PLEASE. The best pumpkin beer of 2011 is …
SHIPYARD BREWING COMPANY’S SMASHED PUMPKIN
At a whopping $8.99 a bottle, it’s worth every penny. Not only is it nine percent alcohol (whoa), it is thick, creamy, and I swear, they took a whole pumpkin pie and somehow smashed it into this pint-sized bottle. The primary spice on the nose is nutmeg, and on the label, they even suggest food pairings. This is not a guzzling beer. This is a sipping beer, best served at 55-degrees Fahrenheit. (The bottle tells me so.) I know it’s expensive, but if you feel the need to sit on your porch and stare at the moon—particularly on Halloween—this is your sipper.
Now, I’ve tried several others this year, but these are the ones that stood out. What about you? Have any pumpkin ale dreams realized that I should know about? I’m always willing to expand my horizon of autumn beers, because let’s face it—this is the best time of year for seasonal beers, whether you like pumpkin or not.
In fact, if you don’t like pumpkin, here’s a quick list of fall brews, pumpkin-free:
Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ Stateside Saison
Epic Brewing Company’s Capt’n Crompton’s Pale Ale
New Belgium’s Hoptober
Now, go buy a six pack and enjoy this cool … er … 100-degree weather in Phoenix! Happy autumn!