Q. What do rednecks do at Halloween parties? A. Pumpkin. They say if you start with a joke you can’t go wrong. They have never met me. This horrible joke does set the subject for this month’s suds. Pumpkin Beers.
We are deep into fall, the seasonal beers are everywhere. I am finding it harder each year to keep up with the offerings on the store shelves. One particular favorite of mine for this season are pumpkin beers. Picking a pumpkin beer is not easy none of them are the same. Like a Barleywine or an American Strong Ale each beer is it brewer’s interpretation of the style.
Pumpkin beers are not brewed with pumpkins per se. They are brewed with water, grain, hops and yeast like every other beer. Pumpkin and spices are added to the mashing process of a standard “base beer”.
The base beer will ultimately determine the flavor of the finished product. Brewers will typically gravitate towards lighter styles to build upon.
One of my favorites, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is based on an American Wheat beer. A good pumpkin beer should have a nice balance of the vegetable flavors and the spices they should never over shadow the base beer. The nose of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is of ginger and cinnamon with a clear golden body and thin white head. The body is light with a bit of cinnamon mixing with the hops in the finish for a fantastic little bite.
I am sitting here pairing the Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale with some iced gingerbread cookies, carrot cake or pumpkin pie would be just as good.
As I pour the Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale from Anheuser-Busch for the first time I notice it is a bit darker than Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. More of a light brown with a quickly disappearing white head. The nose is not as aggressive with the winter spices; the malt is more pronounced in the aroma. The mouthfeel is lively with much more cooked pumpkin in the flavor. The finish in this beer is more subtle and relaxed.
I paired the Jacks Pumkin Spice Ale with some fresh cracked walnuts. This is delicious. The base ale is based on standard amber ale with a nod to the European styles.
Of the trio of beers I am drinking today Post Road Pumpkin Ale has most unique bottle art. Most pumpkin ales try to capture the fun and spirit of Halloween with their bottle art and marketing. Post Road (brewed by Brooklyn Brewing Co.) speaks to the fact the early settlers loved to brew with pumpkins and sports period style graphics.
The color of the beer is a rich brown and there is a huge spice and vegetable aroma to the beer. The mouthfeel is lively with a huge malt wash across the tongue and a nice vegetable spice favor in the finish.
While all three of the beers I samples today are great examples of the style there is something about the Post Road that stands out. The base beer is a bit maltier and there is a nice big noble hop finish.
To wrap all of this when trying a Pumpkin Ale like all beers for the first time see if the store sells singles. Some of the beers like Shipyard list the base beer on the bottles. If you don’t like American wheat beers you probably won’t like Shipyard. A lot of brands simply add pumpkins to an existing recipes, if you don’t like their standard beers you might not like their pumpkin.
Enjoy your Halloweens and get ready for TMR to be video blogging live from inaugural Bud Light Party Cruise, at the end of the month so stay tuned here Halloween weekend.