Believe it or not, despite Old Man Winter lurking on the doorstep, hearty New Englanders still eke out the last few weeks of fall by consuming vast quantities of their favorite autumn pumpkin beer. Unfortunately, with virtually every brewery attempting to create the next best version of liquid nirvana, the challenge lies in deciphering which frosty brew is best suited for such fall events. So, we tried a few on for size:
GOURD STANDARD PUMPKIN IPA, Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD:
Flying Dog claims that the ale is brewed from pumpkin puree complete with cinnamon. Using a base brew of an Indian Pale Ale, this brew has a 6.7% alcoholic content with a dark caramel color and a hoppy, citrus like taste at the end. The aftertaste is strong and lingering. Within this beer you will find there is a definite bitter overtone, but there is an attempt to balance this aspect with a hint of a warm, creamy vanilla finish. For a traditional IPA style, the carbonation level was quite low as the initial half inch healthy foam head dissipated within minutes. If you are a mainstream IPA fan, you will love this one. If you are a pumpkin beer fan looking for an authentic pumpkin spice taste to compliment a chilly fall evening – you need to look elsewhere.
SHOCK TOP PUMPKIN WHEAT, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO:
Touted as a Belgian-style wheat ale with ripe pumpkins and a variety of spices, this beer is quite common. This mellow brew holds a 5.2% alcohol content, has a burnt sienna amber tint to the pour, a light crisp bite to the tongue, and a quickly dissolving pale head. Despite the murky appearance, this beer possesses a fruity, citrus taste that screams of primarily orange and banana – but where is the wheat? The sweet toned flavor lacks that feel of autumn and could easily be mistaken for the summertime Shock Top Wheat Ale. If you are a typical Shock Top lover, we won’t change your mind on this one, but if you are looking for a pumpkin beer with pizazz, spices, and something that gives you a desire to bake pumpkin pie, then you need to pass on this one.
SHIPYARD PUMPKINHEAD ALE, Shipyard Brewing, Portland, ME:
Brewed in New England, this is a popular fall beer found on tap in nearly every local watering hole. Of the three reviewed, this beer has the lowest alcohol content at 5.1%, a medium copper color, a distinct effervescence that can be initially overpowering. The inaugural pour bursts with pumpkin spices and flavors so commanding that it invokes the feeling of being assaulted by the gingerbread man himself. Halfway through there is an instant sweetness that interweaves a true aromatic blend of pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon. A brilliant foamy head holds steady only for a few minutes, retreating into a hazy, uneven circle of bubbles. The finish is swift and the remaining tingle on your tongue beckons you to enjoy another. If you like to add spice to your life and your beer, this is the one for you; otherwise, wait another month and the winter brews will invade like a great white north snowstorm.
The Sudzy Monk
The Sudzy Monk is a saucy Irish/German chap who is a Philadelphia native now living in the Great White North of Portsmouth, NH. A fiery man is he that enjoys solid arguments about what makes good music, great beer, and Bundesliga soccer! A connoisseur of Irish whiskey and German Weiss beer he can often be found aimlessly wandering the streets of New England, or shouting at the television as a rabid Bayern Munich fan!