We Americans love that sweet pumpkin spice flavor. As early as September, Starbucks begins touting their pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice versions of everything imaginable appear on grocery store shelves, and food bloggers begin posting recipes about everything from pumpkin pie to pumpkin spice hummus to my very own pumpkin spice popcorn. Of course, beer is no exception. The shelves of my local liquor store turned orange as pumpkin beers arrived to fill the empty spaces of Oktoberfests long forgotten.
True to our habit of adding pumpkin flavor to everything, pumpkin beers are extremely varied. Styles range from pale ales and wheat beers to porters and stouts. Brewers may add hand-cut pumpkin chunks to the brew while others may use pumpkin purée or the spices used to make the ever-popular pumpkin pie. When it comes to pumpkin, anything goes!
Because there were so many selections available, I went a little crazy this week and sampled four pumpkin beer styles.
Rogue Farms’ Pumpkin Ale has a perfectly balanced, subtly spiced taste. It’s the pumpkiniest of all the pumpkin beers I tried, but it’s not overpowering. Because Rogue Farms houses both a farm and a brewery, they grow their own pumpkins for use in their ale — adding roasted chunks directly into the brew. This was the best of the pumpkin beers I tried. My cat seemed to prefer this one as well; as you can see below, she was very eager to check it out.
Dogfish Head’s entry into the pumpkin ale category is the Punkin Ale, which was introduced in 1994 when it won first prize in the Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest. While it has a strong pumpkin pie scent, the flavor is much more subtle. Brewed using fresh pumpkin and brown sugar, Punkin Ale is sweet but subtle, though sweeter than pumpkin. A solid beer.
When I walked up to the counter at my local liquor store with my selection of pumpkin ales, the cashier jumped at the opportunity to tell me about Timmerman’s Pumpkin Lambicus. She described it as what pumpkin juice must taste like in alcoholic form. So I rushed back to grab a bottle.
I’m not sure if it was an off bottle, but I didn’t get a strong pumpkin flavor from this beer at all. It was quite tart; so tart, in fact, that the sourness overpowered all other flavors. I caught hints of spices, brown sugar, and pumpkin, but couldn’t hold on to anything for long. It was much more tart than any of the traditional fruit beers I sampled back in June. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan.
If Rogue Farms was my favorite pumpkin ale, Uinta Brewing provided a close second with Punk’n. The subdued flavors of roasted pumpkin pair nicely with hints of nutmeg and clove. I also noted a subtle vanilla flavor, which I loved. Very smooth and refreshing; it’s heavy on the malts, too, which makes it a winner in my opinion.
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