Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Tuesday Tasting: A Six Pack of Pumpkin Ales
Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we sample a mixed six pack of pumpkin ales.
Once we get through Labor Day, the velocity of special seasonal brews -- like the holiday celebrations -- really starts to pick up to the point where you can pretty much stop drinking "standard" available year round brands. It begins with the appearance of the traditional Oktoberfest and Marzen brews and runs through the Christmas beer flurry to tasty Winter Warmers and ends with the release of Maibocks.
While Oktoberfest brews are the traditional Fall beer, Pumpkin Ales have shared the Fall beer stage since 1986 when Buffalo Bill's Brewery in California made the first one commercially.
Today, pumpkin ales are fairly common, but offer an uncommon flavor profile. Pumpkin on its own is a fairly bland squash-like flavor, so most of the tastes we remember from the Thanksgiving table at Grandma's house came from her spice cabinet. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla and perhaps a few secret ingredients have become part of pumpkin pie lore in most families. That's also the case with pumpkin ales. And just like home chefs, brewers have a wide range of interpretations on just how these spices should be dialed in when they create a recipe.
These are six pumpkin beers that I had the chance to sample recently with my Brother-in-Law, Darrin Pikarsky. They ranged from spice forward to fairly laid back. Kind of like the pies I've experienced across the years.
Cottonwood Pumpkin A Holiday Spiced Ale: This brew was a rich amber color and had the full body of the meat of a pumpkin pie. Good amounts of nutmeg and other spices, with a hint of brown sugar or maple syrup in the finish. This is one to look for this Fall.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale: From Brooklyn Brewery and brewed in Utica, N.Y., this is a well balanced pumpkin beer. Golden amber color. Nutmeg is upfront, with a touch of cinnamon.
Saranac Pumpkin Ale: From F.X. Matt Brewing, this was unique among the pumpkin ales tasted during this session. Perhaps more like a pumpkin mousse or a topping, than a Thanksgiving pie. Red amber in color, this brew leads with vanilla and has a slight hint of nutmeg.
Wolaver's Organic Will Stevens' Pumpkin Ale: This ale is a cloudy, orange gold color. The flavor intensity is in the mid range for the pumpkin ales tasted during this session. Nutmeg and cloves mix throughout.
Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale: A nice amber color, this brew is on the mild side when it comes to the spices. It has an interesting burnt caramel flavor in the finish.
Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale: Under the Michelob banner, this brew is slightly fizzy. The label says the brewer used cinnamon, ginger and clove. The cinnamon delivers the base subdued flavor note.