Friday, September 6, 2013

Clashing Pumpkins | Jess' Roundup of 6 Pumpkin Beers

I hate to wish away these final humid days of summer, but I also can't deny being excited about the coming of fall. Fiery leaves. Crisp air. Pumpkin spice lattes. All those autumn goodies: pumpkin bars, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread. And, of course, pumpkin beer!

I'm not a fanatical lover of pumpkin-infused brews, but Greg isn't a fan at all. So alas! The drinking was left to me. (I'm not complaining!) Since it's still rather early, I could only round up five pumpkin beers for the sampling. I won't be letting my gourd down (heh, get it?) as I hopefully pick up more pumpkiny brews throughout the fall.

A quick note to pumpkin-beer haters before they go smashing pumpkins over this post: I get it. You don't like pumpkin beers. Greg doesn't. So he doesn't buy it. He doesn't drink it. But he really doesn't complain. As a brew-lover and fan of craft (or any type of) beer, it's fine to not like something and express that opinion. It's your free will not to drink something. But don't hate on pumpkin beer too much. It's beloved by many. And if you're a true brew-lover, I think you'll support anything that brings in more money for the brewers, breweries, and bars. I'll toast to that!

Without further ado... let's find the pick of the patch!

#6 Pumpkinhead | Shipyard Brewing Co.

Honey hued and a little hazy, Pumpkinhead pours with one finger of quickly-settling, off-white head. It smells of spiced pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon – reminding me of pumpkin bars. The taste is pumpkiny without the spices and sweetness. It left something to be desired and leaned toward the sour side of the taste spectrum. There was a quick flash of pumpkin aftertaste at the end, but it was fast-fading. Overall the beer was smooth and easy-drinking, but a little on the plain side. It smells more like pumpkin than it tastes. Score: 3.8/5

#5 Pumpkin Ale | Schlafly

This Pumpkin Ale pours a deep copper-brown in color, foggy, with one finger of beige head. It smells subtly of pumpkin pie. The taste is slightly sweet and a little sour. The pumpkin pie flavor mixes with floral and slightly metallic notes, which made it more complex than other pumpkin beers I've had. The pumpkin pie taste comes through strongest in the aftertaste. The ale is very smooth and medium bodied. Overall, it wasn't bad. It had a mellow pumpkin taste that wasn't overwhelming. It'd go well with food without the pumpkin interfering. It leaves a bit to be desired. I wish there were more spices or richness. Score: 4/5

#4 Pumpkick | New Belgium Brewing

Burnt orange in color and cloudy, this beer foamed up with two fingers of creamy, velvety beige head. It smelled toasty, smokey, and faintly nutmegy... like pumpkin pie. It tastes like pumpkin pie with a kick. There's a juicy fruitiness that must be the cranberry, making it a little tart in the best way. An aftertaste of pumpkin pie, cinnamon, nutmeg lingers. This medium bodied beer has just the right amount of sweetness for a pumpkin brew. It was tingly and bubbly in the mouth, but also smooth. Overall, it was good! It was one of the more interesting pumpkin beers with its smokey smell and that cranberry splash. Great aftertaste. Score: 4/5

#3 Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter | Red Hook

Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter pours an opaque dark brown with one finger of frothy beige head. It smells of cinnamon, pumpkin pie, smokey vanilla, and toasted malts. Smokey and toasty, it tastes of bitterness of dark chocolate mixed with pumpkin bread and maybe a little toffee. Smooth, a bit dry, and medium bodied, this beer was tasty. I love the smokiness. There may be a little too much toffee and chocolate that overwhelmed the pumpkin. It's very smooth and rich, a great porter overall. The pumpkin is very subtle, so a non-pumpkin-beer lover may like this. The only reason this didn't get ranked higher is because it wasn't quite pumpkiny enough. Score: 4.3/5

#2 Pumpkin Lager | Lakefront Brewery, Inc.

This beer poured a pretty, golden-orange, pumpkin color. It has a very thin layer of bright white head. Cloudy in the glass, its colors were sunset-like as the dark orange fades to golden orange. It has a pungent, sweet pumpkin pie smell that makes my mouth water! It tastes like pumpkin bread – bold but sweet, balanced with a hearty bread taste. There's a slightly acidic aftertaste and you're left behind with a pumpkin pie taste that lingers in your mouth. The beer is crisp, tingly, bubbly, and lighter-medium bodied. This Pumpkin Lager is delicious and tasted like my favorite fall treat: pumpkin bread, which I much prefer to pumpkin pie. It wasn't too sweet and didn't taste artificial. Score: 4.5/5

And the best pumpkin beer is...

#1 Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout | Millstream Brewing Company

This isn't included in the photo up above because I tried it at the Festival of Iowa Beers in Amana. I sampled it on a whim, honestly expecting it to taste like any other pumpkin beer. Boy, was I wrong. This is a pumpkin beer unlike any other: a dark and rich fusion of roasted malts, vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, and explosion of pumpkin. It reminded me of a dessert bar I had once that combined chocolate and pumpkin. A pumpkin brownie, if you will. Sounds like a strange combination, but it was outstanding and the beer could stand as a dessert all its own. This is the pumpkin beer I've been looking for. Score 5/5

Are you a lover or hater of pumpkin beer? Somewhere in between like me?  Let us know below!

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