Pumpkin Beer Guide Pt. 1 – The Tourists
It’s a special time here in beer land. We’re only a few weeks away from the Great American Beer Festival and getting ready to enter my personal favorite time of year for seasonals. As the cooler months roll in, I know we’ve got some awesome beers right around the corner. From big, thick Stouts to spicy Christmas ales to rich, hoppy Barleywines and everything else getting ready to hit our shelves.
Right now, we’re in the midst of Pumpkin season! There’s quite a few hitting store shelves these days and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So I sought out some new pumpkin beers along with some old favorites and put together a little guide to help you track down the perfect Pumpkin Ale. You ready?
First up is a trio from Elysian Brewing out of Seattle, WA. The Elysian Brewers pride themselves on their Pumpkin Beers. They brew a variety of interesting traditional and non-traditional beers and even hold an Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival, which is entering its’ 8th year.
For those of us here in Colorado, we got three of their releases this year.
Elysian Brewing, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. First up, is the 5.9% ABV Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. This came in a 22oz. bomber that retails for $3.99 / bottle. The beer poured a slightly cloudy, amber color with a 2-finger tall, tan head. The aroma was light notes of pumpkin pie spice, cloves and nutmeg. Taste was very similar, but light and sessionable. Very balanced and easy drinking. Score: 3.5/5
Elysian Brewing, The Great Pumpkin. This 8.1% ABV brew is billed as their Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This 22oz. bomber retails for $9.99 / bottle. This one poured a clear orange color, with a 1-finger tall, white head. The aroma was pumpkin, graham crackers, cinnamon and nutmeg. Flavors match the aroma, but this big boy was quite a bit more intense than the Night Owl and tasted more vegetal than pumpkin pie. Medium carbonation, medium body and a touch of hops finish this off. Really nice beer. Score: 4/5
Elysian Brewing, Dark O’ The Moon. This clocks in at 6.5% ABV and is a Pumpkin Stout. A 22oz. bomber will run you about $5.99 / bottle. The beer poured nearly pitch black with a thick, 1-finger, toffee colored head. The aroma was cinnamon, pumpkin spice, anise and roasted grains. The flavor on this was cinnamon, pumpkin bread, caramel and light espresso. Full mouthfeel and the finish is on the bitter side. This was a very interesting beer as the flavors weren’t overly done or too sweet. The subtle pumpkin notes combined with the rich stout flavor, made this my favorite of the Elysian Pumpkin series. Awesome beer! Score: 4.5/5
Lakefront Brewery, Pumpkin Lager. The cheeseheads from Wisconsin brew a variety of beers, many of which are lagers. This one’s running right around $9.50 / 6-pack. The Pumpkin Lager is a 6% ABV brew that pours a clear orange color, with a 1-finger head. Big pumpkin spice notes dominate the aroma, along with cinnamon apples and caramel. The taste was pumpkin pie spices and seemed a bit bread-y. The body was thin, almost watery. The spiced up lager didn’t do much for me. Score: 2/5
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Punkin Ale. The Delaware brewery has been pumpin’ out this hot seller for nearly two decades. The beer, which is named after the famous Punkin Chunkin games from out east, is also the first beer Dogfish ever released. Plan on dropping $11.50 / 4-pack. The 7% ABV brew poured a clear amber color, with a thick, creamy, 1-finger head. Plenty of carbonation and heavy lacing coat the glass. Aroma is pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, nutmeg and caramel. The taste is full flavored and complex with pumpkin pie spices, toffee, brown sugar and a touch of salted caramel and hops. This is an excellent brew and one that I used to buy by the case when I lived back east. You might have to do a little hunting around for this one, but it’s still out there and well worth it. Score: 4/5
Uinta Brewing, Punk’n. This one, from Salt Lake City, UT, was a new one for me that retails for $8.50 / 6-pack. Pours a slightly hazy amber color, with a 1-finger head. A steady flow of carbonation with moderate lacing around the glass. The aroma was predominately pumpkin pie spice with a bit of malt. Taste matched the aroma, plus a touch of nutmeg. Very drinkable and sessionable with a low 4% ABV. I was pretty happy with this one as it was a well-crafted, easy-drinking beer with an affordable price tag. Score: 3.5/5
It’s still early in the Pumpkin Beer hunting season. Keep your eyes out in the next few weeks for The Bruery’s Autumn Maple (brewed with 17 lbs. of yams in each barrel!), Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela (Pumpkin Ale with a sour twist) and Uinta’s Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin (Oak Aged Pumpkin Ale). These should be showing up very soon and all offer their own unique take on the style.
For the beer traders out there, I’ve come across quite a few interesting Pumpkin Ales over the years that don’t make it out to our awesome state of CO. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort, I’d highly recommend Southern Tier’s Pumking, Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin. You won’t be disappointed.
That about wraps up this round for our out-of-state Pumpkin Beer Guide. Stay tuned as next time we’ll be talking about some of the tasty Pumpkin Ales brewed right here in Colorado.