Pumpkin Beer Guide Pt. 2 – The Locals
Pumpkin Beers Round 2! Last time, we discussed some awesome Pumpkin Ales and Lagers from around the U.S. This time, we’re going to talk Pumpkin Beers that are brewed right here in Colorado! Whether they come in bottles, cans or growlers, there’s a variety of great tasting gourds waiting for you. Take a look.
Tommyknocker Brewery, Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale. The Idaho Springs brewery first released their Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale in 2011. This 5% ABV beer retails for $7.99/ 6-pack. The beer poured a very dark, ruby red color with a 1-finger, off-white head. The aroma was malt, dark fruit and molasses. Where’s the pumpkin? The taste was cherry, raisins, burnt wood and molasses. I was a little confused by this one as I found very little pumpkin anywhere in the beer. It seemed one-dimensional and was fairly disappointing. Score: 2.5/5
Note: My review is based on Tommyknocker’s bottled version. I had it on-tap at the brewery in Idaho Springs two weeks ago and found it to be a whole lot better. It’s possible I got a bad bottle.
Dry Dock Brewing, Half Moon Pumpkin Ale. The ’09 Small Brewery of the Year released this beauty last week and I was able to make it over for the release party. This 5.2% ABV beauty pours a clear, dark orange color, with a 1-finger, off-white head. Big pumpkin spice dominates the aroma, along with some notes of cinnamon and brown sugar. The taste was pumpkin pie spices, brown sugar, molasses and a touch of vanilla. This is a very spicy, flavorful brew. Very enjoyable. Hey homebrewers, The Brew Hut (homebrew shop) next door will set you up with the recipe so you can brew your own batch. I brewed a batch about 6 years ago and it’s a great recipe. Score: 3.75/5
Upslope Brewing, Pumpkin Ale. The Boulder brewery took home a Gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011 with this special beer. The 7.7% ABV brew pours a clear, copper color with a half-finger, off-white head. Soft carbonation and faint lacing trim the glass. Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and malt round out the aroma, while the flavor is pumpkin pie, graham cracker, brown sugar and a touch of hops. A touch of alcohol and the slightest hop bite in the finish. Very nice beer.
In addition to sporadic tappings at the brewery, 16oz. cans have been distributed to multiple stores along the Front Range. You can purchase a 4-pack from the brewery for $15, which also includes a coupon for a free pumpkin from Munson Farms in Boulder. Baby Bear Pumpkins from Munson Farms were used in the making of this wonderful beer. Score: 4.5/5
Avery Brewing, Rumpkin. Wow. There are pumpkin beers and there are PUMPKIN BEERS! This is a monster of a pumpkin beer, clocking in at 15.9% ABV! That’s right, 15.9%! Avery released this amazing concoction for the first time in bottles last year and most stores were sold out within hours. This brew was barrel-aged in rum barrels and sold for $10 / 12oz. bottle. I’m reviewing the inaugural 2011 batch, since the 2012 batch is yet to be released.
This monster pours a hazy, dark amber color, with a 1-finger tan head. Amazingly sweet notes of rum, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, raisins and booze. Smells more along the lines of an Old Ale or aged-Barleywine than a Pumpkin Ale. The taste, ooooohhhhhh, the taste… Sooo sweet and smooth. Vanilla, rum, raisins, dark fruit, cinnamon, caramelized brown sugar and a slight hint of pumpkin. This is a truly amazing beer and completely different to anything else I’ve tasted while going on this little journey through the land of Pumpkin Beers. It’s clear that some of the pumpkin flavors have faded since the ’11 release, but that’s part of the beauty of aging beers. Over time, the layers slowly blend together, harsh flavors mellow out and time can turn sharp notes into smooth ones. Score: 4.75/5
This is a very special beer and is more along the lines of Avery’s “The Beast” than a standard Pumpkin Ale. I picture The Beast chowing down in a pumpkin patch. If you’re looking to grab a bottle from this year’s batch, you had better make plans to visit the brewery on Saturday, September 29th. Word on the street from Avery’s Barrel Herder, Andy Parker, is that he had trouble tracking down rum barrels and production is lower than last year. I’ve also heard that there will be no distribution for the 2012 batch. In other words, get your butt to the brewery on the 29th if you want a bottle. 12oz. bottles will run $10/each, with a 12-bottle limit. It seems like there’s 826 beer related events going down on the 29th, but I’m going to give it the old “college try” to make it up to Boulder for this. Hope to see you there!
“But wait, there’s more!”
Keep your eyes out for a variety of other Pumpkin brews that are in various stages of fermentation at your favorite local brewery. Strange Brewing in Denver is working on a Pumpkin Porter. Look for it to get tapped sometime around October 8th.
TRVE Brewing, also in Denver, was cooking their gourds earlier this week. Owner / Brewer Nick Nunns is naming TRVE’s Pumpkin Ale, “Carving Out The Eyes Of Gourd”. He’s brewed the beer with 8 different varieties of roasted heirloom gourds and expects it to be in the 8% – 10% ABV range. Nick’s planning to spice it up later with vadouvan, which is a French-influenced curry blend. I’m excited to try his creative take on the style.
Down in Colorado Springs, Bristol Brewing was picking perfect pumpkins earlier this week for their amazing Venetucci Ale. This is a very nice beer that can only be purchased at the brewery (guaranteed to sell out!) and proceeds go to charity.
Also down South in the Springs, Trinity Brewing has brewed several batches of this year’s Emma’s Pumpkin Saison. This is always an impressive beer that can be found on tap at the brewery and in 750mL bottles.
This list is by no means complete, but it’s certainly a great starting point for you to get your gourd on this season. Grab a pint at your favorite brewery or get a growler to-go. Many of these won’t last more than a few weeks, while some will be gone in a matter of hours, so get out and enjoy them while you can. If you’d like to share your favorites, feel free to send me an e-mail or post a picture on the Facebook page.