We like beer – all kinds of beer: lagers, porters, stouts, IPAs, hefeweizens… and even pumpkin ale. Or should we say especially pumpkin ale! Maybe it’s the cinnamon or maybe it’s the sugar rush, but nothing gets us in the spirit like a frothy pumpkin ale and a handful of chocolate covered pretzels. With a sophisticated palate and very complex criteria (Is it under $10 for a six-pack? Does it have a cool label?) we snagged a selection of pumpkin ales from the local grocery store and set up a tasting in the office. Some ales squashed the competition while others left us a little woozy in the gourd. But don’t take our word for it, celebrate Halloween (and the end of daylight savings!) with a six-pack of pumpkins. If you need a few suggestions, here’s what we sampled:
Pumpkin Ale, Saranac Brewery ($5, 32oz growler)
Fun fact about pumpkin ale: It was the first beer brewed in the US, brewed by a patriot named George Washington. So it’s only fitting that one of America’s oldest breweries is keeping the tradition alive and well. Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale is a classic blend of cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger. And 3,000 lbs of mashed pumpkin. It’s bubbly and festive and comes in a growler – so you know you’re in for some fun even before you crack it open.
Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Brewing ($9.50)
Sometimes you CAN judge a book by it’s cover. We picked up Pumpkinhead because of its killer headless horseman logo (and it has roots in Maine, just like us), and were pleasantly surprised by the equally killer beer inside. A light beer that tastes like a pumpkin pie, this crisp beer will sneak up on you (9% ABV). Strong cinnamon flavors with a sweet finish mean you’ll want to revisit this one after the tasting. Just keep your head on.
Fall Hornin, Anderson Valley Brewing Company ($8)
With a sweet Halloween-y logo and the convenience of a can, Fall Hornin had bonus points right off the bat. Malty, nutty and just a hint of hops, this pumpkin ale was more ale-y than pumpkiny. No major dissenters, but not a huge standout either. Easy to drink and great with corn nuts. And did we mention that it comes in a can?
Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Half Moon Bay Brewing Co ($5, 22oz bottle)
A crowd favorite, this craft beer is bottled pumpkin pie. It smells like a Thanksgiving kitchen and tastes like a pecan pumpkin pie. In fact, if we didn’t know any better we’d think this was brewed and barreled in an actual pumpkin… nope, just made with more than 600 pounds of locally grown and roasted Sugar Pie pumpkins in Northern California. It’s a little on the pricey side, but there’s a lot of bang for your buck in this amber ale. Trust us, it’s a little slice of heaven.
KBC Pumpkin Ale, Kennebunkport Brewing Company ($6)
Ok, KBC Pumpkin Ale isn’t winning any awards for “Best Pumpkin Flavor” any time soon, but that’s a good thing in some people’s books. Crisp and spritely, this light beer isn’t overly flavored but still has a little seasonal zip to it. And at $1 per beer, you can’t beat the price.
Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale, Mendocino Brewing Company ($7.50)
Carmel in color and in taste, the Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale is another beer that gets points for a subtle pumpkin flavor. In fact, it’s more on the chocolatey side. But after a few pumpkin spice samples, the coco is a welcome flavor. A nice hoppy finish tickles our fancy and reminds us that the “ale” component in pumpkin ale is still going strong.
Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider, ACE Cider ($3, 22oz bottle)
If you can’t wait for the holidays to eat a pumpkin pie, then let the Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider tide you over. But be forewarned, this baby is sweet. Tasting like a liquified apple cider donut, we don’t know how pumpkiny this pumpkin cider is, but we aren’t complaining. Strong notes of cinnamon and champagne-like bubbles complement the apple cider base, and if you drink enough you’ll probably taste a few pumpkins too.
Not a bad Monday at the office, but we’re sure we missed some good ones. Tell us your favorite pumpkin beer – ’tis the season!