Pumpkin is our ingredient of the season. We have a stew, cookies, and popsicles to go with your pumpkin brewfest (because you’re planning one, right?).
Today we’re hopping back into the archives and republishing Sarah’s Pumpkin Brew Roundup (originally published in October of 2014). You have off today, right? Why not spend the afternoon sampling a variety of pumpkin ales? If you’re not that lucky and are stuck sitting at your desk on this Monday, we figured you could at least read our review and pick up a six-pack on your way home… and that’s how we justified talking about beer on a Monday. Happy sampling!
I’m not sure any other flavor has captured everyone’s hearts like pumpkin has. As each autumn rolls around I see more and more pumpkin products popping up on shelves and appearing on menus. We wanted to do some type of pumpkin taste test, but since running around to six different restaurants seemed time-consuming and
a little bit expensive, we settled on a mixed six pack of pumpkin brews. I love trying seasonal beers, especially Oktoberfest, so I figured a roundup of pumpkin beers and ciders would be just as enjoyable. There are also a ton of pumpkin beers out there so finding six was easy peezy. I actually ended up picking four pumpkin beers and two pumpkin ciders, because come on, apples are our ingredient of the season and I just couldn’t resist. Spoiler alert: I actually enjoyed the ciders more than the beers!
While I would like to pretend that I know a ton about beer, the truth is, I drink a lot and I know a little. I’m pretty adventurous in that I will almost always try a ‘new to me’ beer when I’m at a restaurant or brewery. If the brewery has a tasting flight, you can bet I’ll order one as long as I’m not driving. That being said, I would love to give you apt descriptions of each of the beers I tried, but I can only give you my opinions (S for Sarah) and those of my tasting partner (K for Kevin). The descriptions of each brew are taken from the respective brewer’s websites (B for brewer) so that you have a bit more information.
Harpoon Pumpkin Cider 4.8%*
- S: Smooth, crisp and drinkable with no carbonation. Strong apple flavor and a hint of clove. Reminds me of kombucha.
- K: Light and watery with a sweet finish.
- B: “Real pumpkin and freshly pressed apples are combined with seasonal spices to craft this pure and natural craft cider. Apple forward taste with all the traditional Autumn flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg, and a touch of sweetness for balance.”
Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider 5 %
- S: Sweet with a bit of fizz, but not much. Almost tastes like sparkling apple cider, without the sparkle.
- K: Apple taste, thick, fizzy and sweet.
- B: “We add cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to fermented apple juice to produce a 5% ABV cider which tastes just like pumpkin pie! It is light orange in color with a full, rich taste. We carbonate the cider and cold- filter it 4 times before we bottle and keg it.”
Harpoon UFO Pumpkin Ale 5.9%
- S: Full bodied and smooth. Overwhelming malt and spice flavor. A little too heavy for my taste.
- K: Dry and bland, but crisp feeling.
- B: “Imagine a pumpkin vine wound its way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer. The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. The taste is a solid malt backbone highlighting German Vienna and Munich malts with a nice dose of pumpkin and spice, reminiscent of pumpkin pie.”
Shipyard Pumpkinhead 4.5%
- S: Old apple pie, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- K: Garbage, sweet beer (?), yuck, lingering bad aftertaste. (Can you tell this was K’s least favorite?)
- B: “Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor.”
Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale 5%
- S: Heavy, full, rich and aromatic.
- K: Dark, rich, phosphorescent and pumpkin flavored.
- B: “Hundreds of pounds of pumpkins are blended into the mash of each batch, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center, and crisp finish.”
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale 6.35%
- S: Full, heavy and bitter.
- K: Bitter, fizzy, IPA like.
- B: “We brew our ale with the addition of pumpkin to the mash, along with traditional spices to create a delicious American original.”
Tasting six pumpkin beers and ciders at once was enlightening. I realized that most of them actually don’t taste like pumpkin. To their credit, they taste more like pumpkin pie or apple pie. The spice combination and aroma is there, but an overwhelmingly pumpkin taste is not. K and I thought that the Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale had the most pumpkin flavor and after reading all the brewers’ descriptions, it sounds like Brooklyn adds the most pumpkin mash to the mix. I didn’t expect the beers to taste exactly like pumpkin, but sometimes I order a blueberry beer and I’m like, ‘holy sh!t, that tastes like blueberry!’ Know what I mean? I definitely didn’t have any of those moments, but I did realize a few things about my tastes during the pumpkin brew tasting session. Pumpkin beers are consistent in that they’re full-bodied and spicy, making them a heavier beer to drink. I probably wouldn’t order more than one or two. Pumpkin ciders are much easier to drink because they have the flavor without the carbonation. They’re a bit sweet and only slightly fizzy, which actually reminds me of kombucha. I was never a fan of hard apple cider because I thought it was too sweet, but with the added nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger spices, pumpkin ciders are less sweet, which I love.
Taste testing aside, sitting around a table full of pumpkin beer and cider was a great way to kick off the fall feeling in my neck of the woods. It’s still pretty warm in North Carolina, but the leaves are starting to change and fall. Sometimes I need an excuse to sit outside and simply enjoy the weather and that’s what this taste testing provided me with. If you’re like me and need an excuse, invite your friends over and have them all bring a pumpkin beer or a seasonal ale. If they’re lucky like me, they might see a rafter of turkeys crossing the road on the way home from the bottle shop.