Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 28, 2010

Weekly Brew: Pumpkin beers

Pumpkin beers were first brewed in the United States. Buffalo Bill’s Brewery claims to be the original pumpkin ale producer, brewing the drink since 1985. There are, however, stories of George Washington brewing his own pumpkin ale on his plantation. No matter when the first pumpkin ale was brewed, they are certainly a unique group of beers. Most pumpkin beers are brewed with actual pumpkins, while others are brewed only with spices.

Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (5.1 percent abv): The only beer I reviewed that was not brewed with actual pumpkins; pours a light straw orange color with a very small head. I can barely pick up the pumpkin in the smell. The taste is not much better. Light, fizzy, with a harsh mouthfeel. Very light pumpkin taste that lingers in mouth afterwards. It is as if they took Keystone light and added a touch of pumpkin flavoring. I opted for different beer instead of finishing this one.

Buffalo Bill’s Brewery Pumpkin Ale (5.2 percent abv): The original pumpkin ale pours a bright orangeish copper. The smell is a mixture of sweet caramel malts and pumpkin. The initial taste is a boring watery carbonation, but then a sweet malt and pumpkin taste takes over, which then gives way to a pleasant dry pumpkin aftertaste. A pretty solid beer, but I wish it wasn’t so thin and watery.

O’Fallon Pumpkin Ale (5.5 percent abv): The darkest of the beers so far, it’s a dark copper, but has another disappointing small head. Pumpkin pie dominates the smell but it also contains a hint of cinnamon. The taste is equally impressive with a solid pumpkin pie taste with some hop bitterness in the aftertaste. The best thing about this smooth, light to medium bodied beer is the way the pumpkin taste is perfectly balanced with the beer taste.

Southern Tier Pumking (9.0 percent abv): I purchased this beer before deciding to review pumpkin beers, after hearing plenty of good things about it. The beer’s color is a classic pumpkin orange with a solid off-white head. It smells just like fresh pumpkin pie filling. The taste is even better. Initially pumpkin pie filling just takes over your taste buds, giving way to graham cracker piecrust and cinnamon. Simply awesome. My only complaint is there is a bit too much hop bitterness at the end, which takes away from the overall pumpkin pie flavor. I was definitely ‘wowed’ by this beer as I felt like I ate a piece of pumpkin pie hours after drinking it.

Although pumpkin beers will likely never become a regular style for me, I think they are a really good change of pace, especially when the leaves are changing color in the cooler fall months. If you are interested in something a little different, remember that most pumpkin beers are only available in the fall. Next week I’ll be exploring a couple more of Southern Tier’s beers. I hope they are as good as Pumking.

John Christiansen

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