Beer Styles Cheat Sheet: Pumpkin Beers

Beer Styles Cheat Sheet: Pumpkin Beers
A special pumpkin season release by New Belgium

I am going to commit a bit of heresy here:

I like pumpkin beers.

I'm not talking about the "pumpkin pie spice" beers that just overload your palate with cinnamon and nutmeg. True, some could be okay, but I don't wait up nights for it.

I'm talking pumpkin beer, the kind that actually have some pumpkin involved in the brew kettle, the secondary, what have you. The Beer Judge Certification program now places pumpkin beer within in its Autumn Seasonal category (30B).

Pumpkin beer has its role in American history. They, and other squash and gourds, are native American plants. They were easy to grow, and the native Americans could use every part of the plant, even drying the flesh like jerky. The American colonists had no access to barley malt, so they brewed with whatever sugar source they could find, including pumpkins.

What to Expect:

Pumpkins by themselves might not have much flavor, but they will add a bit of oomph with the sugar in their flesh. My list here will show some beers where pumpkin is just a base to go with other additions, others where there's a distinct creamy taste like a pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Local Beers:

Wild Onion Pumpkin Ale: Nose is full of pumpkin pie spice: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, a little ginger. Taste has those usual nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices, but I caught something else: a distinct creamy or fatty impression that immediately made me think of pumpkin pie crust, whipped cream or even a pumpkin mousse. Don’t want call it "buttery" because that’s not diacetyl. 5.4%

I've had a lot of local pumpkin beers, but those were at brewpubs and done as one-off patches, not to be repeated. So it wouldn't be useful to list them here.

Also available:

Big Muddy Pumpkin Smasher: Yes, one of the beers I enjoyed during the Solar Eclipse in Big Muddy's backyard. And it is on tap around Chicago as I write this. A big pumpkin spice smell, and a note of pumpkin sweetness. Taste is very big cinnamon and nutmeg, but this also has a creamy texture, like whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, that occurs with the use of actual pumpkin. 6.0%

Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin: Big puffy head with flecks of spice over a filtered orangeish-brown body. Smell is the expected cinnamon and nutmeg. A little sweetness in the caramel range. Finish comes in a bit more dry, but watery, too. 6%

Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale: Dark brown color, but cleanly filtered. The usual pie spices, with baked pumpkin and brown sugar. Taste may still lean a little heavily on spices. Pumpkin is present as a slight squash taste, probably overmatched by malt fermentables. Slightly elevated abv plays a part in the good feeling this leaves. 7.0%

New Belgium Pumpkick: Pumpkin pie smell is a little light. Deep autumnal orange color, thin head. It does have a pumpkin taste at the start, then spices build as I sip. The spice masks an overall sweetness like a bit of molasses, and kept me from guessing there was a tart fruit addition as well. A bit of roastiness from pumpkin "juice." 6.0%

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin: The original Voodoo Ranger was a hoppy West Coast IPA. It's turned into a series of special releases including this one for 2017, made with pumpkin, habanero, and Saigon cinnamon. It has a similar darkish pumpkin ale color, and a fizzy, swiftly disappearing head. Warm pumpkin pie smell domination by smooth cinnamon nose. The taste starts out more like a pumpkin pastry square. But then the chili pepper kicks in, and delivers a nice spicy kick. You usually find this kind of oddball ingredient mix in a brewpub. Hope it stays around for a few years. 7.0%

O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer: Beer is a really orange color, and has the definite taste of pumpkin baked with brown sugar. Nutmeg is most prominent, but none of the spices is especially overpowering. It’s just a nicely tuned little pumpkin pie beer, definitely using pumpkin instead of just pumpkin pie spices. I had a sixpack of this that sat around for several months, and found that "cellaring" had deepened the taste. 5.5%

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale: Darker than the usual pumpkin color. Pie spices pretty clear in the nose and in the taste. Some sweetness here that does indeed suggest roast pumpkin in evidence. 8.0%

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