CHRISTMAS decorations may be already showing up in stores but it’s only October. And October means one thing in the craft beer world, after Oktoberfest of course, and that’s pumpkin beers.
Actually seasonal creep affects craft beer as much as anything. Pumpkin flavored beers started popping up on shelves as far back as July, but it’s not until the Fall that the shelves really start stocking up.
There are two basic types of pumpkin beers. The first group is flavored with actual pumpkin. Sometimes the pumpkin is roasted or otherwise cooked in someway but the flavor relies primarily on the actual pumpkin flesh. The second type taps into the smells and flavors associated with pumpkin pie or more specifically the spices used in cooking those pies.
Nutmeg, clove and cinnamon play a big part in these brews as does sweetness. There are, of course, many beers that find a happy place mixing the two types.
On top of that there are a multitude of beer styles that work well with both pumpkin and its affiliated spices. Strong Ales, stouts, porters all accept the spice and pumpkin well. All these variables lead to a wide-ranging variety of pumpkin beers available for all types of palettes.
The list below is made up of, mostly, easily accessible and locally available pumpkin beers crafted by breweries from all over the country.
The Local Option:
PumpkinFest, Terrapin Brewing. Headed to visit family out of state but want to share some Georgia beer? Pumpkinfest may be your best local option. Athens based Terrapin has been brewing up PumpkinFest for many years. Technically Pumpkinfest, as the name hints, is an Octoberfest style beer brewed with real pumpkins and spices. The style makes for one of the lightest of the pumpkin beers. The spices are heavy on the nose but lighter on the tongue.
The Best of the Best:
Pumking, Southern Tier. This is the most balanced of the two types of pumpkin beers even if it does lean toward the pie version. The pumpkin comes through but the spices blend in to create an easy to drink flavorful beer. The sweetness is tempered by nutmeg and vanilla flavors and has a hint of graham cracker to round out a full flavored pie. Previously only available in 22 oz. bottles Southern Tier released the 2015 version in 16 oz. four pack as well.
Warlock, Southern Tier. The fact that Southern Tier is on this list twice is testament to the variety of pumpkin beers on the shelves. The base beer of Warlock is an Imperial stout. Warlock has a lot of similarities between it and Pumkings but there are some subtle roasted flavors that fit with the stout style add a “baked” quality to the mix. At 10% Warlock packs a punch so share this one.
Punkin’ Ale, Dogfish Head Brewing. Punkin’ has a brown sugar sweetness that balances out the spices and pumpkin. These flavors blend well with a creamy malt base. Punkin’ carries some rum flavors that give it a boozier taste than other on this list.
Pumpkick, New Belgian. Allspice and nutmeg are the dominant spices in New Belgian’s take on a pumpkin beer. The twist to Pumpkick is the addition of cranberry juice and lemongrass. These additions add a touch of tartness to the beer that
Worth the Work:
Sweet Potato Casserole, Funky Buddha. If you need something a little different and are willing to put in a little work Sweet Potato Casserole brewed by Florida’s Funky Buddha is excellent beer to hunt down. Funky Buddha is known for coming up with odd beer flavors but being able to brew them to perfection. Sweet Potato Casserole tastes and smells like sweet potato casserole. Funky Buddha does not distribute to Georgia but recently expanded to north Florida and can be found in Jacksonville. It’s a high quality beer and worth a drive.
Ghoulship, Allagash Brewing. Allagash exposes some of their beers to the elements to be inoculated with wild yeasts. The vessel that is used for this process is called a cool ship. These sour beers tend to be tart and rich in flavor. Allagash has brewed up their version of a pumpkin beer three times, once in 2008, 2011 and again in 2014. Each version is brewed with pumpkin meat and roasted pumkin seeds. Ghoulship is very hard to find but absolutely worth the hunt. It’s a beautiful beer with lots of flavor and the sour notes make it special.
Pumpkin beers can stir up some heady conversations among craft beer drinkers. Some think they are an abomination created by breweries to tap into holiday overkill. Others love them but divide into spice or the pure pumpkin camps.
The wide variety of pumpkin beers should tempt the most jaded of craft beer drinkers and provide those that love them plenty of option over the “pumpkin” season.