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Celebrating Pumpkin Beer

October 1, 2010

October arrives to increasingly brisk temperatures and the crisp crackle of leaves. It also means the arrival of pumpkin beer, one of our few guilty pleasures. (Okay, maybe we have more than just a few of those.) While the addition of vegetable matter might appall brewing purists, it often results in some interesting, even compelling beers.

We tasted through a selection of pumpkin beers recently—by no means a comprehensive list, but rather an entertaining cross-section of choices that we found—and came up with the following thoughts. We have listed the beers in order of our personal preferences.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

At 8 percent alcohol by volume, this hearty ale comes across as a powerful, polished brew. A rich nose of nutmeg gives way to a strong presence of the spice on the palate, along with traces of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves with an undercurrent of pumpkin flavor. There is a lot going on in this beer, brewed in Easton, Penn., and every bit of it is enjoyable.

O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer

We were surprised at how dry on the palate this pleaser could be. The same mix of spices is used, but the result is a subtler flavor and different but equally interesting character. The strong nutmeg nose gives way to a pleasing palate and some candy-like characteristics that make this beer, brewed in O’Fallon, Mo., one of the season’s better choices.

Tyranena Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale

Brewer Rob Larson has created a seasonal brew with a good blend of spices leading to a pumpkin pie-style beer. However, the spices in this Lake Mills, Wis., brew are balanced and subtle, making it eminently drinkable and generally pleasing, with a subdued pumpkin presence and almost floral characteristics.

Lakefront Pumpkin Lager

Milwaukee brewer Russ Klisch, in a nod to his city’s German brewing heritage, has created the only pumpkin lager amid a group of ales, and to very good effect. Although both the spice and pumpkin presences appear subdued, the blend is balanced and the flavors crisp thanks largely to the lagering. This the brightest of the pumpkin beers we tried.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Rehoboth Beach, Del.-based Dogfish Head has long been among the favorites of craft brewing fans nationwide, which makes the general lack of distinction in their Punkin Ale all the more surprising. The beer is balanced, the flavors subtle and result eminently drinkable, but no distinct character emerges. Maybe that’s the point, but the result is less than we would have expected from this particular brewery.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 2:37 am

    Where did you find the O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer around Madison?

    • Mike and Jean permalink*
      October 7, 2010 1:21 pm

      Hi Nick:

      We bought all of the pumpkin beer mentioned, including the O’Fallon’s, at Woodman’s West in Madison, but I am sure any Woodman’s would carry them assuming they are still in stock.

      Thanks for reading.

      Mike and Jean

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