With Fall now officially here and Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, craft breweries are again releasing a wide variety of seasonal, limited release beers, with the two most popular styles being Oktoberfest, or Marzen, beers and Pumpkin Ales.
The nice thing about Oktoberfest beers is that for the most part these beers are very consistent in tasting profiles with a caramel aroma and biscuity flavor.
On the other hand, Pumpkin Ales have some amazing interpretations and some unbelievably horrible versions. And because of that disparity, it’s not uncommon to talk to people who rave about Pumpkin Ales and others who don’t like them at all. When I meet someone who dislikes Pumpkin Ales, I make a point of recommending two that I’ve enjoyed for years and are each remarkable: Southern Tier’s Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale. Try either one of these and your opinion will almost certainly change.
The process of my personally discovering Southern Tier’s Pumking and Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, and other great ones, has meant trying a lot of different beers, a journey I continue to this day. So that you don’t have to waste time or money on marginal, or even bad, Pumpkin Ales this year, I tried some new Pumpkin Ales so that I can share the good, the bad and the ugly, describing each beer and giving each a rating between 1 and 100.
So last night I opened two. My first beer was Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, a 5.9% ABV beer from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton, New Hampshire. It poured a nice orange color with a light creamy head. The aroma was of light pumpkin and cloves. The flavor had slight hints of pumpkin and the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves listed in the recipe were only barely noticeable. The beer had some bitterness from the hops, like a hoppier pale ale, but not like an IPA. The metallic finish on the beer was distracting. My score: 66.
The second beer was Shuckin’ Pumpkin from Big Oyster Brewery in Lewes, Delaware, brewed with an ABV of 5.6%. After pouring, I was looking at a warm pumpkin orange beer with a cream-colored head that held nicely. In smelling the beer, I picked up distinct notes of cinnamon and caramel. When I drank the beer, I discovered a well-balanced beer with neither hops nor malts overwhelming the other. The beer had no bitterness, was soft in mouthfeel and revealed pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg on the tongue and the finish. This was a nice beer. I give this an 85.
Next week: My tasting notes and ratings on four new Pumpkin Ales.
The Craft Beer Guy