Pumpkin harvest is from the end of September. Pumpkins are one of the most popular crops in the United States, so since beer has been made in the US, there have been pumpkin beers.
It’s definitely a type of beer that splits opinion. Our beer buyer Chris loves them, yet one of our favourite beer bloggers BeerCast Rich considers them “an affront to basic human decency” (check out his really funny article on the subject here).
In terms of making this style of ale, the pumpkin can be added as cut up chunks, or as a puree. Many pumpkin ales will have cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other spices added. They can be brown ales, stouts, lighter ales or even IPAs, but they need to have a bit of pumpkin added.
We currently have three pumpkin ales that are each quite different. Let’s see what they are like
Stewart’s Pumpkin Head (Only a couple of bottles available here)
Stewart Brewery is one of our local breweries, just on the outskirts of Edinburgh. For this beer, they use pumpkin puree and winter spices (we guess cinnamon and nutmeg).
Nose: Slight hint of citrus peel, wet leaves and some sweet caramel. A dash of honey, and barley beery notes. A touch of black treacle and toasted brown bread.
Palate: A mild ale note, with a tangy toasted barley note. A dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin. The more you sip, the spicier it gets. Slight lemon note on the finish. Maybe a bit of baked potato? A slight savoury hop note.
Overall: It reminded us of old fashioned English mild ales. Good malty notes, and a subtle pumpkin and spice. The Drinkmonger Team was a bit split between those that enjoyed the balance and those that wanted more pumpkin and spice.
Flying Dog “The Gourd” Pumpkin IPA (If you fancy a bottle, get it here)
Flying Dog brewery was founded in the early 90’s, and has been producing hop forward beers ever since. The Gourd is made with pumpkin puree and a secret blend of spices, and is hopped with Hallertau and Hersbrucker hops, which are milder, spicer hops.
Nose: Spicy, honeyed and an ever so slightly meaty note. Mashed pumpkin, turnip, black pepper and a smooth malty note. Maybe a hint of strawberry and carrot cake.
Palate: Pumpkin and hop sweetness, with strawberry and watermelon. Nutty, with savoury spice, basil notes, biscuit notes and a turnip finish. Charred bready finish.
Overall: A good balance of juicy hops, pumpkin and spice.
Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Beer (If you fancy a bottle, get it here)
Brooklyn brewery’s Post Road is a beer that pays homage to the first pumpkin beers brewed the US. It is a mild pumpkin ale with a hint of nutmeg. It is hopped with Willamette and Fuggle Hops.
Nose: A little dash of spice, apricot and pumpkin followed by orange peel and Madeira cake. A touch of honeyed pastry.
Palate: Orange and spice, hops, dill and sage notes. Sweet and mild palate.
Overall: A balanced, quieter pumpkin ale.
So who was the winner?
- Flying Dog “The Gourd”
- Stewart Pumpkin Head
- Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin
The Flying Dog was a clear winner, with the strong pumpkin and spice on the nose, and the juiciness on the palate really appealing. The Stewart Pumpkin King was a milder, more sessionable ale and the Brooklyn Post Road was quite light and mild (although there were some disagreements about 2nd & 3rd place).