Oktoberfest is out; pumpkin beers are in. But do they taste like a pie or a pumpkin? If you're feeling a little apprehensive about drinking brew made from an oversize gourd, remember that beer is beer and that no two pumpkin beers are the same.
There is a history of brewing beer with pumpkin. During the American colonial era, malt was hard to come by and pumpkins were a readily available native plant. So pumpkins replaced malt. And author Samuel Stearns considered pumpkin beer an herbal remedy in his 1801 book The American Herbal, or Materia Medica.&
Try some of these pumpkin beers to get into the spirit of the season.
10. Shipyard Pumpkinhead
If pumpkin beers weren't on the list of seasonal beers to try, this one is a good starter because it doesn't have a pumpkin flavor, nor is it spicy like a pie. It has a bit of tang and tastes a little like Blue Sky organic cola.
Shipyard's Pumpkinhead is now found in cans (retailing about $8.99 at Total Wine), a better choice of drinking container because exposure to light is nonexistent, and light destroys beer. Any beer is better in a can.
9. Samuel Adams Pumpkin Harvest Ale
At Sam Adams, brewing with pumpkin is like brewing with hops: They just dump as much as they can into the barrel. Each barrel (31.5 gallons) of Sam Adams Pumpkin Harvest ale includes 17 pounds of pumpkins, according to the company's website, giving it a heavy pumpkin taste. Throw in some deep-roasted malts and pumpkin pie spice, and you have a Sam Adams beer that tastes sort of like a pumpkin. And it's found anywhere, even at gas stations.
8. America's Original Pumpkin Ale
Brewed by Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, California, it's the type of pumpkin ale that was brewed by George Washington. It's a delicious pumpkin ale if you're into pumpkin pie, because that's exactly what it tastes like. Brewed with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, it retails for $8.49 per six-pack at Total Wine.
7. Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest
The Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, Colorado, brews a pumpkin ale that is stronger and stouter that other pumpkin beers. Not spicy or overly pumpkin-flavored, yet the taste of molasses is evident. A hearty, robust pumpkin beer that doesn't taste like a pumpkin, it usually goes for $9.99 for a six-pack at Total Wine.
6. Harpoon UFO Pumpkin Ale
A medium-colored pumpkin beer brewed by Harpoon Brewery out of Boston, it has a strong scent of pumpkin pie, but the sugar and spice are largely absent from the taste. Nothing but pumpkin notes in this beer, it costs $7.99 for six-pack of bottles at Total Wine.
5. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
In this 8 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) imperial pumpkin ale, spiciness and sweetness are evident, but at least the pumpkin taste is bold. A 12-ounce bottle fetches$2.99 at Sunset Corners.
4. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
The Brooklyn Brewery's version of a pumpkin beer has a mild pumpkin taste and isn't very spicy. Heavily carbonated, this is the type of crisp pumpkin ale for the unacquainted. A six-pack costs around $10.
3. Southampton Publick House Pumpkin Ale
The Southampton Brewery in Long Island, New York, makes a 6 percent ABV pumpkin ale that pours deep orange. It has a tart front end but lingers for a while. There's more pumpkin than spice but a good balance of flavor. A single bottle costs $2 to $3.
2. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Take seriously anything that comes out of the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Delaware, including its pumpkin beer, Punkin Ale. Crisp, refreshing, and balanced, it's a little sweet, but the pumpkin and spice flavors are there. Punkin Ale is named after the annual Punkin Chunkin' Festival in Lewes, Delaware, held one week after Halloween.
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1. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking Ale
All hail the king of pumpkin beers, Southern Tier Imperial Pumking Ale. The flavor of pumpkin in this beer is bolder than a jack-o-lantern. But it has enough sweetness to complement a slice of pumpkin pie. Sitting at a hefty 8.8 percent ABV, Pumking Ale can be found only in 16-ounce bottles for about $9 apiece at Total Wine.