Ok, so it took me a lot longer than I anticipated to get around to doing this review but better late than never! It’s finally beginning to feel like Fall around here (except this weekend when it will be in the 80’s…), which means it’s pumpkin beer time! Quite honestly, most pumpkin beers disappoint me. Most of them don’t really taste like pumpkin. Look, if you can make a beer taste like watermelon then I know you guys can make a beer taste like pumpkin. Work on this. Ahead is a small sampling of the many pumpkin beers out there on the market.
Southern Tier Pumking: I’m starting with the best of the bunch. This was the only beer that didn’t disappoint me. In fact, it made me happy. Hellllloooo pumpkin flavor! Smells like pumpkin, tastes like pumpkin, looks like pumpkin. It’s got a blast of autumnal spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves – all the spices you want in a good pie. It’s got a touch of sweetness but it isn’t overwhelming. All in all, the best “pumpkin” beer I’ve ever tried. It warmed my heart.
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale: Considering the large pumpkin on the label I expected this to have big flavor…not so much. I smelled the pumpkin, I just didn’t taste it. The spices come through nicely and the beer is actually quite delicious but there is a lack of real pumpkiny flavor. It’s more of a complex beer than I was expecting – it has a nice depth to it and it is infinitely drinkable but don’t expect pumpkin flavor to shine through.
River Horse Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin: I love “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving so naturally I had to buy this beer. Marketing for the win. Anyway, it’s an imperial ale so it’s strong (8.1%) and it tastes like it. It smelled like vanilla, cinnamon and malts. It’s sweet, a bit spicy, and a touch bitter. Again, the pumpkin is lacking. It was a decent beer but not one I’d pick up again because by the time I finished drinking it I didn’t really want another.
Southampton Pumpkin Ale: Smelled great – like a pumpkin pie. I could really make out all of the different pumpkin pie spices and toasty malts. The flavor, as with pretty much all of these beers, did not live up to the smell. It was one of the better ones I tried in terms of overall taste – good ratio of spice to malts, not too sweet but the pumpkin flavor is so subtle you might not even notice it’s there. I would happily drink this beer again but without any expectations of it tasting like a pumpkin.
Dogish Head Punkin Ale: Oh Dogfish Head, my memories of this beer were so much better than the actual flavor. I profess myself disappointed. Considering the bold flavors that Dogfish Head beers usually have I expected their Punkin Ale to really shine. Alas, it was not to be. I had remembered this being better than it was. Perhaps we got a bad batch but the first flavor I tasted was: metallic. Hm. Once the metallic flavor started to dissipate the taste got a bit better. Clove, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon really come through and definitely some sweetness from the brown sugar but not cloying. However, as with everything other than the Pumking, there wasn’t a real pumpkin flavor.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin: This was by far the most different of all the beers I tried. Wow, did those spices come through. You get straight cinnamon up front, with some hits of clove. The malts are definitely overpowered by the spice but I did taste some faint notes of bread. The pumpkin was a bit more prominent than in some of the other beers but really it’s the spices that come through. It was kind of like the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. Definitely an interesting beer and worth trying.
Like I said, this is only a small sampling of the many pumpkin beers on the market. There may be some real gems out there so I guess I’ll just have to keep searching. For now, though, if I want a pumpkin beer, I’m going with Pumking.