RALEIGH, August 12, 2012 – In terms of our calendar, the summer has a little ways to go before it is actually over. This common knowledge never seems to reach out to mainstream America, and as mid-August brushes the horizon, many of us already feel that autumn is in the air.
This stance extends to quite the selection of breweries, who have already started putting out their seasonal pumpkin ales for the oncoming equinox. I, like many, expressed much confusion at this while walking into some of my favorite craft beer stores after suffering the 95+ degree heat during the walk from the parking lot. The idea of a pumpkin ale in such abrasive conditions at first did not sound like an attractive indulgence, but the bug is gradually coming on.
Whether you’re a geek like me or still trying to break in your palate for more adventurous brew, you may have been intrigued by the pumpkin ale’s existence, but have been afraid to approach it. This is certainly understandable, since there is no uniform description of the beer, and having just one pumpkin ale from one brewery really isn’t going to give you a universalized introduction to the style.
As a result, here are some of those offerings. Each of these beers are very distinctive in their smell and taste, and they all demonstrate that one style of beer can yield various interpretations.
1. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin – Weyerbacher Brewing Company – Easton, PA
Weyerbacher Brewing Company is a smaller brewery in the far east of Pennsylvania who is known for making some pretty big offerings. Their distribution is also quite wide. Their imperial pumpkin ale is often one of the first that I go for at the beginning of the season. While many pumpkin ales are known for retaining a rather large hop profile, Weyerbacher’s brings out a fine clove and brown sugar balance that leaves you unable to decide if it’s actually sweet or bitter. It’s definitely not what I would call bittersweet, but it is fantastic.
Available in 4-packs. 8% ABV.
2. Pumking Ale – Southern Tier Brewing Company – Lakewood, NY
Few beers have the ability to polarize the craft community every year like Southern Tier’s Pumking does. When I said that no two pumpkin ales taste alike, I was really referring to this. Put this one up against most others and you’ll either be pleased or absolutely overthrown by the amount of sweetness and spice that went into this one.
Many find that this beer is basically like drinking pumpkin pie in a glass, and at between 8.6% ABV, it’s not a small feat to finish.
In order to expose unfamiliar palates to craft beer, I often have to rely on this one. Just don’t think that all beer is sweet like this, but at least realize it is possible.
Available in 22oz bottles. 8.6% ABV
3. Punkin - Dogfish Head - Milton, DE
The odd folks over at Dogfish Head are no strangers to creating pretty experimental brews, and before I tried Punkin, I thought it was going to be something out of this world with unfamiliar ingredients. Surprisingly, Punkin is a pretty reserved ale with a bold malty sweetness that gets cut with the spiciness of cinnamon. Also look for some caramel in there as well. Punkin is certainly one of the best fall offerings from Dogfish, and I’ve already seen their advertisement in the latest BeerAdvocate magazine release.
Available in 4-packs. 7% ABV.
4. Pumpkin Ale – Horseheads Brewing Company – Horseheads, NY
This one might be a bit of a stretch for you to get your hands on unless you live in NY. However, if you have the opportunity to get it, I’d advise that you seize it.
This one is more comparable to that of Pumking – a pretty sweet ale with loads of brown sugar and cinnamon on the palate.
Expect a good level of smoothness as well – a perfect sharing beer during Thanksgiving.
Limited geographic availability in 22oz bottles. 7% ABV. (image above)
5. Pumpkin Ale – Smuttynose Brewing Company – Portsmouth, NH
Those who know me know that I have an undying love for Smuttynose beer. It is in fact the very brewery that got me in to craft culture in the first place. If you took a blind taste of their pumpkin ale, pumpkin is not the first thing that would come to your mind.
This one is a bit more tuned up on the hop scale, but certainly brings across all of the right spices. This is the ideal pumpkin ale as the summer to fall transition begins.
Perfectly crisp for a warm day. Warming enough for a cool day.
Available in 6-packs. 5.84% ABV.
Mike Lamardo is please to be a contributor about craft beer and the culture to the Washington Times Communities. By day, he is a contributor towards entertainment, technology and music industry blogs. His work is also found on places like Uverse, Green Upgrader and more. He also likes meeting over pints, so get in touch if you’re in downtown Raleigh.
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