Hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving. I celebrated the holiday by giving thanks for my family and friends and my favorite member of the squash family.
On Thanksgiving Eve, I recruited my husband, my brother and my two brothers-in-law to participate in a taste test of six pumpkin beers. Well, one was actually a cider.
The guys don’t necessarily share my obsession with pumpkin, but they are expert beer drinkers.
The beers were purchased from Green’s Beverages in my hometown of Columbia, S.C. The other beer warehouse had already sold out of its pumpkin-beer inventory; those beers are released as early as August and are replaced by the darker winter brews by the end of November. So, if you find a pumpkin beer you like, stock up now.
- R. J. Rockers Gruntled Pumpkin (Spartanburg, S.C.)
- Terrapin Pumpkinfest (Athens, Ga.)
- Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale (Coors Brewing Co., Golden, Colo.)
- Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (Portland, Maine)
- Southern Tier Pumpking Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Lakewood, N.Y.)
- Woodchuck Hard Cider Pumpkin (Middlebury, Vt.)
(I found several others, but didn’t want to break the bank or be responsible for getting my family too drunk. Beers we didn’t get a chance to taste included Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela No. 1 pumpkin ale, and Thirsty Dog Pumpkin Ale.)
Out of the bunch, the two I was most looking forward to trying were the Harvest Pumpkin Ale and the pumpkin cider, but those were the most disappointing. The beers from the mass producers played it safe and had the least pumpkin flavor. On the flip side, they are the most drinkable.
Our tasters still ranked the Harvest Pumpkin Ale third, though there was a tie for second. Several tasters described the beer as bitter, which might be the touch of wheat.
The cider tasted more like apples than even regular Woodchuck.
The most full-flavored beers were the Smashed Pumpkin and the Imperial Pumking, and our tasters had strong reactions to them. The two beers were marketed for Halloween, with the Pumking saying it’s “bewitched and brewed with a pagan spirit.” The Smashed Pumpkin tied for second. Everyone noted that it was sweet with a strong nutmeg finish. The majority of our tasters did not care for the Imperial Pumking. It smelled like pie crust, but some said the taste didn’t live up to the aroma. I alone preferred the Pumking to the Smashed Pumpkin because it was sweeter and less spicy and bitter. It had a thick and buttery taste.
Our favorite beers were the most balanced, with noticeable but not overpowering pumpkin flavor. The Gruntled Pumpkin, which was the only draught and was poured into a growler at Green’s, was our No. 1 pick. It had notes of cinnamon and nutmeg without being too sweet. But on a second round after the rankings, we thought the beer was a little flat (instead of merely dry). The Pumpkinfest tied Smashed Pumpkin for second place. It has a darker, nuttier and spicier flavor than the Gruntled Pumpkin. I thought the Pumpkinfest was too malty, which is apparently the Oktoberfest part.
Below are the tasters with their top pick:
Have you tried any other pumpkin beers? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.
Share my obsession with pumpkin? Read my earlier “In search of the great pumpkin” with a link to more than 100 pumpkin recipes.