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Happy Friday again, beer lovers!

As we talked about last week, in the US one of the classic fall specialty brews is pumpkin beer. Our Pilgrim forefathers succeeded in growing squash before they could grow barley, and they were happy to ferment whatever they could to save them from having to drink water.

The commercial versions have been arriving over the last few weeks. I haven't been shy about mentioning that I'm not a fan, but I decided to spend a few bucks in the cause of journalism. Here are my tasting notes on some varieties I can find nearby, and also some recommendations from previous FNBB comments.

But if you ask me, besides pie this is the best use for pumpkins:

In other orange news, the small Bay Area town of Half Moon Bay has a Pumpkin Festival every October and a contest for the largest pumpkin. This year's champion weighed in at 1775 lbs!

So, what is pumpkin beer supposed to taste like? There isn't a clear definition. In a homebrew competition it would fall under the Spice/Herb/Vegetable categories, which emphasize overall balance of flavors rather than any specific characteristic. Most drinkers and brewers would probably say that the idea is a "pumpkin pie" sort of flavor, defined more by the distinctive spices than by any recognizable pumpkin flavor.

The best "pumpkin" beer I've drunk was at the homebrew club and was actually butternut squash. The rich, sweet flavor of the roasted squash came through clearly, with just the right amount of spice to enhance but not dominate.

Very recently the nearest supermarket started selling craft beer single bottles. I wouldn't have done this if I'd had to buy a sixpack of all these things. Here are my reviews of some pumpkin beers, best to worst:

Shipyard "Pumpkinhead" Ale - labeled as "malt beverage with natural flavor added". This is a very light-bodied, very pale ale. The spices are the main attraction here, but with a light hand. It reminded me of ginger ale more than beer; ginger and cinnamon are the major flavors, used with more subtlety than is common in either pumpkin pie or pumpkin beer. The light body and moderate spicing makes this a very "quaffable" brew.

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin ale. Buffalo Bill's, in Hayward CA in the East Bay, is one of California's very oldest brew pubs. They have a nice pub and good food, but I don't like any of their beers very much. The pumpkin they made a few years ago was really pretty nasty; this one is better though still not great. Very light body, a flavor that at first just seems weird but that you eventually recognize as pumpkin, mild spices.

Samuel Adams "Harvest Pumpkin Ale" - labeled as "ale brewed with pumpkin and spices". Of the ones I tasted this is the closest to the "pumpkin pie" definition. It's a medium-bodied amber ale with a good deal of sweetness and a lot of spices. The label claims 17 lbs pumpkin per barrel, which is a significant percentage of the mash, but I'm not sure I taste it. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves dominate the aroma and flavor; too much spice IMO. I finished one bottle and didn't want more.

The Weekly Pint mentioned these:

  • The Great Pumpkin Ale, Cambridge Brewing Co.(Boston, MA)
  • Punkin, Dogfish Head(Milton, DE)
  • Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Cigar City Brewing Co (Tampa, FL)

Several FNBB readers have mentioned pumpkin beers over the last few weeks, including:

  • Ichabod Pumpkin ale (New Holland brewery)
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale (Brooklyn Brewery)
  • Pumpking (Southern Tier brewery) was mentioned several times and highly praised

A couple people mentioned purchasing Blue Moon pumpkin, without ever returning to tell us how it tastes.

I haven't gone shopping yet. I think I'll be buying IPA, not more pumpkin. What are you drinking?

Poll

best use for pumpkin?

100%7 votes

| 7 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:45:04 PM PDT

  •  Sorry to be oscar the grouch here, but I don't (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, illinifan17, BoiseBlue, bsegel, Ian S

    like pumpkin beer--too sweet.

    Tonight I am having goose island 312.

    Tomorrow, though, I am going to the Big Muddy beer fest in Murphysborough IL

    "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

    by ranger995 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:50:50 PM PDT

    •  I don't either (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ranger995, bsegel

      but after talking about it the last several weeks I thought it would make a good diary. And I discovered I don't dislike it quite as much as I thought.

      Beer Fest sounds like an ideal way to spend Saturday!

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:15:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  LOL (4+ / 0-)

    I'm more of a pumpkin pie guy, not so much liking it in my beer.

    Tonight I've had a Port High Tide IPA, if you can get your hands on this fresh hopped beer I can't recommend it enough. I bought a case, and if they have any left after I polish this off I might buy another.

    Next up, I'm working on a Karl Strauss Tower 20 IPA. The Tower 10 IPA doesn't work for me, the double is much better.

    I "just" booked a room a block from Pizza Port San Clemente for the Hoptoberfest next weekend. 50+ IPA's, can't wait. If by chance you are going, let me know.

  •  Finishing off the cream ale I brewed back in (6+ / 0-)

    August.  These are the bottles into which I will put the House honey porter I will boil tomorrow.

    In other news, just two days until I taste th first bottle of my oatmeal stout.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:54:19 PM PDT

    •  That's White House honey porter (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ranger995, bsegel

      It will not be ready for election night, but I will save some for the second inauguration.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:03:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  White House Honey Ale review (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        illinifan17, bsegel

        http://www.theatlanticwire.com/...

        I thought what my brew buddy made was tasty when I racked it. It will be kegged this week and ready for election day. We'll make the porter for Inauguration Day.

        I'm still struggling to come out of the summer homebrew deficit. When an IPA decided to be very slow in finishing, I kegged what was supposed to be a dry red wine that stopped at 1.010 instead of around 0.995. I made the kit almost 3 years ago, and it was 10 years old then, and probably already oxidized, but I didn't want to waste it. I give it just enough gas to pour, not carbonate. With a teaspoon of sugar and some ice, I can drink a mug or two an evening. Sort of a cheap sherry. I have the IPA, Honey Ale, and an Imperial Brown Ale in the pipeline, and plan to brew two prototypes of my Doppelbock/Belgian Strong Dark Ale (not Tripel, I decided that was a bad fit) hybrid before doing the all-grain on Halloween, which will be my batch #666.

        I made a butternut squash brown ale once, it was noticeably butternutty and worked well as a brown ale.

        The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in learning to love the dandelions. Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1910

        by Grainpaw on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:32:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Didn't want to go anywhere out of the way (4+ / 0-)

    on my way home, so stopped at a C-Store and grabbed a sixxer of Guinness, always a good standby, IMO.

    I love pumpkin seeds, hate everything else pumpkin related. Except for chocolate chip pumpkin cookies. I don't particularly like those, but I used to when I was a little girl and my grandma would buy them. She loved them.

    So I buy them every year for nostalgia's sake, then inevitably take a bite of one and wonder WTF I was thinking when I thought it sounded good.

    Beer is better.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:55:15 PM PDT

  •  Pumpkin beer is pretty bad stuff (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranger995, BoiseBlue, bsegel

    But, now apple cider beer is tasty. Blue Moon sells that mix trio... Pumpkin beer, apple cider beer and Wheat. The pumpkin is almost undrinkable.

    Better use is to keep the pumpkins and cushaws and butternut squash for baking.


    "America is faced with a very clear choice.
    Does it want a PRESIDENT or a BOSS?"
    ~~James Lipton

    by bronte17 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:56:33 PM PDT

  •  I actually look forward to the fall, seasonal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bsegel

    varieties, particularly those beers that are able to balance the malts and fall spices such that they create complimentary, rich profiles.

    I actually think the Sam Adams Pumpkin is a very nice ale -- not much pumpkin taste, but the spices are nice. Dogfish Head, on the other hand, is just too hoppy and bitter for me for a fall, pumpkin beer.

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:04:24 PM PDT

  •  Not pumpkin! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranger995, bsegel

    I had a good Octoberfest from Revolution brewingat a German restaurant recently.

    This was draft..  I have had less than spectacular experiences comparing draft to bottled lately.  So some of the opinions at the link may reflect that.

    But most of the microbrew Octoberfests this year seem to me to be way too sweet/toasty.. malty?   Even too hoppy.  I'm just not sure.. I just know I don't want to be hit over the head with the flavors and sweetness.  too much!

    Mostly drinking IPA's here.

    •  too much (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Grainpaw, BoiseBlue, bsegel, Jerry J

      I often think that american craft brewers try to do too much. They aren't happy brewing a classic style well, they're always looking for a way to "kick it up a notch".

      The tradeoff is that experience has taught them that brewing a simple classic beer won't get them the renown it takes to get bigger.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:30:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Any recommendations for brew pubs in Chicago? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranger995, bsegel

    I'll be staying just south of the loop for a conference meeting in McCormick Place.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:16:08 PM PDT

    •  Take the red line up to Addison, the Wrigley (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      illinifan17, bsegel

      field stop. Walk over to Clark Street (about a block from the EL stop) and go to Goose Island.

      It is very good beer, still locally brewed in Chicago, and that is a good neighborhood for a tourist to roam.

      "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

      by ranger995 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:31:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's also a new Brew Pub up in (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      illinifan17, bsegel

      Andersonville, around Clark and Bryn Mar. I forget the name, but they had some good beers. They were pretty hit or miss though. 1 good brew, the next not so good.

      "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

      by ranger995 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:34:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It might be called the Hopleaf, it is on Clark in (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        illinifan17, bsegel

        the 5100 block.

        The original Goose Island brew company is located on Clybourn. You can take the redline train to North/Clybourn stop then walk up Clybourn about two blocks to the pub. Better walking  climate in Wrigleyville though--more to see.

        "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

        by ranger995 on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 07:40:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  our pilgrim forefathers and our heathen grammas (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bsegel

    made their fall brews with the bounty at hand, to be sure.

    And the recipes and learnings probably came from the grammas, not the forefathers.

  •  Shiva (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shuksan Tahoma, bsegel

    My favorite IPA from Asheville. Asheville Brewing Company.

    Shiva

    •  nice pic! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      randallt, bsegel

      nice artwork on the can too.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 08:22:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bsegel

        It's Asheville. NYT named us the Paris of the South. An amazing place. Beer City USA three years in a row now. Many amazing breweries. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, along with Oscar Blues (Dale's Pale Ale) are building breweries here and helping to push the local industry that Highland started here in 1994.

        •  Ninja! (0+ / 0-)

          I like the Shiva, but I like the Ninja Porter better. We get out to Asheville about once a year (from Raleigh), and we always do at least one night of dinner and beer at Asheville Pizza and Brewing. I think they had an ESB I liked very much as well.

          Speaking of Sierra Nevada, tried their Narwhal Imperial Stout this week. Boy was it good! On my list of favorite imperial stouts, I put it a bit ahead of Old Rasputin and a little behind Ten Fidy. Really impressive beer!

  •  Not really a fan of any of those... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bsegel

    what I consider adulterants. Nothing unusual for me tonight: SN Pale Ale and Torpedo for a Friday night treat!

    Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

    by Ian S on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 09:07:33 PM PDT

  •  I had my first 3 Floyds at Handlebar. Lots of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bsegel

    other beers too.

  •  Signs I have been chunking too long. (0+ / 0-)

    On the 28th, we will be meeting at Eric's place to pack up Mista Ballista.   After a dozen years, when I see a pile of pumpkins, what goes thru my head is AMMO

    (we have the machine that looks like a giant crossbow, that they always show, but never talk about.)

    This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

    by rjnerd on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 10:13:01 PM PDT

  •  Good news, everyone! (0+ / 0-)

    I finished my take on the Brutus Ten last night and boiled some water to verify function and my air-handling system. Brewing to commence soon!

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