Ten Pumpkin Beers To Test

Re-Blogged from Rare Republic, my article on Pumkin Beer:.

Fall is in the air and pumpkin beers are hitting the shelves of the LCBO. The seasonal celebration of this autumn fruit is an annual event with many craft breweries taking up the task to produce their own signature styling.

The problem is, however, that pumpkin isn’t the greatest ingredient to work with. Low on taste and sugar, many breweries add spices to the brew and supplement the lack of sugar with the addition of yams.

Pumpkins at Herrles Country Farm Market (Photo: Rare Republic).

Pumpkins at Herrle’s Country Farm Market (Photo: Rare Republic).

So, with that taste-factor firmly in mind, I took it upon myself to try as many pumpkin beers as I could get my hands on for one night, which happened to be a nice even ten, and write a review of every one I tried.

This task actually proved quite difficult: there are only so many descriptors you can use when all the beers are of the same style, but I battled through and produced this handy seasonal guide. Remember: taste is subjective so just because I don’t like a beer it doesn’t necessary mean it’s bad. Go out and try them for yourself.

Ten Pumpkin Beers To Try

1. Highballer Pumpkin Ale
Grand River Brewing
ABV: 5.2%
Serving Type: Bottle

This pumpkin beer is made with pumpkins from the owner’s own garden. It’s low on carbonation with only a hint of pumpkin that comes through on the initial tasting. There is definite spice in the aroma, and the second tasting lingers on the roof of the mouth. The after-taste is kind of dry and after a while the spice comes through a lot more. As usual, it’s a solid effort from Grand River Brewing.

A Waterloo Region pumpkin ale (Photo: Grand River Brewing).

A Waterloo Region pumpkin ale (Photo: Grand River Brewing).

2. Carved Out Pumpkin Ale
Wellington Brewing
ABV: 4.6%
Serving Type: Can

There is a definite sweet aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon that hits the nose on first tasting. I can pick out a slight sweet taste which makes me believe this one may be brewed with yam. On second tasting, I  feel cloves hit the back of my tongue with a slight linger of ginger. This is a mildly carbonated beer that has a crisp taste with a nice golden colour.

Pumpkins waiting for hops (Photo: Rare Republic).

Pumpkins waiting for hops (Photo: Rare Republic).

3. The Great St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale
St. Ambroise
ABV: 5%
Serving Type: Bottle

With an almost copper look, this is a much darker colour than the previous two beers. There is a very strong addition of spice with nutmeg the most prevalent flavour. The after-taste left a remarkable butteriness in my mouth, which may be an off-flavour. Another low carbonated beer, but this one really hits the back of your throat. Full on sweetness with not a lot pumpkin taste in there. Definitely give it a go if you like spiced wheat beer, however.|

4. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Brooklyn Brewing
ABV: 5%
Serving Type: Bottle

The is a first entry from the U.S. of A. and a slightly disappointing one. First tasting I get a real off-flavour of baby sick which wasn’t a great start. This beer was light on pumpkin and the flavour that was there tasted a little artificial to me. The second tasting only offered a tiny note of nutmeg which lingered quite a while on the tongue. Its higher carbonation, little aroma and very faint pumpkin taste made this beer less than impressive.

Distinct and exploratory: craft beer (Photo: Rare Republic).

Distinct and exploratory: craft beer (Photo: Rare Republic).

5. Pumpkin Ale
Great Lakes
ABV: 5.5%
Serving Type: Bottle

This Great Lakes beer was by far the most balanced of the night. The pumpkin and spice were blended well to not be over-powering yet still hearty enough to generate a decent taste. Tasting gave a great texture and there was virtually no tartness to it. Couple that with the subtle aroma and you get my favourite beer of the night.

6. Homebrew Pumpkin Beer
Jon Spee
ABV: unknown
Serving Type: Bottle

Thanks to Marc from Princess Cafe for donating this as a leftover from his Pumpkin Tasting evening. I found this beer very heavy on the spice but very full bodied. It tasted heavily of booze, so I’d be interested in seeing what the final ABV was. I could see this being a good beer for a cold winter night as the spices give it a really good punch. I didn’t taste a lot of pumpkin in there, but it could have been hidden by the abundance of spice. Not sure I could handle drinking more than one.

7. Jumpin’ Jack IPA (India Pumpkin Ale)
Tree Brewing
ABV: 6.5%
Serving Type: Bottle

An IPA pumpkin crossover-beer, this actually tasted quite refreshing. However, if this was the only pumpkin beer I was drinking I would be disappointed as there is very little pumpkin to taste. The three different hops used give this beer 65 International Bittering Units (IBUs) which is relatively high and completely dominates the beer. A nice head and hop aroma mean I wouldn’t say no to trying another one.

8. Saison Du Pump
Brewer: Great Lakes
ABV: 5.2%
Serving Type: Bottle

I believe the story behind this beer is that Saison yeast was accidentally poured into a batch of pumpkin ale but luckily the results were a unique pumpkin style. The yeast gives this beer a citrus aroma and the pumpkin has an almost sour taste to it. Second tasting was very smooth with a little spice that left a tart after-taste. Original and enjoyable.

Pumpkin beer can be spice-laden. Or not (Photo: Rare Republic).

Pumpkin beer can be spice-laden. Or not (Photo: Rare Republic).

9. Warlock Imperial Stout
Brewer: Southern Tier Brewing
ABV: 8.6%
Serving Type: Bottle

An odd beer in that it was brewed with a lot of coffee / chocolate malt. This really overtook the pumpkin on the first tasting and didn’t get better with the second. The aroma was something of a musty mocha smell. There was very little body to this beer and it felt like they had just tried to reproduce a Starbucks spiced pumpkin latte in beer form. Try it if you’re into something different.

10. Paranormal
Brewer: Flying Monkeys
ABV: 10%
Serving Type: Bottle

Big cinnamon taste on this one. First tasting was really boozy but the cinnamon and pumpkin made it taste just like pumpkin pie. The after-taste was all nutmeg but the body of the beer combined well with this. This was beer number 10; hence, the short review.

So to summarize, if you’re going to drink one pumpkin beer this season then make it the Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale. It really did stand out as the best of the bunch and shows pumpkin can make good beer with balance. (A thank you to Curtis Dawe for supplying most of the beer and for helping out with these reviews.)

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Do you disagree with anything I’ve said or want to add your own opinion? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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About originalhopster

The original craft beer hopster

4 comments

  1. Enjoyed your article, even though I cant get hold of any of those beers in the uk. I love to read of the beers available over the atlantic. Good stuff 🙂

  2. Probably about 30 years behind. Where I live (Kitchener Waterloo) Micro Breweries are only just starting to open. Cask is rarity over here but the scene is quickly changing and popularity is on the rise.

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