Oct 242011

Last year for Samhain I focused on Octoberfest beers. But this year, I thought I would showcase the various pumpkin offerings. There is nothing more iconic for this time of year than the pumpkin (unless it is the witches).  Pumpkin beers are a bit of a fad – just about every brewery out there wants to try their hand at one. This makes for an interesting culture of pumpkin flavored beers. As this article mentions, Pumpkin beer is the single most divisive beer flavor available. Either you love them or you hate them.  I have a more complex relationship with the pumpkin ale. A really good pumpkin beer is just that – *Really Good*. Delicious. Fabulous. A flavor odyssey for your tongue. But a really bad pumpkin beer typically tastes like pumpkin flavored spicy water.  I have tried good and bad ones. Here are some really good ones to check out.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
If you can get your hands on this one, do yourself a favor and check it out. The term Imperial indicates that a beer is higher in alcohol, so this isn’t a low octane beer by any means.  It is a rich dark beer with very spicy flavors to compliment the pumpkin pie flavor a typical pumpkin beer is trying to accomplish.
Dogfish Head Punkin
This is probably my favorite pumpkin beer. It is also one of Dogfish Head’s most popular brews – it is sold out pretty much as soon as it is produced. During their short lived TLC series, they aired an episode about how this beer is made and this is the real thing. They use a good brown beer recipe to start then add real pumpkin, brown sugar and complimentary spices. The resulting beer is delicious.  It is autumn in a glass. 
Blue Moon Harvest Moon 
As you know from reading this series, I am a big fan of the craft beer industry – especially local beers. However, for a macrobrew the Blue Moon’s Harvest Moon is not bad at all.  It not as heavy as either the Weyerbacher or the Punkin but the spices and pumpkin flavor are acceptable. Recently, my partner and I were at  a chain restaurant and they were out of the fall seasonal that we ordered.  The waitress kindly offered us a taste of the Harvest Moon. I didn’t hate it, but I declined the offer and ordered something else. My partner asked if they said it was a local brewery would I have ordered one and I said yes. He seemed perplexed by this. I told him it wasn’t bad and I would probably drink it but given the option I’d rather not give my money to Coor’s. If the same beer had been produced by a local brewery, I would at least support them because the beer wasn’t undrinkable. 
Terrapin Pumpkinfest
To counter the Coor’s offering of Blue Moon, I thought I would mention a local Georgia beer. I would actually classify Pumpkinfest just like I described above – not the best of the style but not bad and if given the option I would order a local beer over a mass produced beer any day. 
 Smuttynose Pumpkin
Smutty Nose makes a brown ale that I am not a huge fan of. It tastes, for lack of a better description, a little dirty. It is a cloudy brown and overly earthy. However, we were just a a very nice restaurant in Asheville and I asked our waiter about any fall seasonals they had and he suggested the Smuttynose Pumpkin…so I gave it a shot.  It tasted a lot like their brown, but adding the real pumpkin and well balanced spices seemed to give the beer a little bit of the personality it was lacking. It really tasted like the season. 
Pumkin beers often go off the shelves right around Samhain, so get your 6 packs now. They’ll make a fantastic libation to share with the Gods and Ancestors for this holiday. 
And stay tuned – I have a Magic of Beer Part 2 on its way.  This time, we’re cooking up our own magic of beer with home brewing.

  5 Responses to “The Magic of Beer: Samhain (Part 1) “Pumpkin””

  1. Not a pumpkin beer, but I thought you might be interested in this Day of Dead beer from Chicago.


  2. That sounds very interesting. I’ll probably not be able to get my hands on it, but I would love to try it.

  3. Shipyard Pumpkinhead. Best. Stuff. Evar.

  4. David – you are not the first person to mention that to me. I have not had the pleasure of trying it. Should I see it at any local bars or shops I will defnitely try it.

  5. [...] showcased over the last year, I enjoy beer on a seasonal basis. As I am about to finish off the Pumpkins and Octoberfests for the season, I am very much looking forward to the winter warmers that will be [...]

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