Beer 101: Pumpkin Beers

Pumpkin beer is a surprisingly divisive issue. It seems like folks either love it or hate it. I’m on the love side of the equation, but I’ve also been burned by enough mediocre pumpkin brews to be cautious when trying a new one.

These beers can be bursting with fall flavors , or watery and taste a lot like the tin can that pumpkin puree comes in. My best friend, M, is firmly in the pumpkin beer hate camp and, while I’m not trying to convert her, I am certainly always looking for the best pumpkin beers, as if proving to both her and I that this category can be really good.

I’ve noticed some common threads among really, truly excellent pumpkins beers – the most major of which is depth of flavor. More than a one-note, vaguely gourd-flavored ale, the best pumpkin beers incorporate rich pumpkin flavor along with spices or secondary flavors to keep them interesting. These beers have to be so much more than JUST full of orange gourd goodness!

Elysian’s Punkuccino uses coffee as a backdrop for their excellent version of this seasonal beer.

Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale has plenty of cardamon, ginger, and nutmeg flavors.

Two Roads Brewing Co. Roadsmary’s Stepchild resembles a Flanders Red, tart and with hints of spice.

Firestone Walker El Gourdo is earthy, tart, and funky.

Review: Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

This Union Jack IPA is described as a double dry hopped India pale ale and let me tell you, it is pretty aggressive! I wouldn’t call it a palate destroyer exactly, but it has punch to it.

If I’m remembering my early beer drinking days correctly (and they involved plenty of beer, so maybe I’m not, to be fair), this IPA by California brewery Firestone Walker might have been one of my first IPA experiences. At that time, I was still pretty new to beer in general and tended to prefer roasty, dark stouts so an IPA was a pretty big long shot. I would bet that I didn’t like it very much. It’s no wonder it might have scared me off of the style, considering its big, bold hops flavors.

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I decided to give it another go now that I’m older, wiser, and very much into IPAs. I poured this from a bottle into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a beer! These glasses have a laser-etched bottom inside, which generates activation sites for the CO2 bubbles in beer to form up. These bubbles are part of what delivers the flavors of beer to us, as well as what creates the experience of carbonation. Sadly, I did not get these glasses in the divorce. Dang!

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This beer poured a rich golden yellow with a significant head that stays for days. There’s a very green, grassy nose that’s hoppy as well. It’s maybe even a little bit bready, too. The taste is all hops! Hops, hops, hops! It never got too dry, though, and there was maybe just a hint of citrus on the back end. It’s odd, but I’d even say that this beer gets a little sweeter as it warms up. Very strong hops flavor, but a very drinkable beer to be sure.