If you ask me, it’s never too late in the season for pumpkin beers! I believe I have made my love for them rather apparent by now. After work one Monday, I wanted to grab a six pack of something new to me and so I stopped in to Beers and Cheers Too (which is so convenient to my office). While I was there, I also decided to treat myself to a little something – and that something happened to be Elysian’s Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.
Now, I’ve had some of Elysian’s other pumpkin beers before and adored them, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t had Night Owl before. If you ask me, Elysian are some of the very best pumpkin beer brewers out there, so I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to taste another one of their creations.
For $3 at happy hour, I grabbed a 6oz pour of Night Owl. It’s a lovely golden amber color with not quite one finger of off-white creamy head. This falls in about a minute and mostly disappears, leaving a white smear behind, in about two minutes. It leaves behind some pretty sturdy lacing as I drink it down. It smells very pumpkiny right off the bat even as I’m snapping pictures. There’s a slightly spicy smell, but the most prominent note is the gourd itself – slightly vegetabley and a little bit sweet with hints of brown sugar on the nose. There’s maybe a whiff of yeasty or malty funk mingling.
The nose is accurate; there’s a little ginger or clove in here for sure, but this beer is legitimately pumpkin-forward, which is rare. Usually these poor beers get strangled with spices. I’ve had an aggressively cinnamony pumpkin beer from them in the past (I wish I could remember the name, it was a few years ago) which was delicious, but it masked the pumpkin taste. This beer plays very nicely with the natural autumnal produce that it’s showcasing.
Five out of five frosty mugs of pumpkiny goodness.
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.
Pumpkin beer! How I love pumpkin beer! Sure, there are some watery, metallic-tasting, total stinkers out there that call themselves pumpkin beers – but there are also some fantastic brews out there, too. Elysian, in my experience, makes damn fine pumpkin and autumnal beers.
Punkuccino by Elysian is not only a pumpkin beer, but it’s a coffee beer as well, made with Stumptown coffee – a Pacific Northwest classic. The hits just keep on coming! This beer sounded like it was checking all of the boxes on my list of I Have To Drink This. Frisco in Columbia, MD, was happy to oblige.
This very handsome beer pours a deep, dark brown with a reddish undertone that lit up when light hit the glass. The’s no head at all save for a creamy smear of foam on the top of the liquid. It leaves some clingy lacing behind as it goes.
It smells like roasted cocoa, pumpkin pie, graham cracker crusts, and even sweet iced coffee. The taste is definitely pumpkin beer right up front, but it’s backed up by brown sugar, some heavy cinnamon, rich chocolate, and coffee stout as a sturdy backdrop. It’s not tinny like some pumpkin beers/pies/canned pumpkin can sometimes be. It’s not watery at all and has a decent mouthfeel, low carbonation, and is very smooth.
As both a pumpkin beer fan and a coffee stout fan, this beer is seriously everything that I could want. It is so rich and full of flavor and is perfect for a cool weather beer. I’ m so into it.