The other night while in the midst of pleasant conversation at a local dive bar, I was interrupted by a young fellow who introduced himself as so-and-so “from Blue Moon.” He noticed my glance at the corporate logo on his polo shirt and quickly amended his statement. “…well, Miller-Coors, actually.” Good start.
“I’ve got free samples of our Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale for you to try!” he announced proudly. I gazed at the bottle for a moment, then politely declined. “Okay, not a big pumpkin beer fan, that’s fine. I’ll be back around in a few with different Blue Moon beers that you can enjoy!” I thanked him and then quickly settled my tab and left. Clearly that was my cue to leave.
I’m not a Blue Moon fan, but I don’t have anything against pumpkin beers. And we shouldn’t let pumpkin beers get lumped in with the annoying pumpkin-spiced trend that’s been invading coffee shops and most everything else over the past few years. Pumpkin ales and lagers have been around for a while, and done well, they can be great. So what the hell, let’s take a quick survey of some of the pumpkin beers out there right now…
Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale is surprisingly good. Why surprising? Well, because Whole Hog is a specialty label from Point, and Point isn’t exactly renowned for high-end craft beers. Notheless, this has a nice balance of pumpkin flavor and spices, and is a pretty smooth drinker.
Stingy Jack from Potosi isn’t going to knock you on your ass, but it’s pleasant beverage. It’s fairly sweet with a mild pumpkin flavor and a decent spicy flavor.
Lakefront’s Pumpkin Lager has been around for a while. (That’s right, a lager rather than the far more common pumpkin ale.) There are more pumpkin-inny beers out there, but it’s a fine seasonal standby. I used this beer to make chili once, and I can certainly recommend it for that application.
For a change of pace, there’s Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Sasquash, which is a pumpkin porter. It also features sweet potatoes, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It’s got more of an all-purpose holiday dessert flavor than a pure pumpkin taste. I once described this beer as “drinkable gingerbread.”
Southern Tier’s Pumking is my gold standard these days. It’s an Imperial Pumpkin Ale that tastes just like pumpkin pie. Not just pumpkin pie spices, as so many mediocre pumpkin beers do, but like honest-to-god pie, with all the goodness that entails. It also comes in at 8.6% ABV, so tread lightly.
(Oh, and that picture up top? Just a 3-foot diameter inflatable Pumking, available from Southern Tier. You know you need one.)