The leaves are starting to change colors here in Western Pennsylvania. High school football is under way. So is college and pro football.
All tell-tale signs of fall, probably the greatest of all seasons.
What’s best about fall? It’s a tough call. There’s the crackling of leaves underfoot and smell in the air on a walk/hike. Gotta love Halloween. And you better lover pumpkin beer.
Yep, it’s all pumpkin, all the time. Pumpkin gobs, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee and pumpkin-scented candles. But nothing quite beats the refreshing, crisp taste of a pumpkin beer on a fall evening.
And it’s time to find the perfect pumpkin beer. I’ve sampled many over the years, but never documented it. And, to date, the only one I’ve found unsatisfactory is O’Fallon’s.
Join me in the search.
The following will be an evolving and expanding list. Please, offer your suggestions and recommendations. Hopefully, through lots of research and sampling, we’ll find the perfect pumpkin beer.
Samuel Adams, Harvest Pumpkin Ale – This is the first pumpkin brew I’ve tried this season, and I came away quite pleased. The taste of pumpkin was evident from the first drink, and it offered a texture similar to an iced coffee, which I found relaxing. A touch of caramel added depth.
Post Road, Brooklyn Brewery – This pumpkin ale carries a hoppy taste, hoppier than any pumpkin beer that I can recall. Yet, the spices are evident from the first sip and the aftertaste is smooth as a baby’s bottom. The other knock – the pumpkin flavor is difficult to differentiate.
Country Pumpkin, Ithaca – The first taste of this little-known pumpkin brew (at least in my world) was nice and crisp. The crispness remained and a nice pumpkin flavor followed with every taste. A knockout pumpkin brew.
Pumpkin Roll Ale. Penn Brewery – Had this Pittsburgh-based pumpkin brew recommended from a faithful Twitter follower and find it to be an interesting entry into the fray for perfection. This won’t finish at top of the final list, but it would be a fine selection to complement a dessert. For some reason, I felt like I was drinking a Coke Zero Vanilla with every taste.
Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale – Not going to lie, this was an eye-test purchase. Something about the bottle caught the imagination, which I guess qualifies this one as an impulse buy. And a good impulse buy at that. This delectable pumpkin ale is stored in an oak barrel, and that is evident. It gives it a slight whiskey quality, which combined with the pumpkin and spice is a party to the tastebuds.
Jack-O Shandy, Traveler – The bartender in the building above the Olde Spitfire Grille offered this as a choice when I asked for a pumpkin beer and I agreed before realizing it was a shandy. A lemon taste to my pumpin beer? Part summer ale, part pumpkin ale? Regretted the decision until the taste. It was surprisingly good, refreshing and the lemon added just the right touch. Good enough that I had seconds, even with a cinnamon-sugar brim on my glass. The later, while it added a nice touch to the taste, caused some nasty day-after burps at the gym. But this surprise is a definite contender.
Pumking, Southern Tier – This treat, purchased in a hearty 24-ounce bottle (why don’t more beers come in big bottles? I mean malt liquor companies can’t be the only ones to realize the value.) was recommended by colleagues, co-workers and friends from Twitterverse.
Normally, things with build-up don’t deliver.
Ummmmm, Pumking is anything but normal.
The boldness of pumpkin flavor is reminiscent of something from a favorite bakery. The aftertaste is so pleasant, which means Pumking can be enjoyed in quantity unlike many brands of pumpkin ale.
There’s no doubt Pumking is the leader heading down the stretch of this search.
Block House Brewing Pumpkin Ale, Pittsburgh Brewing Company – A close inspection of the bottle, which was emptied into a pilsner (always a fine way to enjoy a pumpkin ale), showed it’s bottled in Latrobe, only a few miles away from my hometown.
Possibly, the proximity swayed opinion to a degree, but this pumpkin ale ranks as the most pleasant surprise of this search.
It rivaled the pop of pumpkin flavor packed by Pumking and left me wishing I had purchased more than one bottle.
All that can be said is, if you haven’t tried this local fare, get out there and buy local.
Pumpkin Ale, Wild Boar – OK, lets get this out of the way first. This beer was a total bummer. Maybe it’s because it was sampled following a Pumking and Block House Brewing Pumpkin Ale. Maybe it’s because it’s bland.
Punkin Ale, Dogfish Head – One of my favorite beermakers, Dogfish Head rarely disappoints and this pumpkin brew, which I’ve sampled multiple times, is no exception. The allspice gives Punkin Ale a warm, hearty taste. The brown ale gives it a heavier taste than other pumpkin offerings. It’s not the best out there, but it’s very solid and well-suited for colder fall weather.
Spiced Pumpkin Ale, Waterfront Brewing Company – Bottled in Portland, Maine, where I was offered my first full-time sports writing job out of college (I turned it down after they called on a Friday and asked me to be there by Monday without as much as an interview), this rare find was sitting on the shelves at Food Lion in Corolla, N.C. There weren’t many six-packs purchased, with almost deterred me from selecting it. It packs good pumpkin flavor, but the odd thing is the beer is light. While not listed as a light beer, it tastes like one. At the beach, that’s not a bad thing as it lends to having more than one or two. Overall, it’s a positive experience.