Friday, September 5, 2014

Our Top 3 Picks From The Pumpkin Patch

Weeks before Labor Day Weekend creeps up on us, our cooler doors take on an orange glow and easy-drinking summer ales begin to trade places with their spicier, warmer counterparts. Pumpkin brews begin to fill our pumpkin patch at the front of the store.

I’ve never been partial to many pumpkin beers, snubbing them for being too cloyingly sweet and imbalanced. Yet with so many pumpkin beers saturating the market and over fifteen different pumpkin brews in the store to challenge that opinion, perhaps I dismiss them as a whole too readily. We’ve tasted a selection of some of the more anticipated brews to help you navigate our ripening pumpkin patch. Some of the beers in our tasting reinforced my original opinion while others directly counterbalanced a broad and misinformed generalization. We selected our top three favorites to ease the transition into fall.  As we bid farewell to the unofficial last weekend of summer, we’re giving you a little bit of something to look forward to – even if pumpkins in August are as heinous as Christmas in July. Here’s to sweater weather, football, foliage and pumpkin beer.

The Line up

Two Roads Brewing Co. Roadsmary’s Baby
Riverhorse Hipp-o-lantern Imperial Pumpkin
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Sam Adam’s Fat Jack Double Pumpkin
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Southern Tier Pumking
Southern Tier Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout
Timmerman’s Pumpkin Lambicus

1.      Roadsmary’s Baby Pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels     $12.29/ 6pk btl
Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford, CT        6.8% abv   
Many pumpkin beers are brewed with pumpkin pie spices – think cinnamon, nutmeg, clove – producing a flavor more akin to a sweet pumpkin pie filling. Others, such as Roadsmary’s Baby from Stratford’s Two Road’s Brewing Co., are brewed with actual pumpkin for a slightly more savory flavor. This is a spicy one, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, but it’s not overly sweet due to the Caribbean rum barrels that this beer is aged in. The essence of the barrel is surprisingly straight forward and lends another dimension of flavor which sets this one apart from many of the other pumpkin brews.

2.      Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Pugsley’s Signature Series        $7.99/22 oz. btl
Shipyard Brewing Co., Portland, ME         9.0% abv  
Smashed pumpkin is a sweet and spicy, full-bodied brew. The nose is full of sugary warm spices, rich with nutmeg, cinnamon, and all-spice. What’s especially remarkable about this brew is how well-balanced it tastes. The spiciness doesn’t outweigh the body of the beer. The flavor has an all around nice complexity; full of pumpkin, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, honey and some pale malt sweetness and with a 9% abv, the alcohol is masked really well. This one conjures warm feelings of pumpkin pie, baking, and being in the kitchen. It would be the ideal option to cook with in both savory stews and with rich meats.

3.      Timmerman’s Pumpkin Lambicus    $11.99/750 ml btl
Timmermans Brewery 4% abv                       
Timmerman’s was the unanimous favorite of the line-up. It was also a welcome reminder of how much I love this brewery. I’ve had lambics before, mainly krieks and framboises, but never a pumpkin lambic. The pumpkin lambicus is a slightly sour beer brewed with a Belgian wild yeast. It offers some slightly herbal and spicy hints of pumpkin pie on the nose, but isn’t particularly strong. At 4% abv, the natural carbonation keeps it light and effervescent. Unlike many of the other pumpkin brews that I can only enjoy in small doses, I could easily enjoy a couple glasses of this. The pumpkin spice is clearly discernible through a mild tartness. It would be a perfect introductory sour to this particular beer genre. It’s also the ideal brew to transition from summer into fall with a dry, refreshing mouthfeel to balance some of the warmer, more rich spices.

-Amy Ettinger

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