It’s fall once again, folks. That means it’s pumpkin season. Yes, pumpkin everywhere. Pumpkins in pies, soups, butters, breads, sauces, lattes, meat glazes, ice cream. I could ramble on about the infinite utility of pumpkin like Forrest Gump with shrimp. But of course, we must get down to what everyone reading this cares about: pumpkin beers.
To start, let’s look at New Belgium’s Pumpkick. This ale is brewed with pumpkin juice along with the interesting choices of cranberry juice and lemongrass, creating an intriguing blend. Out of the bottle it pours a bright orange-amber color with an off-white head. Aromas of cranberry sauce, warm spices, and pumpkin pie filling creep from the glass like whiffs of Thanksgiving dinner.
The taste, however, is somewhat disappointing. First, the tart flavors of the cranberry lead into the warm pumpkin spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Sweet pumpkin flavors complemented by the crispness of lemongrass follow. This allows the ale to be not too sweet, which is a good thing.
My main complaint about the beer is its body. Pumpkick is just too light to feel like an autumnal brew. It would make a better summer ale. The flavors are all quite subtle, making the beer easy to drink. It just doesn’t give me that warmth I look for in pumpkin ale. Notably, the tart cranberry and seasonal spices flavors steal the show from the pumpkin. At 6 percent ABV, there just isn’t anything special here.
If you’re looking for an ale that’s extremely light and easy to drink, Pumpkick might be for you. Just don’t expect your craving for pumpkin to be satisfied.
Next is the Colorado Springs brewery Trinity with Emma’s Pumpkin Saison. Trinity is by far the most inventive brewery in the Springs, often experimenting with incredibly diverse ingredients. For example, this beer is brewed with roasted and caramelized sugar pumpkins, grains of paradise, white sage, brown sugar, coriander, and Garam Masala spices. This concoction is something you’d expect from the world-renowned Dogfish Head. It’s great to see something as strange as this come out of a local brewery.
If you have never been to the brewpub on Garden of the Gods road, you must make a trip. They have great food and amazing beers. It is my vote for the best brewery in the Springs (yes it’s better than Bristol, and I don’t think Phantom Canyon is even close…).
Getting back to the beer, Emma’s Pumpkin Saison holds its head high with a 9.5 percent ABV, which is hidden in the complex flavors. They only sell it in 750ml bottles that I think go for around $17 and on tap at their brewpub.
It pours a dark orange brown with a quickly dissolving light amber head giving off aromas of pepper saison yeast, pumpkin bread, and spices. Emma must be one complex lady because this beer goes off. The taste consists of a subtle pumpkin backbone complicated by the vast array of spices. The brown sugar creates a sweet side that complements the insane shifting of spice flavors.
Every sip is a little different. Each one of the aforementioned spices pokes its head out every now and then. But the real consistent flavor is that of a saison. This peppery yeasty quality subsists and comes to hold the shifting flavors together. However, the pumpkin flavor is often lost behind the stronger spice and saison notes. Still, the novelty of ingredients that are masterfully blended make this my favorite of this weeks tests.
Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Co. is last on the list with their Punk’n ale. Uinta is one of my favorite breweries with their Hop Notch being one of the best IPAs around.
Punk’n humorously boasts the use of 3 percent organic ingredients on the side of its bottle. Its 4 percent ABV is nothing to brag about, but is probably due to Utah’s strict alcohol laws.
However, this beer does a lot of things well. The nice deep orange color and large white head mimics a pumpkin pie beautifully. Similarly, spiced pumpkin pie filling and sweet creamy notes of whipped cream aromas back up this ale’s pie imitation.
If you are looking for pumpkin, this is your beer. Rather than tart and spices being at the forefront of your palate like the Pumpkick or the exotic spices of the Emma’s Saison, this beer delivers that pumpkin flavor that you’ll love.
Its deeper body gives it a rich and creamy depth that I want in an autumn release. The pumpkin flavor isn’t overwhelming, nor is it too sweet. Rather, the spices complement it without stealing the show.
Although the beer delivers the pumpkin flavor, it is not very complex. All you really get is lightly spiced pumpkin flavor; this is why the saison is still the favorite of the beers.
I also tried Pumpkinhead by Shipyard Brewing Company. I’m sure you have noticed it all over liquor stores. Aside from it not being local, it is a malt beverage (like a 40 oz.) with flavors added to it. Although it is fine to drink and tastes like spiced pumpkin cider, it is not a real beer. When it warms up a little, you will taste its poor quality. I would avoid it.
I’m sure these pumpkin ales will only be around for a couple more weeks, so go stock up now.
Justin Frank, Staff Writer