In 1989, Lakefront Brewery owner, Russ Klisch was reading dusty brewing tome, tippling one of our fine lagers and came across a beer recipe that Thomas Jefferson had brewed with pumpkin at his home in Monticello. Barley was scarce and expensive in the early days of the United States, but pumpkins and other squash were readily available. The idea that clicked with Russ’ philosophy of using the best ingredients available locally and incorporating them into the finest ingredients for making beer, and thus a legend was born.
1989 certainly puts them at one of the oldest pumpkin beers being brewed (Buffalo Bill’s was in 1986, remember), and as a lager it stands out from the typical pumpkin beer. Using real pumpkin and a "proprietary blend of spices made here in Milwaukee for us by the acclaimed Spice House," they lager this beer for 4 full weeks, which gives it time to clear nicely and develop a clean, rich character.
(Disclaimer: Lakefront was one of the breweries I contacted for a sample of their beer, and they were kind enough to send me a full six-pack of their Pumpkin Lager, as well as a full sampler pack of 8 of their other beers.)
There’s no listed alcohol percentage for this beer, but I’d guess in the neighborhood of 5%, which seems pretty typical for a Lakefront brew.
Appearance: Very clear, with a thin head, and fine bubbles rising from the bottom of the pint glass. Color reminds me of a medium-dark honey… a nice golden orange.
Smell: Sweet and spicy—the pumpkin is very pronounced and there’s a pie sweet note—caramel and syrup and whipped cream all together. Nutmeg is prominent in the spices—also some cloves, a dash of cinnamon.
Taste: Smooth and clean taste of a lager (well-conditioned), with a mellow-sweet malty squash note—roasted pumpkin, a bit subtle. Spices contribute a tang… kind of a "chai" note. A touch buttery.
Mouthfeel: Crisp and clean, thicker, firmer body than a typical session lager. Perhaps like a bock? A bit of a nice, creamy aftertaste… adds to the "pie" character.
Overall: This is very nice and pleasant to drink… you get the pie aromas (whipped cream, too… how do they do that?) with each sip and warming spices. I find this to be a real pleasure to drink, an excellent pumpkin beer.
On BeerAdvocate, they’re not as enthused as I am: it scores 79 out of 100, with only 66% of reviewers giving thumbs up; their loss, that one third that didn’t care for it. On RateBeer, it scores 3.13 out of 5, and is in their 54th percentile—which is actually pretty decent for RateBeer.