We are definitely smack dab in the heart of pumpkin beer season: more bottled pumpkin beers than ever are on the shelves, this past weekend saw the eighth annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival from Elysian Brewing, tonight at the Green Dragon Brewpublic’s second annual Killer Pumpkin Fest is taking over Portland… the list goes on. For my part I’ve been trying every pumpkin beer I can find (or I was—I’m starting to fall behind with so many coming out!) so I thought I’d present reviews in chunked trios for your reading enjoyment.
This is Elysian’s award-winning pumpkin stout that first appeared in bottles last year, I believe (but had previously been available on draft well before). This was the first year I’ve tried it and I thought it was fantastic.
Brewed with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and cinnamon, this is 6.5% alcohol by volume and available in 22-ounce bombers both individually and in Elysian’s special four-pack this year.
Appearance: Pours an opaque dark brown with a tan head that builds up nicely, and is softly rocky on top.
Smell: Cinnamon and gingerbread, lightly sweetened with molasses—deft and subtle. Lightly roasty, with more of that cinnamon/gingerbread spicing coming out as it warms, like a mild coffee concoction.
Taste: Rich and sweet with more ginger spice character than anything (surprising considering the cinnamon), and earthy pumpkin—all combine to make me think (dark) pumpkin bread. Really, really good. Creamy, roasty without astringency, nice easy blend of spices, rich and chewy, kind of a milk stout in style.
Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and easy drinking with a nice light roast aftertaste.
Overall: Really, really good, I get a little “pumpkin pie” but more “pumpkin bread.” I like how the spicing is subtle and the pumpkin really shines here.
This is Elysian’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale that I first reviewed last year: think of their Night Owl on steroids! Both Night Owl and this one are probably the best examples of the “classic” pumpkin ale being brewed today (characterized by being amber-caramel with pumpkin and spices), though the Great Pumpkin is imperialized at 8.1% alcohol by volume.
It’s brewed with “Roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash, and extra pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.”
Appearance: Orange and a touch light in color, not unlike a pumpkin actually. Off-white head that broke and fell to a skiff.
Smell: Malty and spicy and fairly sweet pie-like which is nice (when it’s not overdone). Brown sugar, light caramel, with a rich sweet potato/squash character.
Taste: A touch of vegetable bitter up front, along with a b it of alcohol and sweetness that reminds me of glassy threads of sugar you get when making caramel. A creamy touch of nutmeg is the prominent spice I taste, and the pumpkin/green squash flavor is noticeable and nice. With a touch of rind perhaps?
Mouthfeel: Nice medium-full body with a pleasantly thick presence on the tongue.
Overall: Tasty, spicy pumpkin ale with a big presence and a bit of a bite. Good flavors of pumpkin in a big beer.
Laurelwood Brewing’s yearly entry into the pumpkin scene is with their Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale, a nicely flavorful 7.5% abv ale brewed “with roasted whole pumpkin, pumpkin puree, and a touch of spices to create a subtle and delicious brew.”
(Incidentally Laurelwood also uses butternut squash in this makeup of this beer.)
Appearance: Deep amber color bordering on a nutty brown. Dense head, off-white, that I swore had a tinge of orange at first pour.
Smell: Yummy pie spices, brown sugar, caramel, toffee. Perhaps even some graham cracker and maybe gingerbread. Sweetly malty with a rich nutty aroma.
Taste: Nicely noticeable vegetable/squash character with notes of molasses and toffee on top of that. Spices are mellow and not overdone, giving a bit of creamy nutmeg and zingy cinnamon offering nice punctuation but taking a back seat to the malt and pumpkin. Rich and tasty.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a bit of a bite (from the spices probably) and a lightly sticky finish.
Overall: Really liking this year’s iteration, it’s well-brewed in that “classic” pumpkin style.