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Oct 6, 2006 06:26 PM

Tis the season for pumpkin brews

I happen to love one or two six packs of pumpkin ale a year. What are some peoples favourites?

I used to like Dogfish head's but i have not seen it out here in SoCal. Same with Post Road. I am looking for a new one i can get in San Diego.


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  1. By far Smuttynose Pumpkin is my favorite. Most pumpkin beers are hard to drink more than one since they are usually cloying - too sweet and too many spices and without the spices would be boring. The base beer for Smutty pumpkin is interesting in itself, has some hop character, and the spices aren't overdone.

    I also enjoyed Elysian Night owl pumpkin last year - nice carmalized/roasted pumpkin flavors. Locally (boston) Cambridge Brewing Co. usually does a good job each year.

    Mine is tasting pretty good this year also.

    1. You're in luck to be in San Diego - Alpine makes a great pumpkin ale called Ichabod Ale. You'll probably have to head out to Alpine to get some, but it's worth the drive.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        Thanks for the responses everyone. Josh as per your suggestion i am going to the Holiday wine cellars in escondido tomorrow. Might they have this there?

        1. re: MVNYC

          No, they don't stock Alpine. The sad fact is that Alpine is owned by a guy who's a full-time fire captain, so their production and distro are very limited. I've only ever seen their bottles in Alpine, either at the brewery or the liquor store down the road by the freeway exit.

          If you like German beer, definitely do check out Holiday's selection of those. I've had some really amazing ones from their selection. There's one, I forget the name but the label is light blue and white. It's made by a brewer who normally makes rauchbier, and it has just a hint of smoke to the flavor.

      2. shipyard pumpkin is tasty, and quite pumpkin-y, but not too tasty, if i remember. stone cat (an ipswich product) also makes a pumpkin porter- yum!

        however, i'm afraid that neither of these might be available on the west coast... worth looking into, however.

        shipyard on bevmo:

        2 Replies
        1. re: melle76

          I agree, of the four pumpkin beers I've tried out here in Baltimore, Shipyard is the best over-all. Post Road is a close second, suprisingly Blue Moon is third (usually a week nutmeg flavor, but more full bodied this year) and last is Saranac. This is the first year I've seen a Saranac, but it had an unnatural aftertaste.

          I didn't spring for the Dogfish pumpkin because it was $8.00 for a 4 pack.

          1. re: chesapeakesun

            Wow, I really have to disagree with you guys on Shipyard. I couldn't believe that any pumpkin beer could be more mediocre than Buffalo Bills.

            This pours beautifully with a lovely pumpkin spice aroma and a thick head. Then both are gone as quick as the ghost of the headless horseman on the bottle. All that is left is metalic-tasting, slightly clove-y verson of ... well, it reminded me of Bud.

            No bitterness, no body, no taste ... except bad.

            I live in SF, so unfortunately it is available on the West Coast. Maybe not a good traveler.

        2. I've tried the Dogfish this year and it's good but not great. I agree with the comment about the Blue Moon, very good this year and better, I think, than the Dogfish Head.

          The bartender was telling me something about this being a bad year for sweet pumpkins and that might contribute to the quality of the pumpkin ales this year.

          6 Replies
          1. re: joypirate

            I had thought the pumpkin added very little to flavor, and that the spices did the heavy lifting in that regard. Can anyone shed more light on this?

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Excellent point Jim. I prefer a pumpkin pie taste, so nutmeg and other spices do the heavy lifting, but that by itself doesn't make a good pumpkin beer IMHO. It needs a decent pumpkin flavor. That is why I'm putting Shipyard at the top of my list. It is closest to pumpkin pie that I have tasted this year.

              And to Joypirate's comment, every year the flavors change in the respective breweries. Maybe it is the pumpkins, or maybe it is messing with the recipe. The best pumpkin ale ever (IMHO) was Post Road 4 years ago.

              1. re: chesapeakesun

                Post RD 4 years ago was the best of all time IMHO. I picked up Buffalo BIlls pumpkin ale this week. Mediocre at best

              2. re: Jim Dorsch

                For most pumpkin beers I've had, I would say yes, the spices are the main flavoring ingredient. My experiences have been that use of raw pumpkin in the mash, gives little flavor, but lends a little bitterness and a back end dryness similar to the effects of rye malt. Roasted pumpkin on the other hand does give a subtle nutty flavor similar to roasted acorn squash. It really depends on how much is used and when it is added in the process, and if the spices are covering up the subtle pumpkin flavors. If it tastes like pumpkin pie, you are tasting the spices, and not so much the pumpkin.

                I doubt the quality of pumpkins is effecting pumpkin beers. Hopefully no one is using rotted pumpkins - the ones that are not rotted are fine. Plus most commercial brewers are probably using canned pumpkin anyway.

                It is hard to make a pumpkin beer exactly the same year after year. Spices will be slightly different from year to year just like a new crop of hops is different from year to year. And it is hard to determine the intensity of the spices before they are used, so spicing levels will most likely differ from year to year.

                1. re: LStaff

                  The Alpine pumpkin ale uses a lot of pumpkin, though I'm not sure at which point in the process it's added. I like it because it's not too heavy on the spices and sweetness, but instead really tastes like pumpkin.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    Just tried my bottle of Buffalo Bill Brewery's pumpkin ale. Don't know much about beer so I like to look around on the web and see what other people think.

                    Anyway, found this interesting page on a home brewing site that intereviews three breweries about the pumpkin beer ...
                    - Mt. Hood
                    - Buffalo Bill’s Brewery
                    - New Holland Brewing

                    Interesting that Buffalo Bill's uses fresh pumpkin and roast it. Usually it doesn't taste like much to me, but this year it was better. It has a nice deep red/orage color, lovely smell and spicieness with the clove the most noticable.

                    So much better than that wimpy Shipyard Brewing Pumpkinhead. I gotta agree with this blog about pumpkins that ranked it at the bottom saying ...

                    "The Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkinhead Ale, which tastes as much like pumpkin as it probably tastes like head"

                    They ranked Buffalo Bill number one. Nice pictures of four pumpkin brews.

                    Yeah ok, it was last year's brews and they waited a few months before doing a pumpkin beer taste-off, but for the two beers I tried, it was pretty accurate for this year.

              3. I had the Dogfish Head pumpkin ale on tap last night at d.b.a. in NYC. I thought it was a nice brew, crisp and clean with a complex taste and only a hint of spice. A drinkable dark brew that I had four pints of, which I would never do with most super spiced cloying holiday brews.