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This past weekend was the sixth annual Great Pumpkin Festival at Cambridge Brewing Company – a place where autumnphiles can come together and have a pumpkin beer without the ubiquitous cinnamon-sugar rim nor the sneers from the general craft beer public. This was our third year in attendance, and in our opinion, the most successful event yet. In the past, the festival operated on a one-in/one-out policy, resulting in a line, usually on the first cold day of October, that left you cursing yourself for wearing a dress and cursing all those terrible terrible people who agreed to hold their friend’s place in line while they went into Tommy Doyles to stay warm doing pumpkin bomb shots. There is a special circle of Hell for line-cutters, I’m sure of it.
This year, the event was divided into three four-hour sessions throughout the day, which got rid of the wait time and made things much more comfortable and accessible inside the restaurant. We chose the last session so we could witness the event we’ve missed years past, a monk-led procession leading to the tapping of a giant pumpkin filled with CBC’s Great Pumpkin Ale.
This is a great place to experience interpretations of pumpkin beer you’ve never imagined. But truth be told, at least for me, it’s about pretzel rolls with beer mustard and pumpkin ale braised sauerkraut and hanging out with robots. Oh, and commemorative glassware.
Here’s some of my evening’s most memorable beers:
CBC Stout at the Devil – 666# of pale malt, 6.66 oz. of Devil’s Claw herb, a 6.66% ABV – how can you not love this devilish beer? Plus add to the fact that this is their 2011 version that has been aging on Brettanomyces barrels. “It’s all for you, CBC!” ~*Jumps off balcony*~
Jack’s Abby Pumpkin Crop Lager – A perfect blend of autumnal spices mixed with locally sourced pumpkins makes for a crisp lager with a well-done pumpkin profile without any of the sugary sweetness.
Iron Hill Pumpkin Berliner Weisse – Tons of candied pumpkin and sugar cookies with some tart lemon characteristics. Very interesting and enjoyable.
Avery Rumpkin – Ahhh the venerable Rumpkin; aged in fresh rum barrels and clocking in at a monstrous 18%. Yes, it’s totally overwhelming and like taking a shot of pumpkin pie rum, but it’s still complex, sweet, and good to try once.
Come fall, it seems like a lot of people start going on these anti-pumpkin beer rants. Yes, I understand it’s a way for some breweries to turn a quick profit on a seasonal trend, and yes pumpkin beers do tend to saturate the shelves which in turn, makes less room for more traditional styles like märzens.
I’m still going to stand up and say that I like pumpkin beers. A lot. Just as much as I like pumpkin-spiced coffees and buying cheap apple cider and pumpkin-scented Wal-Mart candles so I can feel like I’m turning my shitty apartment into a rustic autumnal homestead when instead probably making it smell like someone dumped a bunch of compost onto a Bath & Body Works factory fire. Pumpkin beers are a flavorful fall treat – the harbingers of my favorite season. So lay off me, pumpkin naysayers; they’ll be gone in a month anyways and you can start complaining about how your winter warmer has too much spice in it.
I kind of stayed away from reviewing pumpkin beers this year and let Kristie take over that. I’ve learned the hard way that drinking pumpkin beer too often makes me tire of them, and they are something I love so moderation is key, and there’s only so many ways one can compare a beer to a pumpkin pie, and the market is so saturated that I decided to instead focus on marzens and fests and leave my pumpkin cravings for the annual Cambridge Brewing Company Great Pumpkin Festival. Now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts and decompress from a busy week at work, I pulled together a little recap.
This is my last pumpkin beer post. This is also my last post from the state of Massachusetts. On Friday, I will become a resident of New Hampshire! All hail the Great White North. Or something like that.
Driving through downtown Dover yesterday, I saw a man walking a goat on a leash. The goat was also wearing a little red visor. This is where I am moving too. It’s all downhill from here, folks. And I couldn’t be more excited.
This is Pumpkin Lager from Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is said to be brewed based on Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for pumpkin beer. They must have had their top marketing people on this one.
It pours a light orange with minimal lacing from a 12 oz. bottle. There’s a very bright and clean aroma; sweet and spicy, full of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
This beer, at 6% alc/vol, starts off with a pleasant caramel malt sweetness, and moves into some toasted grains and a slight grassiness. You can tell that there’s definitely something going on here besides just the spicing. It finishes dry with a hint of pie spice, but gets a little too lager-y for my taste, especially when mixed in with the pumpkin.
Lakefront is better than some pumpkin beers I’ve encountered. It has an easy drinkability and smooth mouthfeel, but is lacking some of the depth that these beers deserve.
And with that, I’ll see you folks in about a week! Going to take some time to settle into the new place and then I’ll be back with all sorts of fun New Hampshire beer stuff.
What a perfect day to write about a member of the Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet. Hurricane Sandy has already ruined my day off by closing the RMV and any other places where I had to run errands AND she cancelled the metal show/costume party Ashleigh and I were going too tonight.
What’s a girl to do with no electricity, a stockpile of beer, and a luchadore outfit? WE WILL SOON FIND OUT.
To quote the Internet: “Hurricane Sandy” sounds like what an Applebee’s bartender calls the lady in a pantsuit drinking chardonnays at 10:30 a.m.”
Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin, at 8% alc/vol and bottled in a 22 oz. bomber, pours a clear amber with a two-finger head that quickly falls into a thin layer atop the surface, leaving a clinging layer of foam on the glass.
This has a classic pumpkin beer aroma that I really liked. A creamy vanilla, lightly vegetal, and with a nice malt/pie spice balance. The taste is not too sweet or too boozy. It leaves me once again pretty impressed by the balance. It’s a pumpkin beer that doesn’t make you sick of pumpkin beers, which I find is too often the case. The hops sit in the back, letting the spices speak for themselves; plenty of nutmeg and a great cinnamon kick in the finish. It’s silky smooth with a faint alcohol presence and a squashy aftertaste. I love beers that are able to incorporate that vegetal/pumpkin taste. It makes for a much more authentic experience.
I’m still here, trudging through the pumpkins. Pace is starting to slow down a bit…getting slightly weary, palate is beginning to reject anything with cinnamon, but I carry on! For you. Pour vous…
You will find us giving pumpkins their final send-off back to the hells from whence they came this Saturday at Cambridge Brewing Company’s Great Pumpkin Festival. Over 40 pumpkin beers from breweries all over the country, pumpkin-inspired food, and a ceremonial tapping of a giant pumpkin full of CBC’s Great Pumpkin Ale. I’ll be the one wearing the luchadore mask, scarfing bratwurst.
Here’s another pumpkin beer from Boston’s Sam Adams. This is an imperial version, using 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, as compared to the 17 pounds in their Harvest Ale. Fat Jack pours a rich garnet with a thin tan head that quickly collapses into a light surface layer. It doesn’t look like your typical pumpkin beer. And I like that. The aroma is full of pumpkin meat, cinnamon, and vanilla. It has as very strong fall spicing smell, but not overly sweet like the Harvest.
I was expecting that imperial bite in the taste but was instead hit with a luscious malt base. On the palate it’s bready, toasted malts, a slight smokiness, and a great squash character; plus that same holiday spicing as the nose, very cider-like. There’s a light booziness and just enough bitterness to give a nice kick. Incredibly smooth and drinkable for an imperial pumpkin, Fat Jack is a great representation of the dark pumpkin style and it’ll definitely be a beer that I pick up again next year.
I should have known better with a name like Buffalo Bill’s American Original. I also don’t want to waste too much of my life writing about this, so lemme just tell it to ya straight.
It pours a dark, hazy orange with a thin bubbly head that quickly fades to nothing. Lacing: none. The aroma is your typical pie seasonings plus a slight crust. Most of that sweetness from the nose is gone in the taste. It even fades into a slightly bitter, gross metallic taste. It’s light, watery with a fizzy carbonation and a semi-dry finish. I always thought that adding fresh pumpkin to a beer added some body. Not in this case.
There. That’s it. I’m done.
We’re about half-way through October and still cranking out the pumpkin beer reviews. Lets have another one, shall we? I finally found a bottle of Wachusett Imperial Pumpkin Ale, not in Massachusetts as I thought I would, but at Garys Beverages in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What appears from the outside as a place that only sells bum wine and snuff films, actually had one of the best craft selections I’ve found in the area. Neat.
Pours a very clear “autumnal” orange. The head quickly billows up and then just as quickly, settles down into a thin creamy film atop the beer. Sweet pie spices dominate the aroma; very nutmeg-heavy, as well as cinnamon, allspice and ginger, as well as a light breadiness.
You’ll find a good amount of spicing in this beer, but it’s not overpowering. The taste is actually more light on the spicing, as compared to the nose. This beer screams Imperial Pumpkin. It’s grainy and full of bready malts with a slight yeastiness and a very pronounced alcohol presence. The body is sticky with a lingering boozy finish. Though it is a tad bit light for the big beer flavor.
Overall, I think there are other imperial pumpkins that do it better than Wachusett. Any complexity present definitely suffers as a result of the alcohol content which is very overpowering for the style.
Ah, could it really be October without a visit from the pumpkin king?
I thought I would have a pumpkin-off; take two pumpkin beers and do a side-by-side comparison, all while watching a Halloween movie. Let’s just say that Southern Tier Pumking trumped everything else that night. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin tasted like water in comparison, and Silent Night, Bloody Night, a 1973 John Carradine proto-slasher film, just plain sucked.
Pumking pours a light golden hue with a creamy and lasting head, leaving behind copious amounts of striped lacing. The aroma is absolutely intoxicating; bready and full; like a pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream, without all those cloying sugars to distract from the inherent squashiness.
The taste is exactly like the aroma; vegetal and luscious, with a thick malt base and soft pumpkin flavor. A nice hop presence appears in the slightly bitter and drying finish. The body is a bit lighter than what you’d expect. It doesn’t necessarily have that “big beer” thing going on, but if anything, it allows for higher drinkability. Like I said, the malt is definitely there, but at time, gets slightly buried under all of the squash and nutmeg. I am not complaining though. It is flavorful, smooth on the palate, and what I really appreciate is, this is a solid beer that seamlessly incorporates all of the aspects of what a pumpkin beer should be.
Enjoy this as an autumn dessert beer or paired with a holiday dinner. Or just go the Kristie route. Drink in bed and hopefully watch a better horror flick than I did.
I begin my arduous trek into the realm of pumpkin beers with a Massachusetts local; Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale; a 5.7% ale brewed with 17 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, as well as roasted and smoked malts. It pours a deep garnet and produces an incredibly sweet aroma. I felt like I was walking through a harvest festival eating a candied apple.
Though you do get a bit of caramel malt, it seems like there are very little beer flavors going on. There is so much pumpkin pie spice that the malts have to fight for a presence. The body is slightly thin, but to its advantage, I will say that it is crisp and smooth with some alcohol esters kicking in, in the spicy/sticky finish.
When I started drinking craft beers, pumpkin beers entranced me. I’m a big Halloween buff so I totally adored the overly sweet and over-the-top cinnamon sugar spice of even the lowliest pumpkin beer. I would have really enjoy Sam Adam’s Pumpkin a few years back, but my tastes have changed over the years, and now, even around All Hallows’ Eve, I need more beer than spice, and this beer is definitely lacking that.
As the sun sets on the last days of autumn, I bid adieu to my little fall treat, the pumpkin beer. I can faintly recall the excitement evoked by that first glimpse of a smiling orange jack-o-lantern peering out between the Oktoberfests and fall seasonals of whatever fine brew establishment I found myself in. With it comes the vivid memories of autumns pasts, the crunch of fallen leaves, mischievous costumed children . . . um yeah ok, pumpkins are gone. I am fine with it. Here’s to the last one.
Soooo this blog should probably be re-named to Pumpkin Beer + 2 Girls. To tell you the truth, I’m getting damn well sick of the stuff. I thought I was right when I mentioned in a previous post that I was out of pumpkin beers. Turns out, totally got some more. So pumpkin-ed out. Help…
Thankfully, this is a good one; less a pumpkin beer and more a spicy brown ale with a 7% alc/vol kick. It pours a rich and hazy orange with a thin, bubbly head. The aroma is heavy pumpkin pie spice with alcohol esters.
Biscuit-y and sweet, a perfect relationship between hops and malt help balance out the sweetness, creating a smooth and even flavor. The autumn spices are incredibly fresh-tasting, reminding me of a batch of homemade apple cider.
With some bitter hops before the finish and a spiciness that briefly lingers, everything about this beer comes together in such an ideal way. The smooth finish even masks much of the alcohol.
I give Punkin Ale an A because minus all of the spices, it still has a ton of great characteristics on its own. A solid beer through and through, even without the pumpkin that I am once again, SICK OF.
If anyone wants to send me some glassware that doesn’t have logos on it, I will accept them with open arms. Until then, it’s Cape Cod Athletic Club 1976 – 2006 (ahh the good ol’ days, runnin’ in the seventies).
Frogs Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale, 8.4% alc/vol, brewed by Hoppin Frog in Ohio, is sadly one of the last pumpkin beers in my stash this year. One thing I love about their web site is that it lists food and cheese pairings that you should try with each of their beers and I wish more places did this. It comes in a 22 oz bottle only, and pours with no head whatsoever. It smells like cinnamon, the malt odor is a bready one, clove, pumpkin, and nutmeg to name a few of the more major players.