Pumpkin heads: Tis the season to add pumpkin to everything ... even beer
by Ben Cunningham
Metro Editor
Oct 30, 2012 | 1729 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Illustration by Bran Strickland/The Anniston Star
Illustration by Bran Strickland/The Anniston Star
Like Linus’ vigil in the Peanuts cartoons, many people these days await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin — but on menus and store shelves instead of out in the pumpkin patch. In addition to the milkshakes, cheesecakes and lattes in which everybody’s favorite fall flavor makes its ritual appearance, pumpkin has become a favorite ingredient in seasonal beers.

Brewers can add bits of whole pumpkin, canned pumpkin puree or concentrated pumpkin flavoring to their beers. They often pair it with the same spices you’ll find in pumpkin pie: nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and the like.

Alabama brewers are playing with pumpkin, too. Gadsden’s Back Forty Beer has brewed a special Great Pumpkin Ale as a one-time offering. It’ll only be available on tap Friday at the Free the Hops Fall FestivALE, at Old Car Heaven, 115 35th St. South, Birmingham. Tickets are $27 in advance, $37 at the door.

Huntsville’s Straight to Ale this year brewed what they call Olde Towne Pumpkin Ale, a nod to the Huntsville brewery that closed in 2011. (Straight to Ale moved into Olde Towne’s old location last year). But a quick check on Monday found none on tap at the biggest local beer bars, Mellow Mushroom and Heroes.

Pumpkin-flavored beverages vary greatly in taste, but in general they tend to be less bitter and more sweet than many craft beers. If you’re looking for a good beer to pair with a fall feast, especially at dessert, a pumpkin brew might be right for you.

We found three pumpkin beers — and one pumpkin hard cider — for sale locally, and put them to a taste test:

The clear winner — O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer

Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices from O’Fallon Brewery (Missouri).

Tasters said: “The only one that tastes like pumpkin.”

“Spicy, with a bit of a ginger fizz.”

“Smells like ginger. Tastes sweet, moderate body. Nice copper color.”

“Best balance between the beer and the pumpkin flavor. A favorite because of its smoothness.”

Where to buy: $1.99 each at The Wine Cellar, Anniston. Six-packs available at Golden Springs Winn-Dixie.

2nd place — Pumple Drumkin

Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices from Cisco Brewers (Massachusetts).

Tasters said: “A nice beer, but more bitter than pumpkin. I would drink this happily, but not if I was in the mood for a fall flavor. The flavor of just plain beer overwhelms the pumpkin.”

“Hop bitterness similar to an average craft beer. Very nice, rich copper color. Medium body.”

“More of a ‘winter beer’ taste. Very gingery.”

Where to buy: $53.50 a case at Tyson Fine Wine and Things, Anniston.

A distant third — Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat

Belgian-style wheat ale brewed with pumpkin and spices from Shock Top Brewing Co. (division of Anheuser-Busch).

Tasters said: “Well, it’s richer than a Coors. Has a sweet, spicy undertone.”

“Thin-tasting, light, wheat-based body. Mild, fruity aroma. Little bitterness or flavor of any kind.”

“Tastes like I didn’t wash my glass thoroughly, and I have a little Palmolive residue mixed into my drink. Watery, bland — and I’m generally a fan of wheat beer.”

Where to buy: $8.69 for a six-pack at Lenlock Exxon. $14.99 for a 12-pack at Golden Springs Chevron; also available at Walmart.

An alcoholic cider — Woodchuck Pumpkin

Hard cider from Woodchuck Cidery (Vermont).

Tasters said: “Tastes a good deal like apple as opposed to pumpkin. Tastes thick in its sweetness.”

“Fizzy on the approach, but syrupy at the finish.”

“I expected to like this a lot, because I like their cider, but this kind of tasted like cough syrup.”

“The syrupy finish is not my thing, but it’s not awful.”

Where to buy: $11.99 for a six-pack at Golden Springs Chevron.
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