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.