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Pumpkin Ales, Really?

Is pumpkin better suited to pies?


A confession: This is a category of brews whose appeal has always escaped me. I've got nothing against pumpkins, I just think they're better suited to pies, Halloween jack-o-lanterns or even soups. That said, their popularity is undeniable, with people clamoring for them year after year. It has become a category that I could no longer ignore. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the pumpkin influence and pie spice character was fairly restrained in the trio I tried, and each was very different stylistically.

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale

Billed as America's original pumpkin ale, this brew is a lovely, honey-colored pour with a thin head that fades quickly. The nose is dominated by lightly sour grain aromas with just a touch of spice and hops. It's an easy drinking ale with lively carbonation and noticeable but subdued pumpkin elements. You get a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon backing the sweet, brown sugar-laced malt flavors.

Crooked Fence Brewing Evil Harvest

A thick mocha froth that leaves a nice lacing covers this amber-colored brew. You get a beautiful mix of restrained spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger) coloring the creamy toasted malt aromas. It's an eminently drinkable, nicely balanced ale with smooth malt playing against just the right hit of bitter hops and spice. This is a 22-ounce bomber with a great label.

Uinta Punk'n Harvest Pumpkin Ale

In the glass, this beer is an orange-tinged, golden brew sporting little or no head. The pumpkin pie aromas are definitely dialed in with ample spice, fruit-laced malt and subtle hops. In the mouth, it drinks like a brown ale leading off with toasty malt, backed by very light, resiny hops and warming touches of fruit and spice. The finish is smooth and creamy.