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Pumpkin Brews


While pumpkin as an ingredient has a long history in American brewing, dating back to Colonial times, I doubt they had much in common with today’s craft versions. Heavy on the pumpkin pie spice profile, I find them a little overwhelming. They seem to have more in common with a dessert beverage than beer. That said, here are three very different takes on the style:

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down, $1.60-$2
Just the thinnest head tops this dark tea colored ale. Ginger, nutmeg and clove aromas color the lightly sweet biscuit aromas. This is a beautifully balanced brew, with soft hops and a pumpkin pie component that’s unmistakable but more subtle and, for me, more drinkable than most. Finishes dry and delicious, this one won me over.

Buffalo Bills Black Pumpkin Oatmeal Stout, $4.50-$5.50
From the brewery that first reintroduced pumpkin ale, it's a step up from their original. It's a dark coffee pour with a ruby tinge and mocha froth. Banana bread and ginger bread aromas start things off. The flavors are like a spicy pumpkin pie topped by a dollop of whipped cream, while sweet malt comes through on the rich finish.

Crooked Fence Evil Harvest, $4.50-$5.90
Though you won’t find it listed on the label or web, I have it from the brewery owner that pumpkin is an ingredient. It’s a bright amber brew with a persistent head. The aromas are more fruity hops and less spice. Same goes for the palate, with its well integrated hops, soft fruit, pumpkin puree and subtle spice. Guessing this is closer to Colonial pumpkin ales—but with more hops. Definitely works for me.