Girl Drink Drunk: Pumpkin Beer
In which one woman consumes all the pumpkin beers she could find in a grocery aisle and tells you all about it.
Forget the season of the witch—October is the season of the pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin friggin’ kegs, fifty-nine different pumpkin items at Trader Joe’s, and everyone’s favorite (or not), the pumpkin spice lattè. Hell, pumpkin is fall’s favorite, and you’re probably sick of it already.
Unless it’s pumpkin beer.*
I decided to sample a bunch of pumpkin beers just for you, dear reader, so you can make a wise choice at the store. Like most things pumpkin, these brews are seasonal, only making their appearance on shelves in the fall. Here are the ones I’m currently sipping because, yes, this is happening in real time.
*A small disclaimer: Much as discerning coffee drinkers roll their eyes at the pumpkin spice latte, some hardcore beer aficionados consider pumpkin beer a trendy trend. But not me, so, y’know, bring it on!
Southern Tier Brewing Company
8.6% ABV, 22oz
According to Southern Tier, Pumking is an ode to Púca, a Celtic spirit that grabs you off the road, tosses you on your back, and gives you a wild ride. It’s a crowd-pleaser, available at non-specialty (i.e. grocery) stores and just craft-y enough, but not so craft-y it’s precious. As a matter of fact, for some, Southern Tier is their entry into the craft beer world. It has a solid kick of pumpkin and spice—like pumpkin pie in a glass. If you’re not crazy about nutmeg, you might want to pass.
I’m sounding sort of smart right now, but keep in mind, I’m still sober.
Harvest Pumpkin Ale
5.70% ABV, 12oz
You know how when you go see Jack White at Madison Square Garden and there’s assigned seating, and then there’s general admission floor seating? Harvest Pumpkin Ale is sorta like GA. It’s democratic, for everyone, a beer of the people! Something you could crack with your Dad the Marine and he’d say, “Thought this was gonna be one of those girly beers!” and then you’d say, “No, sir, this here’s a highly quaffable ale!”
Dogfish Head Brewery
7.0% ABV, 12oz
Dogfish Head is accessible and turns out some of my favorite everyday beers, like Midas Touch and this one, Punkin, made with pumpkin meat, spices, and a dash of punk for good measure. The Kozik-esque 2014 label was designed by artist Jermaine Rogers (maybe you recognize the bear from your old KMFDM poster?), and brewery workers “punk out for punkin” on release day. God save the scene!
Just so you know: now I’m not so sober, and am snacking on a fun-size 3 Musketeers.
Shipyard Brewing Company
4.5% ABV, 12oz
Like Andrew W.K., Shipyard wants you to party hard. They suggest a shot of rum to go along with your Pumpkinhead, and even include various drink recipes that include the brew on their site. I suggest baking some Pumpkinhead Cupcakes while drinking the Smashed Pumpkinhead and listening to Smashing Pumpkins. Do you want to punch me? You could just drink the beer instead.
Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Imperial Pumpkin Ale
8.0% ABV, 12oz
In sorta-kinda-beer-terminology: smooth body, sugary, caramelly sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm, and a nice heartiness that compliments a cold night or a roast turkey. In regular person speak, that means it’s good and you should try it. With a roast turkey.
Heavy Seas Beer
10% ABV, 22oz
Sometimes, the best beers are the best-kept secrets (at least in my somewhat pedestrian opinion). Heavy Seas is one of them. Their Uncharted Waters cask program produced one of my favorites: the Great’ER Pumpkin. I’m a sucker for anything aged in a barrel that once held bourbon. Or rum. Or wine. Any booze, basically. And this one has a sweet booziness that, when combined with cinnamon and nutmeg notes, makes it an easy sipper.
Almanac Beer Company
12% ABV, 375ml
Fifty-percent barley wine-style ale aged in brandy and rye barrels for a year, fifty-percent barley wine brewed with spices? Hell yum. But here’s the thing, and I swear to god I’m not being elitist: I liked 2013’s better (which may have had to do with the fact that it aged on a shelf for a year). I liked it so much so that I excitedly bought three Heirloom Pumpkins at Whole Foods—after I bought my kale, of course—cracking one as soon as I got home. Alas, 2014’s is sour and farmhouse ale-y, while 2013’s had a round mouthfeel and exquisite notes of rye. It was rich; 2014’s is thin. Put it on the shelf for a year (or three, if you’re into aging).Avery Brewing Company
17.22% ABV, 15oz
Dear Pump[KY]n: will you marry me? Your bourbon barrel-aged hotness (Actual Beer Term, y’all), your subtle pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon spices that aren’t overwhelming or make me feel like I’m drinking a Yankee Candle, your insane 17.22% ABV that demands sipping, not gulping… We could make beautiful babies, Pump[KY]n, the kind that come out of the womb with a snifter in one hand and a pint in the other. We can even get your predecessor Rumpkin involved! Wait, this is starting to get weird, isn’t it?
I’ve clearly just hit my pumpkin beer limit, so please tuck me in and sing sweet bourbon-infused lullabies of Halloween and pumpkin patches. Goodnight. FL