The Hippo


Jun 17, 2019








 What’s in My Fridge

Samuel Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkin: You know what, Samuel Adams makes far too many beers. It’s overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean they don’t make good beer. The pumpkin flavor in this brew is not exactly subtle, but it’s definitely not overbearing. This is what a pumpkin ale should be: crisp, pumpkiny, malty and with notes of spice, caramel and nutmeg, but not sticky sweet. A nice seasonal change of pace for your palate. 

Pumpkins and beer
OK, now you can drink pumpkin-flavored beer


 Years ago, when I first had a pumpkin beer in the fall — probably a Shipyard Pumpkinhead — the concept was revolutionary. The autumn-y flavor of pumpkin paired beautifully with rich, toasty malts and a milder hop character. 

Something happened, though. Beer drinkers’ tastes changed or brewers started going overboard with the pumpkin — maybe both. The fall-time proliferation of pumpkin-flavored everything probably didn’t help, nor does the fact that you can get pumpkin-flavored beers in August nowadays. (It’s too soon and you know it.)
The uniqueness of pumpkin and beer has been lost. Now, it’s ubiquitous in the fall and downright controversial at times. Beer drinkers can get up in arms about pumpkin beer: “Don’t even think about putting cinnamon and sugar on the rim of my glass.” Brewers have strong opinions too: White Birch Brewing suggests drinkers “say no to pumpkin beers” on its website, while Henniker Brewing Co. states, simply, that “pumpkin beers are gross,” on the label write-up for its own fall seasonal offering. 
But none of this means all pumpkin beer is bad. (Some of it is.)  I like pumpkin beers, I think, but I definitely do not like all pumpkin beers. Frankly, it can be challenging to find good pumpkin beer. 
Take India pale ales (IPA). When was the last time you had a bad IPA, as in you didn’t even want to finish it? It’s probably happened but you can probably count the instances with two fingers. Now, when was the last time you had a bad pumpkin beer? Was it yesterday? I’m going to lean way out on a limb and say there’s at least a 50-percent chance you didn’t like the last pumpkin beer you tried. 
If this doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement for the style, that’s because for every pumpkin beer I truly enjoy, there are probably three others I could do without. And my sense is many a craft beer drinker feels the same way. 
Far too many pumpkin beers are overly sweet and overly pumpkiny. I want to taste a beer with the subtle, nuanced infusion of pumpkin but without the pumpkin flavor — often more like pumpkin pie spice — taking over the brew. Many of the pumpkin-infused offerings taste artificial.
I’ve found that darker beers, like porters, can be the perfect brew style in which to infuse that pumpkin flavor. In my perfect vision of a pumpkin porter, the rich malt is the main attraction with the pumpkin flavor lending a touch of sweetness, spice and complexity to the brew. That said, I’ve had too many pumpkin porters that taste like pumpkin syrup. 
So what do you do? Do you give up and write off pumpkin beers as a style? You could. Or you could accept that as a style it’s kind of a crapshoot. That means there are some good ones out there. 
My recommendation would be to take advantage of craft beer stores’ “mix and match” policies—make a pumpkin beer six-pack and sample your way through. I bet you’ll enjoy half of them. You’re welcome. 
Here are four New Hampshire-made pumpkin beers for your taste buds’ consideration:
Pumpkin Ale by Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Portsmouth) - Lighter-bodied with real pumpkin flavor. 
Pumpkinweizen by Martha’s Exchange Restaurant & Brewing Co. (Nashua) - This is an intriguing brew—a creamy German wheat beer with roasted pumpkin. 
Grumpy Pumpkin Ale by Stark Brewing Co. (Manchester) - Big pumpkin flavor up front balanced with nutmeg, brown sugar and vanilla. 
Homecoming by Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (Merrimack) - Pumpkin hits the main stage here, as brewers pushed the pumpkin flavor forward and pulled back on the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. 
Jeff Mucciarone is a senior account executive with Montagne Communications, where he provides communications support to the New Hampshire wine and spirits industry. 

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu