Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crisp October Days Need Crisp Pumpkin Brews:

Even the casual beer lover knows this is the time of year for the harvest-themed brews.  Hundreds of companies get into the autumn spirit by pumping their beers full of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and/or pumpkin.


I've tried several, and I have never been overly enthusiastic about any of them (however, the Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale is quite good).  This year, I tasted two new (to me) pumpkin-based beverages:

Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider & Shipyard Brewing Company's Pumpkin-head Ale

Why Woodchuck?
The box is ready for hunting season.
I like this Vermont brewery, but most of their products are a bit sweet for my taste, so I mix them with Harp (known as a Snakebite to most Brits).  I've never had pumpkin cider, and the lady at the store informed me this private reserve is only made for less than 24 hrs, so they don't receive many cases.  A review at the Washington Post mentions that Woodchuck's president claims he secures the pumpkin mash “from the pumpkin patch of an employee who lives 10 miles away."  At 6.9%, the alcohol content is high for a cider, but I couldn't tell.  I'll be honest, this is good, but was a little disappointing.  "Pumpkin/apple-flavored water" might be a good description.  The carbonation was light, the amber color was nice, but upon swallowing the flavor disappeared. 

Cost:  I payed around $10 for a six pack, including tax.  May be cheaper in Texas or in the Northeast.

Why Shipyard?

Good God, why not?  That's what I thought after first sampling Pumpkinhead Ale at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in Florida this year.  While Beer Advocate gives this light-colored brew a dismal rating, my husband and I were frankly surprised.  Eleven pounds of pumpkin truly impart a pumpkiny flavor, without all those superfluous spices getting in the way.  Sure, sometimes I want a beer with hints of cloves and ginger.  If that's the only sort of harvest beer you like, you won't enjoy this.  God and Maine intended this 5.1% ale to be enjoyed on a warm Indian-summer fall day. I've tried this out of a room-temperature glass, out of the bottle like a heathen, and out of a frosty glass.  I recommend the room-temperature glass, as the flavors have a chance to warm to full potential.

Cost:  I only bought it in Florida, where the price was very reasonable (around $5 a bottle in a restaurant).

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