October. From the Latin word “octo”, meaning eight. Which makes complete sense, because it’s the tenth month of the year (damn you July and August!). The first full month of autumn. At the end of the month, we celebrate Satan’s Christmas, or, more commonly, Halloween!
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? Trick-or-treating? Ghosts and ghouls? Witches flying by on broomsticks? Pumpkins?
Ah, pumpkins! Since it’s time for October, time for fall, it must be time for pumpkins! And where there are pumpkins, there’s pumpkin beer!
Many brewers across the country (and abroad) try their hand at pumpkin beers. It’s a festive beer, something to foreshadow the pumpkin pie you’re going to have for Thanksgiving. It’s chock full of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It has that starchy, almost fruity, bite of fresh pumpkin. It holds a sweet, malty goodness like maple syrup. It surprises you with a dash of hoppiness to complete the package. Pumpkin beers are great… or so I’ve heard.
I’ve never been a big fan of pumpkin beers. I tend to find them a bit over powering. I can handle a little spice in my beer. But for me, pumpkin beers just seem to push the envelope a bit too far and send cinnamon and nutmeg exploding out in a dusty cloud of overpowering flavor. Although, for some reason, every year I order them. I order all of them. I can’t get enough of them. I really have a hard time explaining it. Whenever the calendar flips to October, my brain switches into pumpkin beer mode. I just wish my taste buds would follow suit.
Three of a Kind!
First up is Heavy Seas’ The Great’er Pumpkin
The Greater Pumpkin. I feel like they named it as such just to pick on poor Linus, who’s currently sitting out in some soggy pumpkin patch. The version I got was actually on cask, so it may vary a little from what you would get in a bottle. The Greater Pumpkin pours an orange color, almost neon, with a slight cloudiness. It has the telltale scent of a pumpkin beer: pumpkin pie. This one seemed a bit heavy on the nutmeg. The taste is just an explosion of flavors. A slightly bourbon-like front followed by pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, syrupy malt. There’s a mild alcohol burn, and I’m guessing that the cask intensified the bourbon flavor. This beer is listed as an imperial pumpkin, so expect it to give you a bit of a kick. Overall, I’d give it a 5 out of 10 (if you love pumpkin beers, it’s more like an 8).
Next, the Southern Tier PumKing
PumKing. Everyone talks this beer up. With a name like “PumKing”, it’s gotta be the best, right? Well, I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I thought this beer was awful! The PumKing was a deep yellow color, almost copper. It literally smelled like a pumpkin pie. I mean literally, because you could even smell the whip cream on top. The flavor left a lot to be desired. There was a mild pumpkin start, which quickly shifted to a sugary sweetness, almost caramel, and the finish made me want to scrape my mouth out. It had a burnt aftertaste, like bad popcorn, or maybe Southern Tier just left the pumpkin pie in the oven too long. The finish killed me. I’d give it a 2 out of 10 (Feel free to bump up the rating if you love pumpkin beers, but I’d still avoid it).
New Holland’s Ichabod
Remember the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman? Man, I love Halloween! The Ichabod was the only beer I had that wasn’t listed as “imperial”, so it’s a bit lower on the booze scale. It does, however, still pack some quality flavor. The Ichabod pours a deep orange color, nearly brown. It has a spicy pumpkin aroma (what did you expect?). The taste was quite good. It has a sweet, malty pumpkin start, a refreshing citrusy hop flavor, and a slightly bitter finish that doesn’t linger too long. Overall, this was my favorite of the bunch. I’d give it a 6 out of 10.
This week I’m throwing in a Wild Card… Woodchuck’s Pumpkin Cider!
It was hard to miss the Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider on the rack with its ridiculously bright label. Seriously, it’s brighter than a roadside construction sign. I’m not too keen on Woodchuck ciders. I’ve always found them to be closer to appletinis than hard cider. But, I saw pumpkin on the label and, like I said before, my brain ordered it before really thinking about it. I was pleasantly surprised. The Pumpkin Cider was a golden color, as per usual with Woodchuck. The aroma was great. A nice mix of apple, cinnamon and pumpkin; like a small farm harvest party. The flavor was sweet, balanced more on the apple than the pumpkin. There was a mild pumpkin flavor mixed in, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Although it was very sugar sweet, it finished crisp and faded away. Overall, not bad, a 5 out of 10.
All of these beers (and cider) should be available at your local beer store. The cask of Heavy Seas was available at RFD, but may still be at Churchkey. The PumKing can be found at most bars (and should be avoided at all costs). The Ichabod is kicking around stores, but should be appearing at your local watering hole soon. The cider was at RFD, I haven’t seen it elsewhere besides at RFD and Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits on Connecticut Ave NW last night.
Please hit up the comments and let me know your favorite pumpkin beverage (and feel free to rip into me if you absolutely love the PumKing). Also, any suggestions for the next Three of a Kind are more than welcome!
Thanks for reading!