With it being Halloween and all, I figured I would put out something in relation to one of the most popular craft products: pumpkin beers. Right now, the LCBO shelves are literally overflowing with pumpkin ales, many having resorted to special stands holding only these products. Given the dizzying breadth of styles, prices and quality, I figured I would throw together a quick guide for those new to this phenomenon.
Generally speaking, pumpkin ales tend to be spiced ale which mimick the smells and tastes of pumpkin pie. Many also have real pumpkin in them. Pumpkin ales are one of the most popular seasonal products from craft brewers. It makes sense: they are a relatively easy to produce and generally feature approachable flavours and aromas which, in turn, gives them a wider audience. That said, as anyone who has gotten adventurous with this style can tell you, it has the potential to produce some downright awful beer. Less scrupulous brewers may use the spices to cover off notes in the base beer and some may not have experience using fresh pumpkin in their brewing process. So, here are a some beers, broken down into categories for you to try.
Basic Pumpkin Beers
These are generally equivalent to a British Pale Ale with spices and pumpkin added. These are ideal for newer craft drinkers as the flavours tend to be familiar and mild. These beers are quite food friendly and will go great with poultry, vegetable soups and, of course, pumpkin pie.
Beer of Choice: Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale
Imperial Pumpkin Beers
Many brewers have started to put out high gravity pumpkin ales. Since spicing is a familiar process in certain Belgian styles, the idea is not totally without precedent. While definitely more intense than the previous category of beers, these still tend to be brewed with drinkability in mind so I’d recommend them to less advanced craft drinkers as well. A word of warning though: flavoured beers can be deceptive in their alcoholic strength so be sure to keep track of what you’ve out away. I’ve heard that a pumpkin ale hangover is uniquely terrible and may disable you from ever eating pumpkin again.
Beer of Choice: Flying Monkeys Paranormal
Recently, a number of brewers have started using the pumpkin and spice treatment on more eclectic beer styles. If you want to try pumpkin beers but are unwilling to give up your hop / belgian fix, these might be for you.
Beer of Choice: Great Lakes Saison du Pump
Other Recommendations: Tree Brewing Jumpin’ Jack (Spiced IPA) – Note: The LCBO lists this at 5% – It’s actually 6.5%