By Kathy Lewinski
The leaves have changed and there is a crisp chill in the air. That can only mean one thing: breweries everywhere have released their seasonal pumpkin brews. So, how do you know which ones are the best for your Thanksgiving party? We picked up a selection of all the microbrewed pumpkin beers we could find at Twin Cities’ liquor stores, put together a tasting panel, and did the work for you.
Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Ale
This ale had a strong beer aroma, but didn’t follow through on flavor. On top of not having any pumpkin flavor, it didn’t even have much beer flavor.
Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager
The scents of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg greeted us upon opening this beer. We all loved the warm, spiced flavor of it, though we didn’t taste much pumpkin behind the spice.
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
We thought this tasted like a good amber, but didn’t taste any pumpkin or spice.
Tommyknocker Pumpkin Harvest Ale
On top of pumpkin, this ale was also flavored with molasses and spices. The molasses was the flavor and scent that really came through giving it a hint of smoke and making it seem more like a porter or a stout.
New Belgium Kick
This ale from the Lips of Faith series is not only flavored with pumpkin, but another classic fall food, cranberries. The cranberry flavor is much stronger than the pumpkin and adds a wonderful sourness to the beer. The pumpkin flavor seemed to almost be more of an aftertaste. We found it to be very reminiscent of the sour fruit beers we’d had in Belgium.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale
This was the beer that reminded us the most of pumpkin pie. It had one of the strongest pumpkin flavors of all the beers, as well as a hint of vanilla. One taster thought it tasted a bit like bourbon without the burn. It was a little on the sweet side making tasters say they wouldn’t want more than one.
Weyerbacker Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Cardamom was the primary aroma and flavor in this beer with a touch of licorice or coriander. Once again, we didn’t taste much pumpkin, but were intrigued by the unusual spices. Watch out, its 8 percent alcohol really packs a punch!
Southern Tier Pumking Ale
We were told this was “the pumpkin beer,” the one everyone looks for each year. It had the most pumpkin flavor of all the beers we tasted, but even stronger than the taste of pumpkin was the flavor and smell of toasted coconut and nuts. One taster equated it to Chick-o-Stick candies. A great dessert beer.
Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider
OK, this one is not a beer, but we couldn’t resist trying hard pumpkin cider. It tastes like a really good apple cider except it’s less acidic and sweet. None of the tasters said they would have pegged it as pumpkin, but they all thought it would be great warmed up with a cinnamon stick.
Kathy Lewinski lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Matt. Together they like to visit farmers markets, try out new restaurants and experiment in kitchen. You can read more of her food exploits at A Good Appetite. When not cooking she’s creating crafts for her other blog Just Crafty Enough.