In my opinion fall and winter are the best times of the year for a beer drinker. As food flavors deepen into fall, you need a change of pace from summer’s cheerful pale lagers. The stouts, barley wines, browns and some great seasonal brews all make their arrival.
One seasonal that always draws me in is the pumpkin ale. I make it a mission to seek out the best of the year.
I usually try to buy the pumpkin ales in mix packs or as singles because more then one or two gets to be a bit much. Pumpkin Ales can be quite varied. Some brewers use natural ingredients, even choosing to hand-cut pumpkins and drop them, while others use flavoring. Most are spiced in a way to make them taste like pumpkin pie using ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. The average alcohol by volume can range from 4 to 7 percent.
I feel the better pumpkin ales contain natural, hand-made ingredients though I am told that it is quite a labor-intensive project for brewers.
To me most of the brews change pretty significantly over the course of a few years so that is why it is important to revisit them. For example, I feel Post Road (Brooklyn Brewery) was once a top 10 but has now faded back to the pack.
The one real standout I had this year was the Pumking from Southern Tier. This was a pumpkin pie on steroids, wow. Also up there on the list this year was the Dogfish Pumkin and the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin. Does Weyerbacher do anything wrong?
The good ones are hard to get as they go quick. I hear that Cambridge Brewing Company in Connecticut has a great one on tap but I haven’t made it up there yet. Hopefully I will before Halloween.
What I have had and liked this month
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
An American Strong Ale brewed by Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware USA, ABV: 12%
Poured from the bottle into a snifter a dark, dark black with hints of brown when it hits the light just right. The head was beautiful with tan or brownish hints. The aroma was malty, with slight wood or earth notes and through in some caramel and vanilla. It is clear immediately that this would age in an awesome way. The taste is so full with dark fruits and a very unique wood like taste. It is sweet at times and bitter – outstanding. Sweet toasty malt taste with slight bitter hop middle and alcohol finish. On the palate the flavor keeps developing for quite a while. Just really nice and a big kudos to Dogfish for pushing the boundaries a bit.
Jerrod Ferrari is editor of The Stamford Times and Wilton Villager. He is also the operator of It’s The Beer Talking blog at https://beertalking.wordpress.com/