Chow Bella's Guide to Pumpkin Beer 2012
In the past, pumpkin beers were rare -- a seasonal sideshow, showing up only in the breweries daring enough to make them and enjoyed only by drinkers willing to take a chance on the oddities. Today, however, brews made with pumpkin have officially become mainstream, with nearly every brewery worth its yeast churning out bottles and kegs packed with pumpkin, nutmeg, ginger and more. It's gotten to the point that finding the right pumpkin beer for your personal tastes can be as difficult as digging through the piles of orange at the grocery store to pick out the perfect Jack-O-Lantern.
Luckily, we're here to help. Below, a handy guide to all the pumpkin beers available in the Valley organized in order of those with just a dash of pumpkin to ones that'll make you feel like you got face-smashed by a pumpkin pie. No carving tools required.
With just a touch of pumpkin flavor, these brews are best for drinkers just getting into the flavors of fall.
Utah Brewers Cooperative, Utah
4 percent ABV
In a glass, this sessionable pumpkin ale shines with auburn brilliance. A nose of subtle roast pumpkin, cooked butter and pumpkin bread gives way to a light flavor that blends subtle squash, musty grain and mild pumpkin spice with a dry finish that wipes the tongue clean.
Lakefront Brewery, Inc., Wisconsin
6 percent ABV
The light, grainy character of a lager blends with the sweet spice of pumpkin in this brew. Easy-drinking, but perhaps lacking in depth.
Pumpkin Springs Porter
Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Williams, Ariz.
This brew is named for the Pumpkin Springs, a large pool within the Grand Canyon that's been stained orange by trace minerals in the water. Like the landmark, the beer doesn't have much connection to actual pumpkin -- a flavor filled with bittersweet crumbles of dark chocolate and burnt malt masks most of the gourd's flavor.
Mudshark Brewing Co., Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
5.2 percent ABV
Though this brew is spiced with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and coriander, brewers used a gentle hand -- pumpkin shines through while the overt spiciness that turns many off of pumpkin beers is left behind.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Michigan
6 percent ABV
La Parcela is special for two reasons: it's the lone sour beer on this list, and it's the only actual pumpkin beer Jolly Pumpkin makes. Tart lemon, apricot and wheat mix up front while sweet pumpkin puree, cacao, clove and nutmeg chill in the background. A pumpkin ale...from Jolly Pumpkin? MADNESS!
Shipyard Brewing Co., Maine
5.1 percent ABV
Shipyard brews two pumpkin beers -- one for the laymen and one for the pumpkin freaks. Pumpkinhead is the former, blending a light wheat ale base with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.