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Guest post | Blake Marcum: Giving thanks for pumpkin beer in the 901

November 24, 2014 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Distribution, Memphis

The following is a guest post from Memphis craft beer drinker and pumpkin beer connoisseur Blake Marcum.

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As Memphians huddle beside the propane heaters, enjoying the last few moments of patio time in fall before the dark cold winter casts it gloom and frost into our hearts and we find ourselves amid the dizzying display of winter beer, we can all take comfort in knowing that pumpkin beer can still be found on the store shelves in the 901.

Blake Marcum

Blake Marcum

The popularity of pumpkin beers has grown at an astronomical rate in America. What is more surprising is the enjoyment of this wonderful liquid is shared among the craft beer and macro beer crowd alike.

The greatest of all achievements of pumpkin beer may be how equally received it is by both men and women.

New pumpkin styles have also arrived, with pumpkin porters, imperial stouts, saisons and even IPAs as brewers continue their journey to tempt us with their creations. While not all of those can be found in the Mid-South, there are several that you can still bring to the Thanksgiving table to make that family time a lot more enjoyable (tolerable). We wanted to share our top list of pumpkin beers in the 901 that you should still be looking for.

Most beer rating systems are based on appearance, aroma, mouth feel, flavor and just an overall impression of the beer. With pumpkin beer we have to add a different dynamic as the beers have an unusual flavor pattern, which for this list we’ll call the Pumpkind Scale, a rating of what kind of pumpkin flavor the beer has. Some are like drinking pumpkin pie with the high spice load and some have a more gourd-like taste truer to the actual pumpkin. Which is better is up to you to decide.

Blackstone’s Pumpkin Ale:

Blackstone’s Pumpkin Ale

1.Blackstone Brewing Co.’s Pumpkin Ale: Our Nashville neighbor’s co-founder Kent Taylor told me that he did not even want to make this beer. He got talked into it and the popularity has skyrocketed in the state. I buy eight cases of this beer to enjoy and to share. It’s like drinking pumpkin pie that is not overwhelming after you’ve had a few.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

2. Schlafly Beer’s Pumpkin Ale: At 8% ABV, this pumpkin not only possesses incredible flavor, but also carries an alcohol level that will have you feeling extremely cozy by the fire.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

3. New Belgium Brewing’s Pumpkick: Our good friends at New Belgium proved that just because they are the 3rd largest independent brewery in the country, didn’t mean that they couldn’t learn a few new tricks. The 2013 Pumpkick had only a faint hint of gourd in it and almost no recognizable spice. While some liked it, I hated its innocence and lack of complexity that New Belgium brings to so many other styles. I decided to try the 2014 and was blown away by the spice load and complexity of flavors in it. They added cranberries and a touch of lemongrass to the recipe, because they’re New Belgium and well… why not? A very enjoyable beer.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

4. The Traveler Beer Company’s Jack-O Traveler: Traveler really impressed me with this one, considering it is so far outside of its normal shandy lineup. Drinking this beer is like enjoying your grandma’s pumpkin pie, but your crazy uncle got a hold of it first and added some alcohol.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

Pumpkin beer haul

Pumpkin beer haul

5. Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead: This is a great pumpkin for those who want some pumpkin, but not with the overwhelming nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon load that accompanies so many others. Pumpkin fans from both sides of the spice scale can enjoy this one, but those who want pumpkin pie will only get a faint taste of what they truly want.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice

6. (TIE) Blue Moon Brewing Co.’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Shock Top’s Pumpkin Wheat: Both of these are enjoyable pumpkin offerings that you could drink daily, but don’t possess the strong distinction that the others on the list do.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

7. Magic Hat Brewing Company’s Wilhelm Scream: I couldn’t believe Magic Hat attempted a pumpkin beer when I first saw this. I also couldn’t believe I actually enjoyed a Magic Hat beer after I tasted it. This one tasted like the Magic Hat team just threw whatever ingredients in that were supposed to make a pumpkin beer, but somehow it worked out. I look forward to how it turns out next year.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

8. Redhook Ale Brewery’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter: The one dark pumpkin you can find in the 901 is a nice porter with low deep hanging pumpkin flavors that are quite enjoyable for the dark beer drinkers out there.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice, porter

9. O’Fallon Brewery’s Pumpkin Beer: This beer blew me away in 2013, but changed the recipe to lower the spice load in 2014. It is still a very enjoyable pumpkin, but I hope the 2015 version will need a fork to enjoy.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

10. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Punkin Ale: Most craft beer fans in the 901 will not be pleased to see Dogfish Head down at the bottom of the list, because we’re all so happy to see them back in the Bluff City. The reason the Punkin Ale goes to the bottom is because it’s not a true pumpkin beer. Dogfish describes the beer as “a full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar.” As far as a brown ale with hints of pumpkin goes, it’s enjoyable. As far as a pumpkin beer goes, it has a long way to go and I don’t think Dogfish Head is truly embracing the concept, although their bottle art suggests differently.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice, brown ale

Either way you prefer to land on the scale, there are still plenty of enjoyable pumpkin beers available for your table. And while no local brewery makes a pumpkin beer currently, I believe it only to be a matter of time before we’re discussing which brewery in Memphis does pumpkin best. So go forth and make those pilgrims jealous with a great pumpkin beer.

Cheers!

1 Comments to “Guest post | Blake Marcum: Giving thanks for pumpkin beer in the 901”


  1. An interesting and informative list! However, for a pumpkin beer connoisseur, you are inconsistent about your definition of what is and what is not a pumpkin beer, eh.

    If you must penalized Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale for describing their beer as a “full bodied brown ale” as opposed to a pumpkin beer, then you must penalize Redhook’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter as well as Shock Top’s Pumpkin Wheat. And you must certainly penalize Jack-O-Traveler as it is a Shandy, eh. Shandy is a beer cocktail!

    Also, we’re pretty sure that New Belgium’s Pumpkick had cranberries and lemongrass in it last year. But that’s neither here nor there. The real question is how come Americans have twist off beer caps and Canadians don’t?

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