Pumpkin Beer may sound a bit strange to the uninitiated but in fact there’s a long history of pumpkin being used in beer in North America. Apparently Pumpkin was originally used in beer there as a substitute ingredient when malt was hard to come by but is now more valued for its flavour.
Pumpkin beer has become a seasonal staple of the craft beer scene in the US where pumpkin is a popular part of the Fall season, from the carving of pumpkins at Halloween to the eating of pumpkin pie.
The pumpkin beers produced today are more like pumpkin pie in a glass, with a slight pumpkin taste but more focus on spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove.
I’ve had a couple of pumpkin beers in Australian on tap over the years and found them really enjoyable. There was the light, refreshing and wonderfully sessionable take from Murray’s that I thought could have been a go-to beer for me if it was produced more regularly. And there was the very tasty Pumpkin Porter from Moon Dog, where chocolate and pumpkin were combined to wonderful effect.
So when I recently came across Gage Road Pumpkin Ale longnecks selling at a ridiculously cheap $3 at my local Woolies along with another discounted Pumpkin Ale from a New York state brewery Saranac, I thought I’d give them both a try and have a pumpkin-beer-off.
Gage Roads versus Saranac – the battle of the pumpkin ales
The Gage Roads was a very light bodied beer with a yellow golden colour, and fairly fizzy. A festive spice mix of cinnamon and spice and all things nice emanates from the glass. The pumpkin is sweet and savoury, masking some of the bitterness, and the spices linger slightly after the taste.
Saranac has a darker amber body. The head quickly dissipates after pouring and there is a light aroma of cinnamon and spices on the nose. The beer is a lot more subtle than the Gage Roads due to the stronger malt profile that hides some of pumpkin and spices.
If you like smooth well-balanced maltier beers, then Saranac’s your ticket. The Gage Roads is more like a lager in body but that also allows the spices to shine through more, so if you like a bit more zing and taste as I do, then you might prefer that. I can’t imagine drinking a lot of either, but one or two is quite refreshing and tasty.
Another pumpkin beer that I’ve yet to try but sounds great is Hop Dog Brewery’s All Hallowed Ale, which the Craft Pint gives quite a plug.