Although we may look at pumpkin ale as a novelty it no doubt placed a principle role in beer production during the first influx of pilgrims and colonists to the new world with their lack of malt and barley production and future prohibitive cost of importing these beer making essentials from the old world. Modern pumpkin ale production as we know and taste it has been limited to the last two and half decades. Pumpkin ale? For me it falls into two distinct families: fresh pumpkin tasting (roasted or fresh pumpkin) or pumpkin pie tasting (emphasis on the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).
Steamwork's Brewing (British Columbia) Draught, The Great Pumpkin Ale, falls into the pumpkin pie school of beer profiles. Although tamer than past batches this beer is Amber coloured with little lacing. It is full-bodied, lightly carbonated, and loaded with sweet cinnamon, clove, all spice, and hints of ginger. For me one pint is enough.
The Brooklyn Brewing (New York) Post Road Pumpkin Ale (bottle) was tasted at Pourhouse. This ale was more of a bridge style between the fresh pumpkin family and pumpkin pie family of production. It is orange-amber colour, medium-bodied, more carbonated than the Steamwork's ale and had noticeable lacing and carbonated head. Aromas were leaning towards fresh pumpkin with overtones of cinnamon and nutmeg. On the palate the Post Road was drier and lighter in texture with more biscuit and malt than pumpkin flavours.
My favourite pumpkin ale this year based on the small selection I tried has to be the Vancouver Island Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale (bottle) from Philips Brewing. This amber gold coloured ale had a beautiful fresh pumpkin aroma, refreshing carbonation and nice lacing. It is medium-bodied and has perfectly balanced flavours with fresh cut pumpkin, all spice, and cinnamon. By far the best of the three this year. The Steamwork's Great Pumpkin Ale is ideally suited to drink solo with its inherent sweetness but could marry to pumpkin pie, maple glazed yams, honey glazed carrots, or white meat poulty. The Post Road will nicely pair with yam fries or pumpkin ale battered fish and chips. Phillip's Crooked Tooth Ale with its superb balance would make a good all round autumnal food beer - try with a squash risotto, maple glazed wild BC salmon, or candied beets.