Not even beer is immune to season creep, it seems, as pumpkin ales hit store shelves as early as July this year. To beat the saturation, we consulted Mike Troy, owner of Crafted Drafts in Gahanna, in highlighting this season's best bets.
Not even beer is immune to season creep, it seems, as pumpkin ales hit store shelves as early as July this year. Many distributors and breweries push seasonal offerings earlier each year, says Mike Troy, owner of Crafted Drafts in Gahanna, in hopes of creating more demand for their products. Instead, he finds that shoppers are simply overwhelmed with choices. So we consulted Troy (who refused to shelf pumpkin brews until mid-September) in highlighting this season's best bets.
Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher Brewing Co. | 8 percent ABV
Troy considers Weyerbacher's seasonal offering to be the best pumpkin beer available this year, recommending it as an alternative to Southern Tier Brewing Company's popular Pumking. "It's not overly spicy or pumpkin-y," he says. "It has a nice, warming malt, and the balance is just perfect.
Smashed Pumpkin, Shipyard Brewing Co. | 9 percent ABV
Unlike Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Smashed Pumpkin offers all the pumpkin spice you could ever want. Troy has several customers who even use the ale to flavor pumpkin bread and stew. "If you like that strong pumpkin flavor-or if you're the kind of person who just gobbles up Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte-you're going to like this beer," he says.
Country Pumpkin, Ithaca Beer Company | 6.3 percent ABV
Ithaca's Country Pumpkin is lighter in color and body than most pumpkin beers, with a milder spice profile, too. "It's easy drinking," Troy says of the beer. "If you're looking to find a pumpkin beer but don't like these big, over-the-top [beers], this is the route to go."
Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale, North Peak Brewing Company | 5.5 percent ABV
Hooligan is the pumpkin beer for IPA lovers. This hops-heavy ale out of Traverse City, Michigan, also boasts an earthy yam flavor, unique among most pumpkin beers. "If you like hops and hate all things pumpkin-but want to drink some seasonal beers with your friends-this is a really good option," Troy says.
Bonus: Pi, Wolf's Ridge Brewing | 8 percent ABV
If you want to try Wolf's Ridge Brewing's first pumpkin beer, Pi, you better hurry. Lead brewer Chris Davison says it's not going to last long.
Pi was previewed at the Downtown brewpub the last weekend of September and is now being offered until it runs out-which may be as soon as early November.
To make Pi, Davison and his team oven-roasted Jacquemin Farms pumpkins over pecan wood. Then, the pumpkins were stirred into the beer's mash with nutmeg, ginger root and cinnamon stick. Lastly, during fermentation, oak staves and Madagascar vanilla beans were added to the mix.
"There's definitely spices in there, but there's a little more ginger character than cinnamon, which plays nicely with the alcohol," Davison says of the ale. "There's sweet, malty notes of ginger bread and graham cracker and a little vanilla and oak, too."