Beer Scout: Pumpkin for your pint

GOOD GOURDS: Some Asheville breweries use local pumpkins in their autumn brews, like the ones shown here from First Blossom Farm in Leicester. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

Pumpkin-spiced lattes, pumpkin Oreos, heck, even pumpkin croutons:  If you can eat or drink it, someone is trying to make it with pumpkin. When it comes to beer, pumpkin ale tends to elicit a love-it-or-hate-it response. Some order a seasonal beer for the only time all year while others scoff at the style. Wherever you stand, there’s no arguing this year’s crop of pumpkin beers is Asheville’s biggest — and most diverse — yet.

Some local breweries are sticking with the classics, making pumpkin and spice-forward amber ales that tickle your pumpkin pie synapses. Others are going a bit off the beaten path, adding pumpkin to an IPA or porter. And a couple are even experimenting with the idea of what a pumpkin beer can be, with tart or sour pumpkin ales.

The Classics

King Don’s Pumpkin Ale (Catawba Brewing Co.): With 16 years of history, King Don is the area’s granddaddy of pumpkin ales. Starting this year, it’s also the first local pumpkin beer available in cans. When you crack one open, you’ll find Don delivers an old-school pumpkin beer in every way, amber in color with heavy pumpkin-pie spicing. It was available starting in early September, so check stores soon before it’s gone for the season. 

Pumpkin on the Ledge (Highland Brewing Co.): Amidst news of expansion plans, Highland managed to squeeze in a small-batch brew that will help Aloft Hotel celebrate its second anniversary. Pumpkin on the Ledge will push 7 percent ABV and feature the flavors of pumpkin, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and allspice. Look for it at Aloft’s last pool party of the season on Oct. 26 and at Highland’s tasting room the week of Halloween (starting Oct. 27).

Pumpk-Anne (Wicked Weed Brewing Co.): Wicked Weed made four pumpkin beers this year, and the brewery recently released all of them with a big pumpkin party at the taproom. However, at the time of writing all were still available, so it’s worth trying your luck downtown. Pumpk-Anne, which was also brewed last year, is the company’s classic take on the style. It’s spiced with a blend of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and allspice. 

Pumpkin Ale (Pisgah Brewing Co.): Pisgah’s business park neighbor is New Sprout Farms, so it only makes sense the two collaborate every year on a pumpkin beer. Fresh spices, including ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, are added to the beer along with very fresh cooked pumpkin. This year’s batch will be out Friday, Oct. 10, at the Pisgah taproom, at a few lucky pubs around town and at Asheville Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Big and Bold 

Slasher Sweet Potato Porter (Burial Beer Co.): OK, so this one’s an almost-pumpkin beer. But Burial is brewing Slasher with 30 pounds of sweet potatoes from Paper Crane Farm per barrel for big, sweet potato flavor. To add some additional complexity, the potatoes will be smoked by 12 Bones before they’re added to the beer. According to Burial, the brewery chose a porter, hoping it will be the perfect beer for the cooler weather in early November, when it will host its inaugural Burn Pile event at the taproom on Saturday, Nov. 1. The beer will debut at that event.

Burning Ham Pumpkin Porter (Wicked Weed Brewing Co.): Burial is not the only one enlisting the help of Asheville’s favorite smokehouse. 12 Bones smoked malt from Riverbend Malt House for Wicked Weed’s smoked pumpkin porter. Brewer Luke Dickinson says the beer will feature caramelized grilled pumpkin to play off the smoked malt flavor and a subtle touch of spices. 

Pumpkin IPA (Lookout Brewing Co.): The only IPA on the list, Lookout’s pumpkin ale is more of a Thanksgiving beer than a Halloween offering. The malty IPA is brewed with not only pumpkin but with cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove as well. Lookout owner and brewer John Garcia says to think of it as a Thanksgiving dessert. Look for it later in the month at Lookout’s taproom in Black Mountain and in town at Creekside Taphouse. 

The Unusual 

Jack O’Hammered Pumpkin Ale (Wicked Weed Brewing Co.): The brewers at Wicked Weed use a good amount of French Broad Chocolate Lounge’s cocoa nibs. However, this might be the only time all year those nibs meet up with pumpkin in a beer. As if that weren’t enough flavor, Wicked Weed spiced the beer with a blend of peppers, including fresno and ancho for a complex flavor and a bit of heat. 

Pumpkick (New Belgium Brewing Co.): A hit of cranberry juice brings an unexpected burst of flavor — and a hint of tartness — to New Belgium’s Pumpkick. The brewery also uses pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and lemongrass for a beer that fits right in with the changing season. 

Pompoen Sour Pumpkin (Wicked Weed Co.): Of course Wicked Weed had to brew at least one sour pumpkin beer. For this one, the brewers added blackened smoked ginger to a pumpkin beer they brewed last year. Then they transferred it to their wine barrels where it’s been souring ever since. If you hate the typical pumpkin spice beer, this is the pumpkin ale for you.

 

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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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