Over the years Scott has reviewed, here at The Brewclub, a number of Pumpkin Ales. It’s not something that’re really taken off over here in Blighty. However, I recently spotted a couple of British Pumpkin beers, and as they’re from breweries I respect I thought I should try them out.
And hey, it’s Halloween!
Wychwood Pumpking 3.8% ABV
I recently reviewed the Wychwood brewery’s ‘Hobgoblin‘ ale; Wychwood have branded Hobgoblin ‘the unofficial beer of Halloween’ – well the kids are out ‘trick or treating’, so why not kick back and enjoy a beer or two?
Wychwood have gone one stage further, for the last few years they’ve brewed a seasonal ‘Pumpkin’ ale, although to be honest, this year is the first year I’ve spotted it in my local stores.
This particular ‘Pumpking’ is not to be confused with the Southern Tier brew of the same name that comes in at a – frankly scary – 8.6% ABV.
Wychwood describe this as a “rich ruby ale… brewed with pumpkin and mace to add a gently warming seasonal spiciness”. The addition of Mace sounds good to me, as I can’t really recall pumpkin actually tasting of anything much. That said, let’s see how this turns out.
Well, it pours a rich amber colour, not too orangey, not too sure where the ‘ruby’ fits in with that, with an off-white head. There’s not too much head, but what there is laces nicely down the glass.
Similarly, there’s not much nose to speak of, there’s toffee in there and maybe some dried fruit. This doesn’t bode well for the flavour.
I was wrong, this is full flavoured, with toffee and spices, the mace is evident, along (I suspect) with nutmeg. There’s dried fruit in there with ripe apples, and a hoppy – ‘old school hops’ bite, but (thankfully) little evidence of pumpkin.
Flavour-wise, at just 3.8% ABV this punches above its weight, it would make an ideal Halloween party session beer, with no hangovers.
As such, I’m happy to give this three and a half Brewclub stars.
Brewdog Pumpkinhead 5.1% ABV
I’m known as a Brewdog fanboy, so how could I resist this?
Brewdog have done their research, and claim that their pumpkin brew is “not your usual unctuous, cloyingly sweet Hallowe’en pumpkin ale.” (to be fair, nor was Wychwood’s) “Sure, there’s a huge heady hit of pungent spice on the nose, but it’s followed with bright and zesty citrus flavours, and a light mouthfeel“. Well, I’m up for that!
The recipe is based on a blend of Amber, Dark Crystal, Extra Pale and Munich malts, while the hops include First Gold, Nugget and Willamette – those are new to me. They’ve also spiced this ale with Allspice, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Nutmeg and – another new one to me – ‘Grains of Paradise’ (Aframomum melegueta – also known as ‘Alligator Pepper).
It pours an amber colour, almost pumpkin coloured, with a full, white head.
The nose is cough-candy and exotic white pepper, I’m guessing that’s those ‘Grains of Paradise’, but when you sip it the flavours are reversed. The pepper hits first, then the cough-candy rushes in to give you a warming cuddle. That’s followed by the comforting malts, then cinnamon and cloves and finally citrus hops.
Thankfully there’s little evidence of the Pumpkin, but this is a Halloween (or maybe Christmas) party in a glass.
This is one of those brews that reveals something spicy and exotic with every sip, the aforementioned cloves, cinnamon, along with star anise, ginger, burnt toast and toffee apples, each flavour lurking behind the pepper that dominates.
To be honest, the pepper is a little overpowering, but I’d love to cook with it.
And, for Brewdog, it’s quite restrained, strength-wise, at just 5.1% ABV; this could have stood another percent or two of alcohol.
It’s a fascinating brew, but I’m not sure I could manage more than one at a time. As such, I’m going to give it three Brewclub stars.
All in all an interesting journey. If I were throwing a Halloween party (which I’m not) then I’d probably serve the Wychwood Pumpking, along with their Hobgoblin, but would have a few bottles of the Brewdog Pumpkinhead to hand for those ‘do you want to try this‘ moments.