Giving thanks is a matter of joy. Thanksgiving brings family and friends together, strengthening ties and reminding us of the better things in life. The ritual of raising a glass is a distinctive and elating aspect of this tradition.
Many prefer the accompaniment of wine at the table while some prefer its malted and more enjoyable cousin, beer. Of all the necessities the pilgrims were thankful for at the first Thanksgiving, beer was among the foremost. Unlike the pilgrims, we have a vast array of beer styles available to us at the Thanksgiving table. The most fitting and distinctive to this time of year is surely the pumpkin ale.
The three beers reviewed offer a distinctive difference in the level of body in the beer, which is determined by the amount and type of malt used to produce the beer. The Shipyard Brewery in Portland, Maine makes the first and lightest of the three beers called Pumpkinhead. This wheat-based beer does not actually contain any pumpkin but does offer a taste most resembling pumpkin pie compared to the other two. The Pumpkinhead is a light, refreshing wheat beer with nutmeg and cinnamon added. The aroma of the beer contains a strong cinnamon scent yet lacks any hop or malt signatures. The flavor of the beer resembles pumpkin pie when first sipped, but quickly dissipates in the back of the throat. If you are looking for a beer you can drink a lot of, this is the one. This beer will fill you up as minimally as a light beer routinely found at any of the fraternities.
The second of the three beers is produced by the Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, NY. This beer is named the Post Road Pumpkin Ale and offers a much more flavorful experience than that of the Pumpkinhead. With the hundreds of pounds of pumpkin used in its brewing process. Post Road is a different experience. The initial flavor of Post Road contains hints of clove, orange and malt yet the beer finishes with high hop bitterness. The main hints of pumpkin actually originate in the aroma of the beer and are almost negligible in the flavor. Post Road is best consumed in moderation and is a great beer for the Thanksgiving table.
The third beer is a behemoth. This Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Weyerbacher out of Easton, Pa. clocks in at a staunch eight percent alcohol and has, without question, more taste than the other two beers combined. This pumpkin delight is not for the light-hearted. It only comes in 22-ounce bottles so, sit down and be prepared to enjoy this one. The aroma is the first distinctive characteristic with its strong pumpkin smell and the high amount of cloves compared to the other beers. When tasting, your palate first experiences a very rich burnt malt and pumpkin. The beer then begins to taste sweet but very quickly turns to very intense hop bitterness. Like the Post Road, there is no hop flavor or aroma; solely bittering hops were used. Bittering hops are responsible for the lasting feel in the back of your throat. This beer, the darkest of the three, has a very heavy yet soft feel in the mouth due to a lower level of carbonation when compared to the other two. The final note on this beer was the flavor of alcohol in the aftertaste, which may be enjoyed by some, but not by others.
If you are looking for a beer to drink a lot of, go with the Pumpkinhead. The Post Road and Weyerbacher offer a much more flavorful experience but may not sit well with a casual yellow beer drinker. The Weyerbacher is the most distinctive and complex and I urge anyone with an itch to try something different to give it a shot.
On a final and cautionary note, please recognize that according to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, the smell of pumpkin pie created the greatest aphrodisiac response in men among foods. These beers are very tasty, but please be cautious with whatever else they may do to you. Happy Thanksgiving and may your beer list number as many as the friends you enjoy it with.
Wahl is a member of the class of 2008.