Wine Down Eugene October 16-22
Every now and then, I enjoy writing about craft beer; especially, barrel aged beer, sour and wild ales, and my favorite – pumpkin ales.
It’s that time of year when many breweries release beer that’s been made using roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, brown sugar and even maple syrup (to name a few), bringing out the best flavors of fall in some seriously tasty crafted ales. These specialty beers are a lot like wine; they have unique and often intense aroma profiles, their characteristics are identifiable, and they are easily paired with foods.
I recently took advantage of one of the many 16 Tons excellent beer fests: the Pumpkin Ale Fest. With a list of over thirty pumpkin ales and pumpkin ciders, ranging in price from $1-$2 dollars a sample, I was able to try fourteen different pumpkin-centric beers and ciders from around the country – discovering some of the finest pumpkin infused beverages to ever hit my palate.
Here’s what I sampled:
- Elysian (Seattle, WA) The Great Pumpkin – the world’s first Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- Red Hook (Seattle, WA) Out of Your Gourd
- Alaskan (Juneau, AK) Smoked Pumpkin Porter
- Elysian Dark O’ the Moon
- Uinta (Salt Lake City, UT) Punk’N
- Oakshire (Eugene, Or) Big Black Jack
- Laurelwood (Portland, Or) Stingy Jack
- Elysian Night Owl
- Two Roads (Stratford, CT) Roadsmary Baby
- Uinta Oaked Jack Pumpkin
- La Parcela (Dexter, MI) Jolly Pumpkin
- Doc’s Draft (Warwick, NY) Pumpkin Cider
- Ace (Sebastopol, CA) Hard Pumpkin Cider
- Tieton (Yakima, WA) Smoked Pumpkin Cider
All of the pumpkin beers and ciders were really tasty and unique in their own ways (I really loved the Elysian brews), but I definitely had some favorites:
Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon stout had pumpkin in the mash and was finished off with crushed cinnamon. The pumpkin and cinnamon flavors were really pronounced in both aromas and flavors and were highlighted by brown sugar and chocolate. Lower carbonation than the average stout gave the mouthfeel a creamy and smooth quality, ending with a great balance of flavors.
The Elysian Night Owl was by far my favorite of them all. It’s as if the brewer took all of the qualities of fall and put them into a bottle. Pumpkin pie, fall spices, brown sugar, creamy caramel and loads more pumpkin. I absolutely loved everything about this pumpkin ale.
Oakshire’s Big Black Jack is an Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter that is really savory and delicious. Rich and intense aromas and flavors of pumpkin and spices dominate, but I definitely detected the chocolate, as well. Rich and creamy on the palate with a smoky quality on the finish. This one’s going to be a staple porter in my house this fall.
Laurelwood’s Stingy Jack was created with roasted whole pumpkin, toasted pumpkin seeds and organic pumpkin purée. Surprisingly, the pumpkin notes weren’t all that pronounced, but what it did have was loads of fall spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and juniper berries. The carbonation was exactly the way I like it – small and tightly wound. Medium body on the palate with a lush, round and vibrant finish.
La Parcela Jolly Pumpkin is an oak aged pumpkin ale with spices and a touch of cacao. I really like the complexity in this oak barrel aged brew with it’s mass flavors that hop onto the palate all at once. Fall spices and pumpkin were easily detected, along with some earth. It’s strong, crisp and has a bit of a bite – truly a fun beer to taste.
I also tried my very first White Beer. Inspired by the Belgian Witbier, a blend of raw wheat and pale barley malt highlighted by citrus and unidentifiable spices, one of Oakshire’s brewers created the Oakshire Welcome Whit. The name is a twist on the Oakshire Public House that recently opened its doors in Eugene’s eclectic Whiteaker neighborhood. I say “unidentifiable spices” because I really couldn’t place my finger on the flavors – they were mysterious-like, but very alluring and palate pleasing. Last, but definitely not least, I tried Ninkasi’s Raspberry Oatis. Their Oatis Oatmeal Stout is my favorite Ninkasi beer, add some raspberries from Oregon and Washington and age this beauty in bourbon barrels and it’s pure heaven – it’s a must try, beer enthusiasts.
Keep up with the beer fests at 16 Tons year round on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SixteenTonsBeer