Beer: Pumpkin ales taste test

By Columbus Alive
From the October 4, 2012 edition

Pumpkin ale production hasn’t always warranted elaborate floor displays at grocery stores; it was still a novelty several years ago. Now even the big guys (ahem, Sam Adams) have joined the pumpkin scrum, and plenty of beer drinkers work a pumpkin ale or two in their fall seasonal selections. We tried three to help narrow your decision.

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company

ABV: 5.2 percent

Curb appeal: The headless horseman of Ichabod Crane’s nightmares features prominently on the spooky label.

Squash factor: A clean, vegetal pumpkin scent hovers over a pint of this ale; think of the smell of your just-carved pumpkin. Bitter nutmeg and slightly soapy hops are the predominant flavors. Ichabod was the least pumpkin-forward of the three beers we tried — we detected nary a whiff of pie.

Try it with: Bar grub (get sweet potato fries if you can)

Smashed Pumpkin

Brewery: Shipyard Brewing Co.

ABV: 9 percent

Curb appeal: Textured orange paper label, a jack o’ lantern and stylish gold foil around the neck

Squash factor: Here’s the pumpkin pie — this medium-body ale is redolent of caramelized pumpkin, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, all in a good way. The high alcohol content keeps this from tasting like dessert.

Try it with: How about a Smashed Pumpkin ale float with vanilla ice cream?

Great Pumpkin

Brewery: Heavy Seas

ABV: 8.5 percent

Curb appeal: Skull and crossbones, plus pirate-inspired type on the label. Arrgh, yeah.

Squash factor: Alcohol struck us in the nose first, and nutmeg and clove were close behind. Pumpkin scent and flavor is clean and fresh, rather than roasted. We’d love to find Great-ER Pumpkin, a bourbon barrel-aged version of the beer.

Try it with: Dinner of roasted anything. Vegetables, chicken, even pork.

Photos by Tim Johnson