Collegian Cocktails: The perfect pumpkin beer

Katie Schmidt

I did it: I became basic and indulged my pumpkin cravings. But instead of hitting up Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, I opted for a seasonal beer.

Odell's Oktoberfest, Blue Moon's Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Ballast Point's Pumpkin Down, Red Hook's Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, New Belgium's Pumpkick and Tommyknocker's Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale. (Photo credit: Katie Schmidt)
Odell’s Oktoberfest, Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down, Red Hook’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, New Belgium’s Pumpkick and Tommyknocker’s Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale. (Photo credit: Katie Schmidt)

I picked up a mix-and-match six-pack at Wilbur’s Total Beverage on a quest to settle the question: Do all pumpkin beers taste the same?

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Odell’s Oktoberfest

OK, this wasn’t a pumpkin beer, but it’s an autumn seasonal I had to try. Odell’s is probably my favorite beer brand because they make Tree Shaker and Brombeere, but this beer let me down a bit. Odell’s describes this brew as having “biscuity sweet Munich malts and spicy, herbal noble hops,” but it just tasted like an average beer with nothing noteworthy about the flavor besides being not as light as a summer brew.

Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale

When sampling the pumpkin beers, I found that the brews either took a sweet or spicy approach. Although the aroma had a blend of both, the flavor was one of the strongest spiciest pumpkin brews I’ve tasted. Harvest Pumpkin Ale has notes of allspice, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Blue Moon suggests pairing the beer with beef dishes and seasonal soups. Harvest Pumpkin Ale is currently on tap at the Ramskeller.

Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down

Both the aroma and flavor were very light, and almost tasted dusty. As Ballast Point’s site notes, the spiciness is very subtle as to not overwhelm the flavor, which tasted more on the sweet spectrum of pumpkin beers with its caramel and toffee malts. Ballast Point suggests pairing this with truffle risotto with butternut squash, sage gnocchi and jalapeno cornbread – you know, if you happen to be one of the elite college students who can cook or even find food that fancy.

Red Hook’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter

I would rather have a Bud Light than drink this again. While Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter had a sweet molasses aroma, the flavor was very loud and overwhelming, with a strong aftertaste. This dark, heavy brew is made with pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and maple syrup.

New Belgium’s Pumpkick

I am very loyal to New Belgium, partly because they are a Fort Collins staple and Tour de Fat is my favorite holiday (yes, in Fort Collins, it is a holiday). This brew smells sweet like a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the strong taste of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice hits the back of your throat more than the other pumpkin beers. Fitting with the Thanksgiving nostalgia, Pumpkick is brewed with cranberry juice to add a slight tartness, as well as pumpkin juice. New Belgium suggests serving Pumpkick with their pumpkin ale cupcake and pumpkin loaf recipes.

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Tommyknocker‘s Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale

This one ranks high on the sweet spectrum. Like the Red Hook, this also has a molasses scent. The flavor is too mild and sweet, although the spice is more evident in the aftertaste. I definitely prefer Tommyknocker’s root beer and cream soda more.

Overall, New Belgium’s Pumpkick was my favorite because it was a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. It just has a classic taste you’ll crave all autumn. I suggest pairing it with plaid flannel, boots and an infinity scarf to maximize the notes of basic.

Collegian Social Media Editor Katie Schmidt can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatieDSchmidt.