Local Pumpkin Beer Roundup
Sure, pumpkin spice is nice in my coffee and pies, but autumnal brewed beer puts more of a spring in my step this time of year. Luckily we have a handful of breweries in our backyard that put their own spin on this season’s mascot to craft the wildly anticipated pumpkin beer. Our breweries crafted the wheat, ale and porter styles of pumpkin beer as well as accentuated the traditional fall spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with hints of brown sugar or maple. My husband and I went on our own pumpkin beer tasting tour of Coastal Virginia’s breweries this past week in hopes of informing the novice pumpkin beer drinkers to the aficionados who have yet to try our breweries’ fabulous pumpkin beer varieties. With the exception of St. George and AleWerks, each of these were poured straight from the brewery’s tap room. Not listed here is Beach Brewing Company’s Jolly Roger Pumpkin Porter because it will not be released until near the end of October, but I do suggest you give it a try!
In no specific order, here’s the skinny on Coastal Virginia pumpkin beer:
O’Connor Brewing Company’s Punkelweisse (Norfolk, ABV 6.5%): It’s a dark, toasty wheat ale signaling fall is here to stay. With a deep cocoa hue, Punkelweisse is very carbonated and rich with nutmeg. Cloudy with banana notes from blending with the German dunkelweizen, Punkelweisse has a lighter pumpkin presence than your average ale. Nonetheless, the combination is a winner.
Back Bay Brewing Company’s Witch of Pungo Pumpkin Ale (Virginia Beach, ABV 7%): Named after the locally acclaimed Witch of Pungo herself, this pumpkin ale is a smooth drinker with a soft bite. It’s a light beer for the early fall days when summer is trying to hold its grip. The spices used here are minimal, but the ale contributes well-rounded pumpkin flavors. With heavy carbonation, there are notes of brown sugar and nutmeg making for a refreshing aftertaste.
Smartmouth Brewing Company’s Outta Yer Gourd Pumpkin Ale (Norfolk, ABV 8.3%): This ale is caramelly and sweet like a roasted pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is fully present here with the traditional paired spices taking a back seat. The aroma is smoky and maple-like, boozy in that you can smell the alcohol but in a good way. It’s not overly sweet but rather rich and developed.
St. George Brewing Company’s Pumpkinfest (Hampton, ABV 6%): Currently on tap at The Porch in Whole Foods, St. George’s take on pumpkin beer is more tamed and simple. With a lovely copper hue, it has a sweet aroma and a crisp bite. It pours with a firm, full head and trails with lovely lacing on the inside of the glass. It tasted like a generous amount of brown sugar, but it is overall a lighter though solid pumpkin ale.
AleWerks Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale (Williamsburg, ABV 7.3%): The aroma is of cinnamon apples and intense pumpkin spice. When poured from the bottle, the head dissipates quickly, but it maintains a dense and an almost syrupy flavor with bold notes of gingerbread and nutmeg. This ale packs a sweet punch that can only be described as pumpkin pie.