Halloween is almost here! Whether or not you’re getting into the spirit, dressing up, making bonfires and doing all the fun things that come with it, there’s one thing about Halloween time that doesn’t require making elaborate costumes... Pumpkin Beer! Our friends over in the US go mental every year and put pumpkin spice into pretty much every food and drink you can buy. There are lots of seasonal pumpkin craft beers over there. Back here, we only have a few pumpkin brews available to us, and so far there is only one Irish pumpkin beer. So let’s take a look at what’s on offer.
Two years ago, Trouble Brewing first made their Pumpkin Brew. It was the first Irish pumpkin beer and still is the only one. I still remember trying it for the first time back then and immediately loving it. I couldn’t get enough of it and have been a big fan ever since. The good news is that it's available in bottles for the first time this year! And I can confirm that once again, it tastes absolutely delicious. Out of all the pumpkin beers I’ve tried, it tastes the most like pumpkin. It’s quite malt-forward and less hoppy, which works perfectly with the nutty pumpkin notes. It’s actually like drinking a pumpkin pie. I would happily drink this beer all day and will definitely be stocking up on the bottles.
Brewers Paul and Mark kindly took the time to answer a few questions about the Pumpkin Brew. Here's what they had to say:
What gave you the idea to brew a pumpkin beer?
"We were looking to brew something unique that hadn't been brewed before in Ireland and Pumpkin Brew fitted that criteria. Plus all the company's promotional material is orange and black which are colours seen in abundance around Halloween time, so we took that as a sign from the beer gods that it was a good idea."
What has the reception been like?
"We've had some very nice compliments about the beer, but the most welcome ones were from people from North America where Pumpkin Beers are common, who reckoned it compared favourably to ones from 'back home'."
Have you made any changes to the recipe over the years?
"The changes have been minimal, the ABV was originally 4.7% but this year we've changed it slightly to 4.5%."
What made you decide to put it in bottles this time?
"The bottled version was the next logical step, as not everyone can head out to craft beer pubs. So bottled Pumpkin Brew gives a wider range of people a chance to sample the beer."
What makes this year’s Pumpkin Brew special?
"This year we grew and roasted our own pumpkins to add to the mash, so our pumpkins are both Irish and organic. We did this, in part, due to the difficulty in finding a supply of pumpkins in early September when the beer needed to be brewed, as pumpkins aren't normally available commercially at that time. As per previous years, we blended our own Pumpkin Spice that we added to the beer for the post-fermentation conditioning period."
If that hasn’t convinced you to give this beer a try, I don’t know what would. The Pumpkin Brew is available on draught in The Butcher’s Bar (Bull & Castle) and should also be on tap in Against the Grain and other craft beer pubs very soon. Bottles are in Martin’s in Fairview and Drinkstore, and are being sent out to more off licenses this week.
One of the pumpkin beers that have made their way over here from the US is the new seasonal Pumpkin Barrel Ale from Kentucky. This brew is made with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice and aged in bourbon barrels. And at 10%, you’re definitely in for an interesting sampling experience! Even though it’s only officially launching next week, Baggot Street Wines already have it available now, so head over there to get your hands on it first.
Also available from the US is Brooklyn’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale. It’s spiced with nutmeg and made to pair perfectly with Thanksgiving Dinner. The label looks very traditional and it’s clear that they’re going for a Thanksgiving theme. The “Post Road” name is a bit confusing as “Brooklyn” is not mentioned on the label at all, but it appears to be part of the traditional feel they are aiming for. The beer is a lot hoppier than the Trouble Brewing Pumpkin Brew, and the pumpkin notes are more subtle, with subtle nutmeg notes also coming through. It would be suitable for people who are looking for a hint of pumpkin rather than a full-on pumpkin taste. Get into Martin’s Off License in Fairview for this one, they’ve even made a lovely window display to showcase it! And if you live too far away or are just too lazy to get off the couch, just go to their website and buy it in their online shop.
Last but by no means least, The Fear by Flying Dog has landed in Drinkstore from the US. As is always the case with Flying Dog, the labelling is fantastic and a little bit crazy. This beer has 9% ABV and the taste is extremely interesting and complex. It has a nice, big pumpkin note and lots of spices. Again like it tastes like a pumpkin pie, but a spicier one. The 9% is extremely well hidden and it’s dangerously drinkable. I enjoyed this beer very much and will definitely be buying more.
If you’ve never tried a pumpkin ale, I would recommend rectifying that asap. The pumpkin adds a really different and interesting flavour and it just tastes perfect for this season. I hope we’ll see more Irish breweries embracing the pumpkin next year. The Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society will be brewing a pumpkin beer next week, and there still time to sign up and join us for our Halloween Brew Day! You will need a costume for this one though.