Halloween throws up all kinds of spooky beers for us to get our claws on – especially in the states, where Pumpkin beer seems to be a topic of discussion every year. I’ve only really tried two pumpkin beers of late, and found one to be…well, a little dull, and the other a complete palate overload.
I was doing a little shopping at the weekend and noticed that Morrison’s had even put a stand together with a little group of beers especially for the occasion – you know, just to guide your hand a little. Interest piqued, I took all four home and did a little market research.
First up, Shepherd Neame’s Spooks Ale (4.7% ab). Rather nice it was too, to be honest – a best bitter of dark – ruby hue, with plenty of biscuity malt in the nose and taste, but with a really smooth, caramel-sweet (Bonfire toffee would be more apt, I guess) finish. It’s pretty rounded, and perfectly drinkable despite being on the sweet side. For darker nights – Bonfire Night included – I’d quite happily drink a few of these.
Moorhouse’s don’t really need a special night to celebrate their beers – they do the whole ‘spooky’ thing all year round with their flagship beers Black Cat, Blonde Witch and this, Pendle Witches Brew (5.1%abv). I refuse to believe there’s anyone reading this blog who hasn’t drunk this beer in recent times – revisiting it only makes you realise what a solidly well-crafted beer it is. There’s a noble, almost lager-esque quality to the nose in this bottled version, with a broadly clean malt body and a dry finish of tart citrus. Thirst-quenching but substantial, PWB is a great beer, and one that stacks up alongside Moorhouse’s reliably tasty range with no aid of Witchcraft. See here for the story behind the beer.
Another Brewery that’s caning the world of the full moon for all it’s worth at this time of year is Wychwood. Brewers of such ubiquitous beers as Hobgoblin (actually not bad if you get it on cask when it’s fresh), Wychcraft and Scarecrow, King Goblin represents their stronger side at 6.6%abv. It’s not bad, if truth be told – the alcohol is certainly up-front, with that warmth being present in the nose and the taste, but it’s got a decent amount of flavour packed in too – raisin, bitter cherry and a touch of almond under all that oomph. Much like you’d expect, it’s not very subtle, a little rough around the edges, but one for giving a try nontheless.
The same can’t be said for the cheeky little Pumpking (4.2%abv). Frankly, my heart sank when I clapped eyes on the Irn-Bru colour that filled the glass, and things didn’t improve. Again, there’s a decent maltiness going on but it disappears quickly, leaving a drying, strangely prickly heat in your mouth. I really didn’t get on with it at all, but see what you think. You can see what Darren at Folk & Ale thought of it a few years back here.
Now, for another side of Pumpkin ales, I managed to (thanks to the kindness of HopZine Rob) try some of Southern Tier’s Pumking Ale (9.0%abv) last month at our seasonal bottle-swap. Now this is something else – imagine Pumpkin Pie in a glass and you’re most of the way there; shortbread, nutmeg, almond, sweet malt, cinnamon and clove all trying to get your attention at once. If you do get to try it, don’t miss out – it’s a strange, interesting beer that does a pretty good job of approximating pie in a glass. Granted, it did take a day or so for the taste to leave my mouth, but shouldn’t all good spectres hang around for a little while, uninvited?
To wrap up, how could I let such a spooky post go without a mention of Ghostie’s take on the pumpkin ale phenomenon here? Finally, there’s a good roundup of other haunted ales over at Jeff Evans’ Beer Pages here.