Brewsday: St.-Ambroise Citrouille
Hey, you remember that kid in your first grade class? The one who started to get a little squeamish when Thanksgiving time would roll around, who seemed happy enough to make turkeys out of an outline of his hand, but who turned green at the sight of a pumpkin?
You remember how awesome it felt to stick your hand into a pumpkin, once you’d opened the top? How totally hilariously delightfully gross it was between your fingers, all brainy and gooshy? And do you remember the kid who nearly started crying, in-between involuntary gag reflexes from the smell of just-opened gourd? And kind of ruined that arts-and-crafts activity for everyone by being so totally horrified and repelled by having to interact with pumpkin?
Yeah, look, I’m sorry.
I hate pumpkins; I have always hated pumpkins. There is no aspect of interaction with them that I enjoy: not the selection, not the cleaning, not the opening and the gutting, not the roasting and the puréeing. Nothing about the preparation of pumpkin is rewarding to me as a cook, because at no fewer than twelve steps in the process I find myself wondering, “Good God, is anything truly worth this?”
The answer, of course, is yes. This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving — known the world around as The Better One By Far — which means an abundance of pumpkin pie, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin soup and heaven only knows what else. There is no doubt in my mind that there are countless pumpkin products and initiatives out there worth the effort, so long as that effort is in no way my own.
Such is the case with an interesting specimen, the St-Ambroise Citrouille (that’s Français for une pumpkin):
Brewed just once a year, The Great St-Ambroise Pumpkin Ale returns this fall to captivate aficionados with a savvy blend of pale and caramel malt, hops and spices. If you enjoy original taste sensations, this seasonal specialty is certain to appeal!
Specifically, here’s what we’re dealing with, in order of quantity and influence on your beer-loving palette:
- Hops (I originally typed “Hopes”, but we should be so lucky)
The sharp-eyed bakers among you may notice, we’re not so much dealing with pumpkin-flavored beer as we are pumpkin-pie-flavored beer — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, St-Ambroise Citrouille (or St.-Ambroise Pumpkin, as says the English label that we mysteriously didn’t get from our local LCBO) is a sweet, light and balanced ale that lives up to its promise.
Wrapped in a shiny, dark orange label and prominently featuring its theme ingredient on the label, St-Ambroise Citrouille is issued annually in the fall, to capitalize on the novelty drinkers of the season. It’s well-suited to a cool night, and the warm foods that follow.
The beer pours very flat, with only a minimum of carbonation or head. The ale itself is a darker gold, a reflection of the caramel malt in the marketing materials, and very clear. In under the typical nose of an ale, you can detect notes of that caramel, and also some slight air of the pumpkin-pie spices offered on the label. The spice isn’t overwhelming though, and upon first sip you find yourself enjoying a simple, sweet, bright beer. It’s only in the aftertaste that you’ll notice any lingering flavors of the fall, lying light on the tongue but not squatting on your breath.
It’s as if you stripped away all the creaminess of a pumpkin pie, and just left behind the seasoning; or, more to the point, it’s like drinking a beer that tastes vaguely like the air in the kitchen after you’ve just baked Thanksgiving dessert. Does it actually taste like pumpkin? Well, no, but that isn’t really the point — it captures the flavor of the autumn, but doesn’t try to overdo it, and in doing so delivers an enjoyable beer at just the right time of year.
Rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkin pies.