Brewsday: Post Road Pumpkin Ale

This weekend I finally decided to get on with donating all the extra stuff we brought with us from our old house:  the shoes, clothes, stuffed animals, fantasy novels and action figures that we saw fit to pack, but then leave in our garage for three months.  I’m not entirely sure what patrons of my local Salvation Army are going to go with a fully-licensed, authentic action figure of The Road Dogg, but I have to think it’s something better than the horrible cat-toy fate that would have otherwise befallen it.

Happily — and perhaps not coincidentally — the largest Beer Store in the area is about four doors down from the Sally-Anne, presenting me with the opportunity to drop off my empties and completely clear my trunk of all the miscellaneous crap I’ve been carting around for the last few weeks.

Oh, but what to do with the one dollar and thirty cents that proceeded such cleanly progress?  Save it for wise spending against our household budget?  Donate it to a charitable cause to continue my good works?  Answer the Beer Store clerk’s question, “Will you be buying any more beer today?” by saying, “Oh!  Why yes”?

Well, naturally.

After my adventures with the St. Ambroise Citrouille, I was left wondering whether all pumpkin beers were the same.  That is, do they all have a vaguely spicy flavor that’s complimented by sweetness, but are otherwise entirely unlike pumpkin?  Or is there a brew out there that actually manages to capture that gourdy funkiness while still being enjoyably fresh?  And is Post Road Pumpkin Ale the one to make the difference?  The answers, in order, are:

  • No,
  • Not so far,
  • and Definitely Not.

Brought to you by Brooklyn Beer, Post Road Pumpkin Ale — like every microbrew from everywhere, it seems — draws on Colonial Americans as the inspiration for their recipe:

“In the 18th Century colonial americans brewed wonderful and interesting ales by using local ingredients.  Barley was the principal ingredient but pumpkins were also used.  Pumpkins were favored by brewers for their rich spicy flavors, which melded perfectly with the malted barley.  Post Road brings you a delicious rendition of this traditional American classic.”

So, at least I’m learning something.  Was pumpkin a barley substitute?  An enhancement?  A flavoring like malt?  Should I expect richness, or subtle hints of pumpkin spice when I drink this?  It’s not made entirely clear, and while I admit that I shouldn’t be attempting to learn the craft of brewing from the marketing text on beer labels, I feel like there’s information I’m not getting.  So with mixed expectations, I poured the beer and prepared to test my limits.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale pours out smooth, doesn’t froth much, but leaves a thin head with a pleasant flavor.  I know I keep noting this, but there’re a surprising number of very popular beers out there with head on them that makes you regret ordering a whole pint, so I don’t feel bad repeating it.  It sits golden in the glass with a slightly reddish color, and has a light nose with a very slight hint of caramel.  Your first pull on it will be fresh and pleasant, won’t sit heavy on your palette at all, and finishes very clean.

The only thing that’s missing is — stop me if you’ve heard this before — the pumpkin.

If you try hard, you might notice a hint of sweetness, but it’s nothing you won’t find in any other red ale.  The flavor will set it apart from your usual Sunday afternoon fare, but you’re not going to quaff this and suddenly have a strong association with pumpkins, the autumn, Thanksigving or early Colonial America.  It’s just a competent red beer, but not one that really delivers on its gimmick.

I’d definitely recommend the St. Ambroise before Post Road, if you’re going for a seasonal novelty; however, if you don’t mind something that’s only slightly out of the ordinary, and doesn’t particularly taste any different than several other beers you’ve had before, then you’ve got a safe option here.  It’s just a shame that Post Road didn’t embrace the opportunity for flavorful weirdness more fully — it’s not like seasonal beers last forever, after all.

Rating: 2 out of 5 gourds.

  • http://www.low-g.com MtC

    So, tell me, did you develop a bowel obstruction at the 12th stroke of midnight, or something along those lines? I can’t help but be suspicious of the oddities of pumpkin-brewery magic.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Naw, that’s what happens with Voodoo beer. I stay the hell away from that stuff.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com Lo!

    Mike, you’re cracking me up.
    I’m seriously waiting for you to happen upon a beer that really does justice to the pumpkin concept. I’m thinking there simply isn’t one.

    I’d love to mail you a Lakefront Pumpkin Lager for testing (since I am convinced, at least in part, that lager is better for this purpose than ale)… but I’m not sure I can get that through the USPS.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Lo!, I am nothing if not dedicated to the cause. I think the underlying issue here is that when I finally do find a beer that tastes like pumpkin, I’m going to be reminded how fucking terrible unseasoned pumpkin really is.

    As for mailing me a sample beer, I’m certain that there has to be a way to legally accomplish it… the true challenge will be having said beverage survive customs inspection intact.

    “Well, there’s only one way to ensure that this isn’t masterfully-disguised liquid plutonium, Bob.”

    “You’re right, Rick. I’ll get the official Canada Border Services Agency Tostitos.”

  • http://noblepig.com noble pig

    I am laughing so hard at the comments I’m snorting.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    I totally went and bought a six-pack of the last pumpkin beer that you tested, and the only comment I got from Chris was….that’s right. There was no comment. I swear to God he didn’t even notice that there was any kind of change from his regular Fat Tire, or his Cap’n and Cokes, I suppose. I’ve got one more in the fridge, and I’m totally going to boil my brats in them tonight. A festive take on “I’m proud to be an American, as long as we elect that darling black man who isn’t a total fascist” dinner.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Ooh, boiled brats in PUMPKIN BEER!!! I would say that this would improve the brats, but really I think that the brats would improve the beer. So there you go.

    I really want to try this one:

    http://www.barefootkitchenwitch.com/the_barefoot_kitchen_witc/2008/10/southern-tier-brewing-companys-pumking-ale.html

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    I remember the time I boiled my Oktoberfest Sausage in Guinness, just to achieve some kind of cross-cultural meltdown. It smelled awesome and tasted… not at all different.

    The boiled-sausage scum on the pot was really aromatic, though.

  • Nanco

    This is the only pumpkin beer that I could find where I live. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed, having read your review of the St. Ambroise (which sounds quite a bit better.)
    As an aside, did you know that it’s illegal to transport alcohol over provincial boundaries? I had no idea until I heard it on the CBC.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    That’s one of those laws that they don’t really enforce unless your extreme about it though, like “speeding” or “being a Hell’s Angel.”

    The Post Road was really kind of a disappointment — if I wanted Rickard’s Red, I would have bought Rickard’s Red. I think I’m pretty much out of luck for pumpkin beers this season, too. The LCBO has totally moved on to their holiday front-loading of novelty-shaped wine and liquor bottles, and the Beer Store has done what they always do when product moves out of season: put it in the farthest corner of the store until someone buys it.

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