The cool air of fall is setting in, and scarecrows and skeletons started popping up weeks ago in anticipation of Halloween. Growing up, the signs of October always pointed to one thing — heading to the pumpkin patch.
Nothing beat the excitement of stumbling into a muddy field to pick out the prized gourd you would soon turn into a jack-o-lantern. It seemed like it took hours to find that pumpkin that was just right – not too big, not too orange and perfectly round.
As adults, we might have outgrown hayrides and jack-o-lanterns. Yet we can relive the excitement of the pumpkin patch each fall as pumpkin beers start hitting stores in early October.
There are many pumpkin beers out there. Like picking that perfect gourd, you have to find the right one for you. The problem is, as rare as it is to see the vegetable growing in Southwest Florida, it might be more difficult to find a pumpkin beer.
Scour local liquor stores, and pumpkin beers are few and far between. You might have better luck finding pumpkin wine, knowing the clientele in Naples. So rather than throw out a list of exotic beers you’ll have to drive halfway to Milwaukee to find, let’s focus on the ones available here in Southwest Florida:
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
The term “pumpkin beer” can be a misnomer because there is much more to these beverages than the label implies. Most are brewed with mix of fall spices. Dogfish Head, known for pushing the boundaries of brewing, brings brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon into its Punkin Ale for a complex taste. At 7 percent alcohol, the beer still goes down smoothly and tastes like liquid pumpkin pie. It’s the best of the pumpkin beers available locally, but can get a tad expensive at up to $10 a four-pack.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Post Road isn’t as sweet as Dogfish Head’s seasonal, but its spices come out more. Made by Brooklyn Brewery, nutmeg and cloves stand above Post Road’s pumpkin flavor. This beer reminds the drinker of Grandma’s pumpkin pie, though to a lesser degree than Dogfish. At 5 percent alcohol, it’s almost like a lighter version of Punkin Ale.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
If you aren’t a beer connoisseur, you might not know that the word “imperial” in a beer’s name means “a whole lotta booze.” Weyerbacher’s fall beer checks in at 8 percent, making it great for a chilly Midwestern fall night, though maybe not good for Florida. The alcohol stands out, as does a smell and taste of cloves, perhaps a little too much. It’s still a very drinkable beer, but be careful if you have more than one.
Blue Moon Harvest Ale
This is great for novice beer enthusiasts. Its mild flavor makes it a good gateway into the world of pumpkin beers and spiced brews. The label says Harvest Ale is made with clove, nutmeg and allspice, although none of those are apparent in the taste. Even the “flavor of vine-ripened pumpkin” the bottle promises is lacking. It’s not a bad beer for a hot October day in Florida, however.
Jack’s Pumpkin Spice
Brewed by Michelob, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch, Jack’s beer is about as thin and flavorful as a Bud Light. The tiniest hint of pumpkin is nearly overpowered by a ginger flavor. Maybe this beer is good for a fall game of beer pong, but steer clear if it’s pumpkin beer you want.