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Captain Lawrence Brewing Pumpkin Ale

Captain Lawrence Brewing Pumpkin Ale

  • Subtly spicy and sour
  • Smooth, warming, slight spice, sweet, and sour
  • Soft bitterness, spice lingers

There are two major divisions of American-style pumpkin ales: The more-common pumpkin-pie spiced ales; and the rarer, but more traditional, ales derived from pumpkin as an ingredient in the wort. I like both, but I believe a lot a brewers are coming up to the spice wall—there is only so much one can do to differentiate between one spiced-blend and another. Those spices tend to dwarf any other ingredient, so, no matter how the beer is prepared, the three or four brown spices added become the flavor of the beer.

Some of these spiced beers still stand out, and it’s wonderful to come across them every autumn. But it is an extra treat to come across a pumpkin beer that gets the majority of it’s flavor from pumpkin. I came across Captain Lawrence Brewing Pumpkin Ale at Whole Foods for a really delicious price of $7.99 for a 64 oz. growler. From the Captain Lawrence website, it looks like they started brewing this in 2009, but I have a suspicion that they’ve tweaked the recipe and not yet updated the website. Because, while the spices mentioned (cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) may be in the 2011 version, they do not dominate the flavor at all. Untapped also has the beer as pumpkin/yam, but that was added by a civilian, and I cannot verify if yams were added.

And, man, is that a good thing. The Pumpkin Ale is one of the smoothest beers I’ve ever tasted. It has the mouthfeel of a stout or Belgian dubbel. The pumpkin adds a gravity, and slightly sour note, that gives the beer a delightful silkiness. The beer still tastes like autumn, but warms by taking the taster into the season of gravies and soups, and not by way of pies and cakes. The pumpkin and malts have a subtle sweetness, and the hops do not overpower. The Pumpkin Ale is well-balanced by any measure, but may disappoint those who enjoy their beers to clobber them with spice or bitterness. It doesn’t disappoint me. This seasonal joins the pantheon of other autumn favorites, solidifying September and October as the best times to be a beer drinker.