Soaking Up the Suds
by James Crane
Just in time for Halloween, Smashed Pumpkin
I know it’s still just a bit away, but I’m so excited about Halloween that I’m going to start celebrating now. No, I don’t plan to start dressing up in costume or eating a lot of candy. My early reveling is going to revolve around a certain gourd that starts its reign of popularity around Halloween and stays with us through the holiday season. It’s the mythic pumpkin that may not bring me any tricks, but it certainly brings me a good amount of treats. With the rise in popularity of pumpkin beers over the past few years, there are a lot to sample. I have to start celebrating now if I have any hope of trying them all.
While there are some breweries getting creative with the ingredient, most go for a common formula that leaves the drinker with something resembling pumpkin pie. Pumpkin itself is a rather mild gourd without much flavor. Most of what we think of as the pumpkin taste comes from the spices it’s often mixed with, notably clove and nutmeg. While some people feel cheated by this, I do not. I welcome all breweries to try to wiggle my sweet tooth with some classic pumpkin goodness. This week, I’m giving Shipyard Brewery in Maine its chance with its Smashed Pumpkin Ale.
It poured a light copper color, highlighted by a light orange hue. Pleasingly enough, it looked just a little like a washed-out pumpkin. While that is almost certainly due to the malts used rather than the gourd of its namesake, the mental association is hard to get around. The head wasn’t too impressive. It was small and quickly dissipated with no lacing. This didn’t bode well for its mouth feel. It smelled of sweet malts and an alcoholic burn, which is not surprising. Smashed
Pumpkin clocks in at 9.0 percent, which is a hearty amount of boozyness. The burn paired nicely with the spices that hung in the nose. The beer provided a bold and hearty scent while still being quite pleasing. The taste was every bit as big. It seemed to get larger with every swallow. The wheaty malt and slightly bitter hops paired immensely well with the alcoholic burn. The spices come marching down your tongue and slap your taste buds somewhere in the middle. It flows from light to heavy in a second with a mild pumpkin flavor hiding amidst everything else, if you know where to look for it.
I’ve had many pumpkin beers that fell short of my expectations and a few that have blown them away. Shipyard has produced a brew in the later category. Smashed Pumpkin manages to be what I think a pumpkin beer should be, yet is still distinct and refined, which is a word I do not use lightly. It is well balanced and strong, always being immensely flavorful without overwhelming the palate. I can taste so many flavors in this brew and they all get their time in the spot light. If you’ve never had a pumpkin ale or are just searching for the next one to tickle your fancy, this one is a pleaser.
You could get a few and become a smashed pumpkin yourself. Sounds like a great Halloween costume to me.