It's officially autumn. And with it comes falling leaves, hayrides, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the most important of all, more seasonal beers. Pumpkin ale is one of these seasonal beers that is not only enjoyed today but was also highly appreciated in the 17th century. They liked it so much in fact that someone wrote a song about brewing with pumpkins in 1643. "If barley be wanting to make into malt / We must be contented and think it no fault / For we can make liqueur, to sweeten our lips / Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips." While many might enjoy these seasonal flavored beers, there are some who find pumpkin ale to be an insult to their taste buds. The Washington Post's Greg Kitsock wrote this: "Pumpkin adds some fermentable material to the beer and maybe a little mouthfeel and sweetness, but not much else," and adding that pumpkin ale is "a bit too cloying to buy by the sixpack." Despite these gripes from some beer snobs, bars, taverns and breweries around Connecticut and the country are releasing various pumpkin ales to the public for only a limited time (see our list below, check for availability).
Geno McMahon, manager of the new Manchester branch of Buffalo Wild Wings, says the restaurant currently serves three pumpkin brews: Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale from Coors, Portland Maine's Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale and Pumpkin Ale from Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales in Middlebury, Vermont. "We're looking for texture and quality with these beers, something that our guests will appreciate," he says. Among the three, McMahon is excited about Harvest Moon the most. "Not everyone likes pumpkin beer, but those who do love that and Shipyard."
At the Tavernhouse Grill in Tolland, owner Mark Divirgilio sets a few taps aside for seasonal beers. One of these is Anheuser-Busch's Shock Top Pumpkin Ale. But Divirgilio doesn't serve it straight. He adds a little something for his customers. "We like to line some brown cinnamon sugar around the edges of the glass like we do with our Pumpkin Martini," he says. "It's going great with the customers. It always does."
The Tullycross Tavern & Microbrewery in Manchester will soon be releasing their own Pumpkin Ale brewed by Brewer Brian Flach. Even before working at Tullycross, this brew won Flach quite a few awards including first place in 2009 and second place in 2010 at the Southern New England Regional Home Brew Competition. "This beer has always done well for me," he says. "I use about 120 pounds of pureed pumpkin in about 250 gallons of beer. That's quite a bit of pumpkin." Flach's lightly spiced beer will soon be available around mid-to-late October. "I'm a firm believer that beers should be released when they are expected," he says. "I like my pumpkin beers around Halloween and love it pretty much through Thanksgiving. I guess this preference comes with the territory of being a New Englander."
BARS AND BREW PUBS FEATURING PUMPKIN ALE (GREATER HARTFORD)
Backstage Eat. Drink. Live.
84 Main St. Torrington, (860) 489-8900, backstageeatdrinklive.com
Featured beers: Southern Tier Pumking, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, Southampton Pumpkin Ale, River Horse Hipp-O-Lantern, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, and more
Buffalo Wild Wings
859 Hartford Turnpike, Waterford, (860) 574-9155; buffalowildwings.com, 112 Buckland Street, Manchester, (860) 649-9464, 315 Union St., Waterbury, (203) 574-9464; 703 Poquonock Ave., Windsor, (860) 688-9464
Featured beers: Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale, Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale
Eli Cannon's Tap Room
695 Main St., Middletown, (860) 347-3547, elicannons.com
Featured beers: Shipyard Pumpkinhead, Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale
143 New Britain Ave., Plainville, (860) 747-6813, jtimothys.com
Featured beer: Post Road Pumpkin
37 LaSalle Road, West Hartford, (860) 231-8773, mcladdens.com
Featured beers: Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale, Harpoon UFO Pumpkin (TAP)
120 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury, (860) 430-9737; 4 Railroad St.,Simsbury,(860)-658-4477, planbburger.com (check locations) Featured beers: Southern Tier Pumking, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
The Tavern Downtown
100 Allyn St., Hartford, (860) 524-9990, thetaverndowntown.com
Featured beer: Shipyard Pumpkinhead
200 Merrow Road, Tolland, (860) 872-0332, tavernhousegrill.com,
Featured beer: Shock Top Pumpkin
Tullycross Tavern & Microbrewery
1487 Pleasant Valley Road, Manchester, (860) 644-2739, tullycrosstavern.com
Featured beer: Pumpkin Ale