If you’ve ever spent any time in Maine right around this time of year than you already know, Shipyard Brewing’s Pumpkinhead is BIG here. Like huge. To the point where, even though it’s far from my favorite pumpkin beer (or even my favorite Shipyard ale), even I succumb to the temptation a few times each autumn.
But even more than Pumpkinhead itself, I like the idea of Pumpkinhead a lot – I guess it’s because I really love fall (it’s probably my favorite season) and I really like pumpkin pie and all of the spices that seem to go along so well with this time of year – pie spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, etc.
So I was pretty excited when I read about the next release in the Shipyard Pugsley Signature Series – “Smashed Pumpkin” and was even more excited when the brewery sent me a bottle for review (or rather, told me to stop by and pick one up; since they’re right up the road).
What Pumpkinhead lacks in the world of pumpkin beers — especially when compared to pumpkin releases from breweries like Dogfish Head or Smuttynose — is definitely made up for in their Smashed Pumpkin release. While Pumpkinhead can often be WAY over-carbonated and a little too heavy on the sweets and spices, Smashed Pumpkin gets it just right. The beer pours a nice dark, almost burnt orange in color with a really thin white sticky head, which lasts and lasts. Like pumpkinhead, the nose is fantastic – but the nose on Smashed Pumpkin is much more genuine — lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and some real pumpkin smells — and, unlike its inspiration, still manages to smell a bit like its actually beer. Thanks in large part, I’m sure, to the heavy hop backbone added to the brew. From the bottle’s label,
Smashed Pumpkin is a big-bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aroma of pumpkin and nutmeg. The OG and final Alc./Vol. provide the structure and body. Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich Malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of Willamette and Hallertau Hops to balance the sweetness of the fruit.
But best of all, all of the spices from the nose are there in the taste, too. Plus some real pumpkin tastes — like the actual gourd, not just the pie — too. the wheat and munich malts lend a nice bready, biscuity flavor too, which compliments the spices. A bit of the hop bite and the warming alcohol bite (forgot to mention that this “imperial-style” brew weighs in at 9% abv) come through in the finish, too. Especially as the beer warms to room temperature.
The only real downside of Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin is that it’s pretty thin and a bit too slick on the tongue (but find me a beer made with Ringwood which isn’t…) for my liking, but when the beer tastes like a great pumpkin pie, I can forgive my distaste in Ringwood yeast. As I mentioned, Smashed Pumpkin comes in at a hefty 9% abv, but you wouldn’t know it at all from the first glass (so be careful!) – it’s probably the most session-able “imperial” beer I’ve ever had.
So, in conclusion: even if you’re not a huge fan of their Pumpkinhead, you should definitely give Smashed Pumpkin a try. It might just be my new favorite Shipyard brew…
Note: If you are reading this and you represent a brewery and would like any of your beers reviewed on BlogAboutBeer.com, please feel free to contact me for more info.