Thirsty Thursday

Saranac Pumpkin AleF.X. Matt Brewing Co.Four out of four mugs

The beauty of beer as a culinary element is that it complements an amazing array of foods. Beer and pizza is the classic example, but beer and steak, beer and seafood or even beer and ice cream are all wonderful when paired correctly. In some cases however, food becomes a part of the beer, creating beer like pumpkin ale. Seasonally available, Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale is as good as pumpkin beers come in the northeast. Lucky for us, it happens to be the cheapest too, at around $6.50 per six-pack.

Pumpkin beer certainly sounds strange at first, but it’s hard to deny the appeal once it’s tasted. Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale pours an unassuming amber color, hardly darker than a pint of Yuengling. It smells of roasted pumpkin pie and nutmeg, followed by a smooth, gentle flavor. The taste begins with pumpkin pie spice, ginger and cinnamon. After the spices, a caramel and wheat sweetness lingers while the beer finishes with a crisp, bitter nudge.

The Saranac lacks the boldness of some great beers, but more than makes up for it with a crisp mouthfeel and lighter body that make for excellent drinkability. This pumpkin ale makes a great starting point for the newly adventurous drinker or as a beer to convert the Keystone-loving beer heathens. But really, this is just a beer for anyone that likes pumpkin pie.

Beer-ucation

Hops

Anyone that’s seen enough beer commercials knows you can’t have beer without hops. Hops are green, cone-shaped flowers that give flavor, aroma and bitterness to beer. They define some styles, like the India Pale Ale, which relies on hops for most of its flavor. Most beers however, simply use the bitterness of hops to balance the sweetness from the malted barley. Beers that have more pronounced bitterness than sweetness are often referred to as ‘hoppy’ and are considered an acquired taste.

Harpoon IPAThree out of four mugsAn everyday IPA. Citrus aroma and flavor without overpowering hop bitterness.

Blue Moon Pumpkin AleTwo out of Four mugsInoffensive, but comes off as an odd-tasting Blue Moon Belgian White.

Smuttynose Pumpkin AleTwo out of four mugsFlowery, spicey aroma gives way to an overly bitter, unbalanced pumpkin flavor.

Post Road Pumpkin AleThree out of four mugsPumpkin pie spice matched with the flavor of a lighter ale. Tastes a little more like beer.

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