It might come as some surprise to many, given how much I tend to love pumpkin-everything, that I am not the biggest pumpkin ale cheerleader out there. Some I find very one-note and gimmicky. Others are loaded with pie spices, which I don’t mind, but typically won’t crave, either. It’s odd, and I’m not sure I can explain it – I can drink a pumpkin beer and say “wow, this is excellent,” but very rarely will you find one in my fridge.
I know that so many people eagerly await fall beers, though, so I am going to review one I have not yet had. Good Gourd, from Cigar City Brewing just up I-75 in Tampa, garners high ratings on both major beer review sites. It comes in a 750ml bottle, and like most Cigar City beers, isn’t your cheapest option out there, but this will likely be more of a special occasion-type beer.
Pumpkin beer is a generally recognized sub-style, but not all pumpkin beers are created equally. Some use a wheat malt base. Others come off similar to lagers and blonde ales, with that hint of pumpkin essence. Others amp up the alcohol and spice, and yield a pretty chewy beer. Good Gourd is going to fall in the latter category, at 8.5% ABV.
Per the following picture, Good Gourd is brewed with a bunch of pumpkin, Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, Zanzibar cloves, and nutmeg. Judging from that ingredient list, it’s more of a “pumpkin pie beer.” Does it sound like a big bottle of awesome? Why yes, yes it does.
Poured into the trusty Cigar City snifter that holds much more than it looks like it holds, it looks like liquefied pumpkin pie, a clear burnt orange amber with minor foam retention. In the nose, there’s lots of spice perfume – I’m going to say that the allspice is the most prevalent spice. Of course, there’s also plenty of sweet pumpkin, and good old-fashioned barley malt. I don’t smell any hops to speak of here, this one’s a malt bomb.
Up front, it’s just rich, chewy, bready malt with fleshy pumpkin – not sweet pumpkin, rather, a similar taste you’d get if you split a pumpkin in half and shove it in the oven for a while, then eat a big spoonful of the soft flesh. Pecans, too, as this is an amber ale it has that nutty taste you expect. That allspice/cinnamon/clove spiciness brings it strong at the palate’s back corners. The overall effect is that of a grainy pumpkin pie with no whipped cream.
I’m sure this would be decent with a pumpkin pie, but I’m going to look past the obvious and go with a more contrasting pairing – Thanksgiving dinner. It is full-bodied enough with the chops to deal with thick gravy, sweet potato and stuffing, and I’m thinking it will create some interesting gamey flavors with turkey. The more I think about this the more I’m convinced – go with this for the main course, then an English barleywine with the pumpkin pie.
This is available in South Florida, but may be difficult to find – check your specialty retailers and bars. If you can’t find it, here are the closest substitutes:
Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
Southern Tier Pumking
I know everyone loves Shipyard Pumpkinhead, but while I think it’s a good beer, it doesn’t have anywhere near as much going on as the above four. Pumpkinhead is one you sit at a bar and have three or four of, whereas the beers I mentioned are much more robust.