Not a fan of the cloyingly sweet mass-produced commercial pumpkin beer? These New Hampshire brewers make their versions the old-fashioned colonial way: using real pumpkins and light spices.
In the last several years, pumpkin beer has gone from an experimental specialty brew made by a handful of folks to a seasonal phenomenon. But in New Hampshire, it’s actually a style that dates back to colonial times, when brewers were still depending on Europe for supplies – such as malt. As a result, brewers learned they could extend their meager rations by using starchy vegetables – such as pumpkins – in place of malt. What you often get today from the mass-producing commercial brewers is not true to this original style, but rather – overbearingly sweet and a bombardment of autumnal spices. Luckily, that’s not the case with these following New Hampshire breweries who use real pumpkins and just the right amount of spices to create beers that are exceptionally drinkable while paying tribute to our colonial forbearers.
Toasted Pumpkin Ale, 603 Brewery [Londonderry]
While the exact recipe and brewing process is secret, this beer brewed in the 15-barrel operation uses locally sourced organic pumpkins and Madagascar vanilla. The result is a well-balanced seasonal brew that, unlike commercial pumpkin beer products is not excessively sweet or overpoweringly pumpkin in flavor. For a fun twist, some years, the brewers age it in different barrels – in 2016, they opted for old rum barrels – to give it more dimension.
Homecoming Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Able Ebenezer Brewing [Merrimack]
This brew starts with 250 pounds of sugar pumpkins (which are smaller pumpkins with firm, sweet flesh better suited for baking) that the veteran-owned and -operated brewery gets from Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry. After roasting, removing the skin, and deseeding the pumpkins, the remaining 100 pounds of pumpkins are added to the mash, in addition to a minimal amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. An added bonus: The seeds are saved, then roasted and served the day the beer is released (usually sometime around mid-October) at both the brewery and the New England Taphouse.
Autumn Ale, Woodstock Inn Brewery [North Woodstock]
While patrons of the iconic White Mountain brewery housed in a former train depot swear that there is pumpkin in this beer, it’s actually a means to pay tribute to another quintessential fall flavor: the apple. In addition to traditional fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie, you also get hints of crisp, freshly-picked apples, and slightly tart citrus, such as grapefruit. Despite all these sweet flavors, it’s actually pretty well balanced by the hops and the tartness of grapefruit to create a medium-bodied, nut brown ale that is the perfect autumn beer for those who want less pumpkin. Woodstock Inn Owner Scott Rice says the beer is also great for cooking: use it for basting your pork or turkey or add it to your gravy.
Oh My Gourd, Backyard Brewery & Kitchen [Manchester]
One of two fall seasonal releases by the 12-tap brewery, this American amber ale is brewed with native New Hampshire pumpkins in the mash. A beautiful copper color greets you from the glass, and notes of nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon fill the nose. Despite the spices, a notable hop aroma and subdued bitterness last all the way through the finish.
Pumpkin Ale, Portsmouth Brewery [Portsmouth]
The key is in the dense flesh and high sugar content of the hundreds of organic Dickinson pumpkins that Portsmouth’s original brewpub sources from Blueberry Bay Farm in Stratham to make this popular amber ale. By using this particular species of pumpkin, the brewers require less nutmeg and brown sugar – what tends to make these style of brews overly spicy. The result is a lightly spiced version that really lets the flavor of the beer come through.
Grumpy Pumpkin Ale, Stark Brewing Company [Manchester]
What started as a seasonal offering has actually become one of the 15-barrel brewery’s (formerly Milly’s Tavern) standard offerings due to its overwhelming popularity. Brewed with fresh-picked New Hampshire–grown pumpkins (not pie filling), which allows for a more subtle pumpkin flavor, and lightly spiced, this unbelievable drinkable ale is best served in a pint glass rimmed with their house-blend of sugar and spices.