Pumpkin Ales.  You either love em’ or you hate em’.  Several weeks ago we Aleheads attempted to concoct a Top 10 list of Pumpkin beers but after a few tired email exchanges we came to the conclusion that no one was overly excited about posting the results.  For every hoozah! for the Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin or Southern Tier Pumking there was a collective “Meh” for everything else that was presented.  There’s only so much fun you can have in ranking mediocrity so the whole idea was scrapped.  So here we are, almost midway through October, with nary a post solely related to the king of Fall seasonal brews.  I feel it’s my duty as a born and bred New Englander to end this vicious cycle.  With that, I give you Cambridge Brewing Company’s Great Pumpkin Ale!

I’ve discussed Cambridge Brewing Company a bit in the past and reviewed a couple of their exceptional beers – A Sorachi Ace hopped IPA and a Milk Stout.  In brief, they’re a phenomenal brewpub just across the river from Boston proper that specializes in local ingredients and putting unique twists on classic styles.  They’re also the first New England brewer to bring back the Pumpkin Ale style, which is saying something considering that Pumpkin Ales are “The” seasonal style for every craft brewer in the region.  Here’s some highlights of The Great Pumpkin Ale to make you drool a little:

  • 150 pounds of organic sugar pumpkins used in each batch.  That seems like a lot
  • Makes use of organic, local barley
  • Barley malted locally at Valley Malt in Hadley, MA, the same area where they source their barley
  • Let those last two bullets sink in a minute.  As rare as it is to see local barley, you simply NEVER see a local malthouse that can handle small batches.  Click on the link to Valley Malt above.  If you like beer and you don’t get a little smile on your face, you’re dead inside
  • Did I mention they use locally grown pumpkins?  Of course they do
My wife, the lovely Nurse Van Drinkale, was kind enough to grab me a growler of The Great Pumpkin Ale on her way home from work yesterday.  There is no greater gift than 64oz of fresh-from-the-tap ambrosia being delivered right to your doorstep.  Euphoric delight.

NOTES: Growler, freshly filled, poured into a shaker by the dozen ounce

STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 4.4% (Ah, sweet session)

APPEARANCE: Light amber with hints of orange poking through.  Just a touch of haze

HEAD: Thin off-white head, tightly knit, disappeared quickly

LACING: Really non-existent.  Could just be the fact that I was pouring from a growler.

NOSE: Nutmeg, little bit of cinnamon, even some vanilla mixing in.  The aromatic spices certainly aren’t overpowering – This is no Harpoon Winter Brew.  Some spicy hops are present along with a distinct biscuit scent.  Fresh pumpkin finishes everything out.  Subtle throughout

TASTE: Sweetness hits you up front, then it’s all rich and toasty.  What I found in the nose didn’t really come through until the end.  While it’s sweet up front, there’s a crispness that balances out the brew, leaving your palette dry and thirsting for the next sip

MOUTHFEEL: Just barely breaking into the medium body category.  Ample carbonation

DRINKABILITY: This seems to be the dividing factor between those that love the style and those that hate it.  If it’s too sweet and dominated by Fall spices you’ll probably only want one.  The same can be said if it’s boring and thin, like the regular Shipyard Pumpkinhead.  Balance is key and The Great Pumpkin Ale has that in spades.  Add in the fact that it clocks in under 5% and you can drink these boys all day.  The 64oz growler is the perfect serving size for this brew.

RATING: 3.5 Hops



  1. Nice write up but…. Lakefront brewery, Milwaukee.. Pumpkin is kickin! Here is the story of another true out of the ordinary craft adventure: In 1989, Lakefront Brewery owner, Russ Klisch was reading dusty brewing tome, tipping one of our fine lagers and came across a beer recipe that Thomas Jefferson had brewed with pumpkin at his home in Monticello.

    Pours a light orange with an off-white head. Flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves meld well with a slightly sweet background that actually does taste a bit like pumpkin. Caramel and Munich malts reinforce this beer’s mouthfeel and lend to the malty sweetness.

    Makes you want to have one.. hey?

  2. I hear about how good Lakefront’s pumpkin beer is ALL THE TIME, but I’ve yet to have one. I should. I do own a Lakefront tee shirt.

  3. Sounds like road trip! Kid, I will be happy to be your beer guide for the greater Milwaukee metro-plex. Lots of good craft breweries. Maybe with a side trip to Madison for Ale Asylum.. Hopalicious is well worth the trip. Drink well my alehead friend!

  4. Careful, Beer-Meister. The Kid is a freeloader. He’s a master of getting other people to buy beer for him. I don’t think he’s paid for a brew in three years…

    If Doc says a Pumpkin Ale is worthy, them I’m in. It’s been awhile since I had a decent one (though the Pumking is indeed delicious). Also a HUGE fan of the Bruery Autumn Maple which is a yam beer, but hey…if it’s served at my Thanksgiving dinner, it counts, right?

    Speaking of Fall seasonals. Why has no one invented a Stuffing Stout yet? The best part of a Turkey Day meal and you’re telling me Sam Calagione hasn’t figured out a way to turn it into a savory brew? Get on it, Sam! Or BrewDog!

  5. I am ready for the stuffing stout..I love stuffing… and if it would be anything like the dogfish head Raison D’etre… then it will be a classic… if beets can taste that yummy, why not stuffing?

    Barley, I am sure that I can get the Kid free beers for being a founding alehead member.. if not.. a craft beer trained drinking buddy is worth the price. Wow, great people can rent yourselves out as expert drinkers. Can you say cottage industry…

    Here is another pumpkin for the tasting

    Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale – 22 oz. bottle into a pint glass . 9% abv.

    Appearance: Pours an amber orange with no head. Plenty of lights get through this one.

    Aroma: Pumpkin pie filling: sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin meat.

    Taste: Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and spicy hops.

    Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little sticky.

    Overall: This is the king of pumpkin beer to be sure but a little heavy handed because of the abv.

    OK, enjoy my thirsty friends!

  6. Beer Meister: I actually do have some experience in Milwaukee metro breweries, because I went there as part of a southeastern Wisconsin beer trip, similar to my Michigan one from this spring. It was the first beer trip I had gone on—this was last August. I would have written about it here, but I wasn’t an Alehead at the time.

    It was 5 days, 4 nights. The itinerary was:

    Day I: Chicago burbs to New Glarus, from there to the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb, then to Capital in Middleton, and one of the Great Danes in Madison.

    Day II: Ale Asylum for most of the day in Madison, then another Great Dane, then moved on and spent the night in Lake Mills, visting Tyranena.

    Day III: Departed early for Milwaukee. Hit Water Street brewpub, AJ Bombers, then Milwaukee Alehouse. It was recommended to me there by people on a similar beer trip to visit the Milwaukee Brewing Company itself, so I went down there and found them EXTREMELY accomodating.

    Day IV: Another day in Milwaukee. Had a burger at Sobelman’s. Went on the old Pabst brewery tour. Was joined by my parents for the Lakefront tour—that’s where I got the shirt that I mentioned. Stayed at Lakefront for the fish fry. Then I went to a Brewer’s game.

    Day V: Came back to Chi-town, hitting a few northside brewpubs along the way.

    The one place I would like to have hit in Milwaukee but didn’t was Stonefly. How are they?

  7. Beer-meister: Agreed that Southern Tier Pumking is the undisputed champ, at least of what’s available in my area. Tried the Southampton Pumpkin which had been recommended to me recently and was unimpressed (which is being kind).

    That Stuffing Stout gets aged in rye whiskey barrels with cranberries, I’m thinking…

  8. I’ve actually never had Pumpking, on account of I don’t think I’ll ever buy a bomber of a pumpkin beer. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is the best pumpkin beer I’ve had.

  9. Kid, you hit all the best places! I can’t top your itinerary! See what I mean about renting yourself out to the less crafty… you would be awesome! Beer tours! I would road trip with you any where, any time! I can’t wait for….Beer Tours, the movie to come out! Staring Kid Carboy Jr….

    Slouch, I tried the Southampton… I agree, not good.

  10. Tiff – I had a Post Road on Friday night. I used to point to that as a top example of the Pumpkin Ale style but I now have to agree with your description – Just meh. Not a bad beer by any stretch but really boring.

  11. Have none of you ever had 1) Dogfish Head Punkin or 2) Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale??? I mean really, c’mon! You think Southern Tier Pumking is the best? Try these two which completely blow away ANY competition. But then again I am in Pennsylvania which, along with Oregon, is craft beer capital of the U.S………….

  12. Sorry Schpsychman, I just don’t like the Dogfish Punkin. Never have, never will. I go for subtlety in pumpkin ales and as much as Dogfish Head has mastered many a brewing technique, subtlety isn’t exactly one of them. I do enjoy the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin though, which pretty much throws my previous sentence out the window.

    Again, I’m lukewarm on the style so even though I might think that the Southern Tier Pumking is the best, it’s probably about my 500th favorite beer. There are literally hundreds of other beers that I would choose before it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s