First Draught: Black Creek’s Pumpkin Ale
By David Ort
Pumpkin in beer form (Image: David Ort)
The months of the beer calendar are marked by a rotating cycle of releases that all seem to use a seasonal ingredient. In the winter it’s high alcohol and warm spices; spring has bocks and hints of maple syrup; summer brings lighter beers, inflected with citrus. And now we’re well into the greatest beer season of all: pumpkin beer time.
Fans of the style will have a lot to choose from this year: there a number of offerings at the LCBO, with more on the way. Among that crowd, I think the Pumpkin Ale from Black Creek Historic Brewery stands out as one of the better examples.
Whether we’re talking about pumpkin pie, soup or beer, I wonder whether the allure is in the flavour of pumpkin or all those familiar spices that typically go with it. After all, other than that damp, squashy aroma that fills the kitchen at jack-o’-lantern time — and lots of sweetness — what does pumpkin really taste like?
In this case, Black Creek has added cinnamon, which heightens the aroma, and ginger, which cuts the sweetness. The flavour of cloves and a slight hop bitterness also add lively interest.
The version of the Pumpkin Ale that’s at the LCBO is brewed under contract for Black Creek at Trafalgar Brewery in Oakville. Later in October, at the Howling Hootenanny at the historic Pioneer Village, Black Creek will be selling growlers (1.89 litres) of a version made using its historically-accurate 19th century equipment and techniques.
From the rest of the field, Grand River’s Highballer Pumpkin Ale is another favourite of mine, especially because of its American pale ale style base. From outside Ontario, the Pumking from Southern Tier and Howe Sound’s Pumpkineater (not yet in the LCBO) are both worth trying.
Black Creek Historic Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale, $3.95 for a 500 ml bottle, LCBO #311225
When David isn't busy drinking beer for his articles here, he writes about food and drink for Toronto's online publications including his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on beer and life in general follow him on Twitter.