Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale

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Arrgghhh! There Be Pumpkins Here Matey!

Sep 24, 2005 (Updated Aug 10, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Refreshing pumpkin ale made with Ringwood yeast. Nice balance.

Cons:No pumpkin!

The Bottom Line: Ummmmm. Pumpkin beer.


Its fall again as I type and though the thermometer may not yet reflect it here in Georgia, it’s a sure bet that cooler temperatures on the way. And that means it’s a very exciting time for beer enthusiasts, especially those like me who enjoy Pumpkin Ales. There’s just something about a beer flavored with pumpkin or, at the very least, pumpkin pie spices.

I for one love these beers. They’re truly like fall in a glass, and they go great with football, turkey, pumpkin pie and all the other autumn pleasures that make the season so enjoyable. Thus, this time of year, my DBR (Dedicated Beer Refrigerator) will often resemble a veritable pumpkin patch of the beer world.

You’ll usually find some of Brooklyn Brewing’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale there. If you look a little more, some Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale and Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale will be there too.

This year, there’s a new addition to the patch: Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. Actually, this isn’t a new beer: it’s been available on draft since 2002 and bottled for at least a year or two. But this is the first time it has been available here in Atlanta, so as you might expect I snapped a six-pack up as soon as I saw it.

Some pumpkin ales actually are brewed with pumpkin as an ingredient. Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead is not one of them. Instead, it’s a wheat beer flavored with pumpkin pie spices. But the pumpkin suggestion is there, if only psychologically.

Portland, Maine based Shipyard has long been a favorite of mine from my days living in New England. The brewery has been around since 1994 and has a strong presence in the eastern United States. They have purchased several other New England brewers over the years and specialize in beers made with the unique and idiosyncratic Ringwood yeast strain.

Pumpkinhead is interesting in that respect: it’s a pumpkin ale made with Ringwood yeast. Malts used are Light Munich, two row British pale and of course wheat. The beer is hopped with Hallertaus and Willamettes and has an alcohol content of 4.8% by volume.

And what better way to drink your Pumpkinhead Ale than in an official Pumpkinhead Ale pint glass? That's what I'm doing. Many beer enthusiasts, myself included, enjoy drinking beer out of logo glasses, and I've built a rather large collection over the years. The Pumpkinhead pint glass, complete with orange bottom and logo on the front, can be obtained directly from Shipyard.com for about $8 including shipping.

Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale pours to a light golden orange color with a spritzy head of lightly packed bubbles and a spicy cinnamon laced nose. The palate is light, not surprising since this is a wheat ale. Immediately, notes of nutmeg and cinnamon jump to the front of the palate and pretty much dominate.

The spice here is milder than in some other Pumpkin Ales (Buffalo Bill’s most notably). But the Ringwood adds a bit of buttery diacetyl that works nicely with the spices. You can easily drink a lot of this and not get tired of it. It finishes with nice balance, not really bitter or sweet, though the wheat will lend a refreshing crispness anyway.

A very nice effort in the category, I think. Well worth your time if you come across it. And if you like it, don’t forget Harpoon Winter Warmer a little later in the season.

For 2007, Pumpkinhead is back early, ready to hit store shelves in the month of August. And it's already garnered an award, receiving first place in the Specialty Beer category at the 13th Annual California Brewers Festival.


Recommend this product? Yes

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