Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale keeps the crisp autumn air at bay

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, and welcome to Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford.

Since we are fully into the season of the harvest this week, I would like to talk about a beer that is as seasonal as autumn. I’m talking about pumpkin beers, of course, but more specifically, Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.

While pumpkin beers were produced in the early days of the American colonies, they were different from the pumpkin beers of today. Colonists used pumpkin and squash as the fermenting medium, since malted barley was scarce. Once malt became more readily available, it replaced these alternatives to grain. In the 1990s, American craft brewers reintroduced the style, much to the delight of craft-beer drinkers.

Here are some interesting facts about pumpkins. Did you know that Illinois is the top pumpkin production state, followed by California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan? According to the University of Illinois, 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are raised within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois. The town of Morton, near Peoria, is the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World. Morton is the location of a Libby’s pumpkin processing plant, which cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin each year.

Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale is brewed by the St. Louis Brewery in St. Louis. According to their website: “Our Pumpkin Ale blends the spices of the harvest with full-bodied sweetness for a beer that tastes like pumpkin pie. Pounds of pumpkin form a malty foundation that supports the fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.” Sounds inviting, so let’s give it a try …

Because I want to get the full aroma and flavors, I am using my trusty Sam Adams perfect pint glass. The beer pours a clear caramel orange in color, with a thin, almost one-finger depth of beige tight head that fades away rather quickly, leaving no lacing whatsoever.

The aroma was pretty mellow on the pumpkin with the spices being more assertive. As the beer warmed, the aroma improved, with the pumpkin pie spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove still dominant. A hint of malty sweetness appeared with no hop presence detectable.

Unlike the smell, the flavor profile has a lot going on from the beginning. Most surprising is the pumpkin really stands out at the start with the pumpkin pie spice flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice taking over with just a hint of clove. The caramel malt sweetness helps balance the pie spices flavor without overwhelming — rich and full in flavor. The finish contains cinnamon that gives the beer a mild spiciness. The 8 percent alcohol by volume is barely perceivable.

The mouth feel is rich and full bodied with a frothy, tongue-blanketing feel and a moderate amount of carbonation to clean it up.

Overall, this beer has very good balance between pumpkin and spices with a punchy and balanced flavor profile and fuller mouth feel. I feel the minimal clove is what makes this beer a pleasant drinker. My wife and I have drunk a few of these on cool evenings beside the fire on our deck, the 8 percent ABV and the warmth of the fire keeping the crisp autumn evening air at bay.

Prost!

Michael Sears is the president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a home-brewing club dedicated to the art of finely-crafted beer. The club meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Street. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Oct. 8-14, 2014, issue

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