It was a little over a month ago that Alaskan Brewing Co. announced the release of the company’s Pumpkin Ale, a new fall seasonal set to supplant the company’s prior autumnal offering, Pumpkin Porter.

Said to be a spin on the beer it was replacing, Pumpkin Ale’s primary difference is that it starts out with a lighter-bodied, brown ale base recipe.

Alaskan Pumpkin Ale bottle

In terms of what goes into the beer, like its predecessor Pumpkin Ale has an ingredient list that includes organic pumpkin, brown sugar and an array of holiday spices. Both beers also incorporate alder-smoked malt, something most would associate with Alaskan’s highly-regarded Smoked Porter. This, the brewery says, is done to help offset the sweetness in the beer so it avoids having a cloying taste.

Curiously, though, I don’t get a great deal of smoke in either the aroma of flavor of this clear, amber brew. It’s not overly sweet, either, so in that sense you could say the smoke has done its job. What Pumpkin Ale does have, however, is a strong hint of brown sugar to go along with a noticeable portion of its namesake ingredient. The pumpkin permeates the nose of the beer, with spices more or less filling in the background. Less being the case for things like nutmeg and cinnamon, and more being the case for the cloves. The taste is similar, with the cloves adding a lively spice note to an otherwise smooth, drying finish.

Alaskan Pumpkin Ale

Another ingredient, though, is perhaps what I noticed most about Pumpkin Ale and how it seems to differ from others in the category. Vienna malt is used in the grain bill, which to me almost gives off the impression of a marzen or an Oktoberfest beer. Perhaps, then, Pumpkin Ale represents a sort of mash-up of fall’s two traditional beer styles. Either way, the beer is light, flavorful, and as easy to drink as they come.

Alaskan Pumpkin Ale
BREWERY: Alaskan Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Juneau, Alaska
STYLE: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 6 percent
IBU: 20
PRICE: n/a
RELEASE DATE: August 2015
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
Other than maybe wishing for a littler softer spice with regard to the cloves, Alaskan Pumpkin Ale succeeds where a lot of others fail in keeping the specialty ingredients in check. Rather than being a beer where all you taste is the "pumpkin pie," this beer has just enough of the pumpkin and spice to enhance the toasted malt foundation of the base beer. In that way, I would describe it more in terms of a sweet bread-like beer than pumpkin pie in a glass. Overall, though, I would say that if you like your pumpkin beers to be balanced and not overbearing, then this is worth a try.
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