It was the Winter of 06/07. Our friends, Chip and Erin, suckered us out to Brooklyn to a watering hole named Barcade. “It’ll be fun, they’ve got vintage arcade games,” Chip’s voice echoes in my head. “A self-loathing hipster’s oasis,” I thought.
It was on like Donkey Kong, and we played Donkey Kong that night! It was a big deal for Manhattanites to cross a river in the dead of Winter.
The only other thing I remember from that night was Tron (my girlfriend at the time) saying, “Hey, Little Buddy, they have pumpkin beer!” Outside of carving them, I hated pumpkins. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin bread. It really doesn’t matter what other forms of pumpkin there were, I didn’t dig it.
Tron forced me to take a sip, Beergasm! Spicy. Creamy. Quality head. First sip as good as the last. The beer that night was Southampton Pumpkin Ale. All of a sudden I was in love with everything pumpkin. Neither Tron nor myself remember much of the rest of that evening, even the long walk back to the subway in sub-zero temperature.
Fast forward to the Autumn of ’07. I hadn’t shut up about how amazing that pumpkin beer was and had convinced my friend and owner of Perdition (49th and 10th) to buy a keg. Like hell I was going to trek back to Brooklyn when I needed a pumpkin beer fix. Unfortunately, that year was not a good one for Southampton Pumpkin Ale. Tron and I were perplexed, took a step back and assessed the situation.
Could a micro brew really be that different year to year? We had found our new Autumn activity. In ’07 we tried maybe five difference pumpkin beers. In ’08, we logged approximately 10 different tastings. Last year, a pregnancy year no doubt, I sampled and graded over 30 different pumpkin beers.
I would like to share with you a beer that was always consistently great. In fact, last year I noticed it had gotten significantly better. The thing I loved about it was you could get it anywhere. If I didn’t feel like hanging with the bar crowd, the local bodega had it. When we moved back to Rochester, NY the local Wegman’s had it. I give you…out of Maine, Shipyard Pumpkinhead (4.5% abv).
I don’t consider myself a beer snob. In fact, I drank a Natural Ice the other day. I’ll never understand how Rochester can be so cold in the Winter, yet so hot in the Summer. Pumpkin beer folk usually come in two varieties; those who’ll try it, and those who scoff at the idea.
The Shipyard Pumpkinhead is super spicy, smooth, but not overly creamy. It lets you know it is still a beer, but the pumpkin taste takes center stage. There are a lot of ‘pumpkin beers’ that are okay beers with some pumpkin flavor. There are also ‘pumpkin beers’ that go way too far in the pumpkin direction and when you boil it down they are crappy beers. The Pumpkinhead is the perfect balance.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to drink 30 different pumpkin beers this year. I did, however buy five 12 packs of the Pumpkinhead from my local bevvy. If you live on the fringes of Shipyard’s distribution, it sells out fast. I purposely waited four days to post this so there was less competition for my favorite Autumn beverage. Pumpkin beer season apparently starts on August 1st, so mark your calendars!
“It comes alive once a year!” – Shipyard Pumpmkinhead
Shipyard, if you have Pumpkinhead t-shirts, I will wear one year round. Keep doing what you do. Drink responsibly my friends.