The first of the 2014 pumpkin beer blossomed onto shelves here mid-September. I wasn’t surprised to come across a few I hadn’t seen before. First among those was Half Moon Bay Brewing Company’s Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale.
At 5.5%, it’s the most session-able of the year’s offerings. It’s also the most true-to-the-squash of any pumpkin beer I’ve had. This orange-hued (12 SRM [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Reference_Method]) ale blossoms into shy, sweet aromatics as you dip you beak into the glass. It hits the tongue with a malty, strong roasted pumpkin and brown sugar profile. Spice is evident, but absolutely takes a back seat to the star of the show: the roasted sugar pie pumpkin. Truly this is a brewer who believes a pumpkin beer is all about the pumpkin. Half Moon Bay master brewer James Costa has the advantage of living in an area with large numbers of locally-grown pumpkins. Half Moon Bay is on the south-east San Francisco peninsula, a lovely spot far removed from the urban environs, sheltered by hills, and with a history of excellent agriculture. Costa’s method is to roast and spice his pumpkin before adding it to his amber ale’s boil. Whatever he’s done, it’s working. This is my first year having this beer, it will not be my last.
This is a good beer to have with a meal. It’ll hold its own against other tastes and presents a complex, unusual flavor profile you’ll want to savor, rediscovering with each sip. But sure, it’s only 5.5% – go ahead, have another while you’re at it.