Pumpkin Beer in NH

We're falling for pumpkin beer

Pumpkin Ale at Milly's Tavern in Manchester.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

Want to start a spirited discussion? Forget politics, religion and revenge — all New England favorites. Drop the words “pumpkin ale” and watch what happens.

“In my humble opinion, 95 percent of pumpkin beers are gimmicks,” says Paul from Bedford, a member of the Brew Free or Die Club. “With that said, there are some great pumpkin ales out there. Smuttynose’s is pretty decent, although it does spice pretty heavily. They use real pumpkin, though, so at least they are true to style. I tend to find that the pumpkin ales that come out late in the season (late October releases) are better,” he adds. Both local pumpkin-sourcing and not being heavy-handed with the spices are keys to Milly’s Tavern pumpkin ale, according to Peter Telge, owner and brewer at Milly’s in Manchester.

“Some other breweries use the pumpkin pie spice mix. We use the real pumpkin to get a subtle pumpkin flavor, then we can add as much pumpkin, nutmeg and brown sugar as we want without having it be overly spicy. You taste the other pumpkin ales and you get a nutmeg aftertaste because that’s the pumpkin pie mix,” he says. Pumpkin is Milly’s number one seasonal beer.

Tyler Jones, head brewer at Portsmouth Brewery, even considers pumpkin mass-to-seed ratio and color as he handpicks his crop for the fall brew.

“We deal with a local farm in Stratham called Blueberry Bay Farm. They grow Dickinson pumpkins there, which is kind of the original Libby’s pumpkin. It has a really high sugar content and a really great orange color. They’re very dense and sweet with a lot of sugar coming out of them,” Jones says.

“Jenni and I make a pumpkin ale every year using several pounds of fresh caramelized pumpkin meat,” says Manchester home brewer Aaron Share. “We think typically commercial pumpkin beers rely on too much spice so we keep our spicing to a minimum, to let the pumpkin flavor shine through.”

So, is pumpkin ale a woman’s beer?

“I think that most people will like it sometimes. It’s more on the edge of a sweet beer so women like it more than men, usually,” Telge believes.

Jones has a different opinion: “The craft beer drinker’s palates have developed dramatically over the years. You can’t pigeonhole women beer drinkers any more. [At] every beer festival I go to, you have women drinking stouts.”

And so the politics of beer keeps brewing.    

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