Elysian Brewing’s 5th Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival

October 12th, 2009 by Adrian

We’ve been to a few beer festivals in our time, but this one was right up Jenny’s alley: Elysian Brewing hosted a weekend blowout tasting, for pumpkin beers only!  Almost 30 different Pumpkin beers were on tap, with about half of those coming from Elysian’s own kegs.

Our first visit was foiled when we showed up at the downtown location on Saturday only to learn that the festival was a Capitol Hill exclusive.  So we tried again on Sunday, and our persistence paid off.  Although a few of the beers were sold out, there was plenty of sunshine on tap, and that made everything ten times more fun.  (In fact, when the sun finally dipped behind the neighboring condos, our high spirits started to go with it.  We high-tailed it out of there within 10-15 minutes.)

Detailed tasting notes follow for nine or ten beers. (Since we were having such a good time just chatting and drinking, we forgot to write anything down for a few of ’em!)


A very lightly hopped sour ale called “Mr. Yuck” was on offer, but the name didn’t tempt us to try it. The 8472 is Mr. Yuck’s swarthier, older brother. The Elysian blurb describes it as “a dark sour pumpkin ale, brewed with pale, Munich, wheat, oats, rye, corn, and pumpkin in the mash and kettle. Bittered with aged Hallerhauer hops.”

We say:: “Wow, that’s an intense sour! Definitely a beer to sip, not gulp. As far as pumpkin goes, well… the rye probably comes through more than the gourd on this one.”

Bête N Owl

This is one of our big favorites from the festival! Apparently the first year for brewing, it’s adapted from Elysian’s Bête Noel winter seasonal. According to Elysian: “Brewed with pale, 120° Crystal and a tiny bit of chocolate malt. Bittered with Magnum and finished with German Northern Brewer hops. Pumpkin in the mash, kettle, and fermenter. Spiced with […] cinnamon, clove, ginger, black pepper, and grains of paradise.”

We say:: Jenny loved this because of the subtle spicing and bready, Belgian flavors. I dig it for the same reasons, and the fact that the pumpkin really complements the chocolate notes and rounds out a nice, full flavor. It’s not a novelty beer; it’s a nice Belgian (and besides Chimay, there really aren’t a lot of Belgians that I go for).

Biere de Gourde

This is a simple, saison-style brew with a little spice and, obviously, pumpkin. The scoop from Cambridge Brewing: “French pale and caramel malts plus fresh organic sugar pumpkins in the mash, aided and abetted by Styrian Goldings hops and a touch of some earthy spice — star anise, mace, allspice, clove, and cinnamon.”

We say:: “Don’t be scared of the spice; it’s not very prominent. Just a light Saison with a bit of conservative, pumpkin flair.”

Cerveza Calabaza

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Instead, we’ll just hand the mic over to Rock Bottom brewery: “Brewed with 2-row, Munich, and C-20 malts. Hopped with Bravo and Mt. Hood and fermented with Chimay Belgian yeast strain. Six pounds per bbl canned pumpkin added to mash, boil, and fermenter. Spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and fresh-grated ginger root, all steeped in the whirlpool post-boil.”

We say:: “Wow, all that work to produce a pale, weak glass of macrobrew? And oh yeah, it smells like socks.”

The Great Pumpkin

There were two different brews by this name at the festival. One was from Cambridge Brewing, but this one is from Elysian: “Silver Medalist at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival in the Fruit and Vegetable category, the world’s first Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Brewed with pale, Munich, Cara-Hell, Cara-Vienne, Cara-Munich, and Crisp 45° L Crystal Malts. Roasted Pumpkin seeds in the mash, and extra pumpkin added to the mash, kettle, and fermenter. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.”

We say:: The spice flavors are really apparent here. The pumpkin, not so much — not a bad thing, just subtle, which is a little surprising given the name. Maybe we’re just too literal…

The Great Pumpkin

The other brew bearing this sobriquet comes off as kind of a Linus to the Elysian’s Charlie Brown. From Cambridge Brewing: “Brewed with over 150 pounds of fresh, locally grown, organic sugar pumpkins, hand-carved and added to each batch. Our Great Pumpkin Ale has an appropriately orange hue, and the subtle pumpkin flavor is enhanced by a touch of traditional autumn spices.”

We say:: Subtle like a kick to the head! There’s so much pumpkin flavor here, it’s like pumpkin syrup that’s been pumped into a glass of beer. (And Jenny thinks the beer was a Fat Tire.)

Hansel and Gretel

A light, refreshing pilsner with a strong ginger kick! This was another big favorite of ours, and apparently we weren’t alone — the Hansel was on track to be one of the first Elysian brews tapped out for the day. Of course, the Patriots were also “on track” to be the first NFL team to give the Broncos a butt-kickin’ this season, and that didn’t end as planned. Still, there was a lot of crowd interest in this one, so maybe it will work its way into Elysian’s seasonal tap lineup someday.

We say:: The ginger really comes through… not fizzy like a “ginger beer,” but as a welcome note of spice that saves this beer from being boring.

Ich Bin Ein Pumpkiner

A Berlin sour wheat beer from Nodding Head Brewery. Where’s the pumpkin, you ask? In the pumpkin syrup that’s squirted into the glass just before you drink it.

Jenny sez:: “Look at all the little fragments of stuff in my glass!” (There were a lot of floating odds-and-ends… peels, perhaps? Not sure if it was from the syrup or the beer.)
Adrian sez:: “Despite the pumpkin syrup, this tastes more like a spiked lemonade than anything else. Sour and citrusy… very pale, cloudy yellow color reinforces the lemonade feeling. Would rather have this than a Heineken on a hot summer’s day.”

Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

Of all the Elysian brews on tap, this is the only one that’s currently available for take-home purchase. You can get individual 22 oz bombers or buy it by the case from the bar. Elysian describes it as “brewed with over 7 lbs of pumpkin per barrel. Made with Pale, Munich, and Crystal malts, green and roasted pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin in the mash, boil, and fermenter. Bittered with Magnum hops. Spiced in conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.”

We say:: “Very light and crisp at first, despite the deep, coppery color. As the beer warms up, more and more of both the pumpkin and spice flavors start to emerge. This is probably at its best about 15 minutes or so after the pour, because the chill right off the tap clips off many of the more subtle flavors.”

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