So far autumn has been the best time of year to love beer in Bellingham, thanks to fresh hop IPAs, early-bird cold weather brews and a fine crop of local pumpkin-flavored ales.
Let’s talk about those pumpkin beers.
PumpFest, Wander Brewing Co. This crisp, clear deep orange jewel of a beer took the People’s Choice award at Bellingham Beer Week’s Oktoberfest. It’s an instant local classic. It’s so well loved locally, in fact, that it was gone before the calendar flipped to November. For those who didn’t get a chance to try it, remember the first time you heard that pumpkin beer is a thing? Well, maybe this is how you dreamed it would taste: sweet, balanced and chock full of ripe, fruity pumpkin flavor. Often it’s the spices, not the squash, that do most of the legwork in a pumpkin ale. Here, the cinnamon notes in the body are distinct but subtle, relatively, as they gracefully complement a rich flavor profile. Can’t wait until next year. A-
Monster Mash, Menace Brewing. Menace’s one-off pumpkin ale brims with spices: cloves, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, nutmeg, pumpkin meat. Tasting the, um, beer beneath all of the frills isn’t exactly easy. But if you’re into that, and the end result is good, it’s good, right? And it’s good. Monster Mash retains a loose, fluffy head, a dark brown-orange body, and layer after overt layer of spice. There’s a strong undercurrent of roasted bitterness — a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and patent malt — that will either distract you or endear you. On Halloween it was poured through a pumpkin cask; it should be on tap at The Local until Thanksgiving time, unless it goes quick. B+
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Horseman’s Head, Unspiced, Kulshan Brewing Co. Pours a deep shade of purplish orange, with — aptonym alert — a milky, one-finger’s-width head. It goes down like a Scotch ale: bittersweet, rich, warming and slightly nutty. Something seemed just slightly uneven in the body, to my palate, but only slightly. Sans spices, notes of toasted pumpkin seeds come out in the open, and fare just fine. B
Horseman’s Head, Spiced, Kulshan Brewing Co. Try it side by side with the unspiced ale, and it becomes a game of Spot the Differences. Very cool. Some of the malty heftiness mellows with a dash of allspice and cinnamon, though it’s not a dramatic, Jekyll and Hyde contrast. There’s the same Scotch body base and the same warmth. It’s a little easier going down, and a little less subtle on the tongue. Both editions are worth a taste. B
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