10/20/21: Shipyard Brewing Company's Pumpkinhead

3:14 PM

Today's beer is one that I've never had before (but one that you very well might've): Shipyard's Pumpkinhead. Back before I started getting into pumpkin beer, I'd see the familiar label on grocery store shelves. In those days, the few pumpkin ales I had didn't quite hook me and, as a result, I stayed far away from the style. It wasn't until I moved to Cincinnati that I gave the gourdy beers another go.


All this to say, while Pumpkinhead's been on my radar, it's never made it onto my to-try list. This year, though, that's changing. Let's see how this holiday classic is drinking in 2021.

Shipyard's based in Portland, ME. The family-owned brewery makes diverse, innovative beer. Here's their website.

Pumpkinhead's a 4.5% ABV wheat ale brewed with three types of malt, two varieties of hops, cinnamon, nutmeg, and (hopefully, since its official listing doesn't explicitly state it) pumpkin. There are tons of baking recipes that employ the ale if baking's your thing. There's even a proper way to drink a pint of it: In a cinnamon sugar-rimmed glass with a shot of vanilla vodka or spiced rum. I won't be drinking it this way--my bottle only holds twelve ounces, not a full pint.

The ale's bouquet is unexpectedly enticing: It's lightly spiced (there's that cinnamon and nutmeg) and the pumpkin shines through strongly, hitting with an almost single-punch KO. I'm also picking up on notes of freshly-pressed apple juice, which fits in well with everything else the ale has going on. Purrl gave my bottle seven whiffs, meaning that she's here for it.


My first swig gives me a quick wash of pumpkin flavor followed by spicy goodness, both of which are pretty quickly drowned out by the wheat ale parts of this wheat ale. The malts are mild and there's that characteristic watery wheat flavor here. The hops are bitter and grounding. Thankfully, the spices return in the finish, along with a touch of pumpkin.

I can report that Pumpkinhead's mouthfeel is exactly what it should be: smooth, refreshing.

It's funny, because the last beer I featured should've reminded me of a hayride but didn't, while Pumpkinhead does. I can vividly envision sitting on a bale of hay in some rickety wagon while a tractor-driving farmer wheels me around the field; the aroma of freshly-cut hay wafting over me while the mid-autumn sun shines down, providing no small amount of warmth.

Getting back to Shipyard's Pumpkinhead--it's pretty good. If I'd had one of these early on in my drinking career, I might've come around to pumpkin beer sooner. As it stands, though, by 2021 I've had some of the best of the best and Pumpkinhead doesn't hold up super well when compared to them. I'm giving it a 7.5/10. It's really drinkable and definitely something you should have a go at if you haven't already.

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