Welcome to the second of two strange pumpkin beer reviews. In part one of what I didn’t know at the time was to be a two part series, I drank New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin – a pumpkin beer with habanero and Saigon Cinnamon added. Sounds weird, but it worked surprisingly well with the habanero heat cleaning up some (but not quite enough) of the typical pumpkin beer sweetness.
I grabbed that beer not because I usually like pumpkin ales, but because I like trying unusual beers. A pumpkin beer with chili peppers added? Yeah, that qualifies as unusual. To me, buying something a little different than the norm doesn’t only introduce my palate to something new, it also is a way to support innovation in beer with my disposable dollars. And while combining peppers and pumpkin maybe isn’t exactly the direction in which I want to nudge brewers to innovate, I’ll never know for sure unless I try it.
So, all of this is part of what lead me to Traveler Beer Co.’s Pumpkin Shandy – another combination of flavor and style I had not seen. Of course, shandies are Traveler Beer Co.’s shtick, so maybe this was less unusual and more inevitable. Nevertheless, shandies are typically hot weather easy drinkers, so the addition of the much maligned fall ingredient made me wonder how or if this was going to work.
Also, if I’m being truthful, my wife typically likes pumpkin beers (and shandies) so when I picked up this six pack with her in mind, it was easy to snake one for this review.
Pumpkin beers typically are too sweet and/or overspiced for me. But some of these beers actually turn out pretty good. Imagine enjoying a warm piece of pumpkin pie after dinner on a crisp fall night – maybe accompanied by a boozy bourbon cocktail or complex roasted coffee. At their best, pumpkin beers capitalize on this balance between sweet, roasty, boozy and bitter with subtle pumpkin flavor to remind you of the season.
This tasted like a ginger lemon cookie baked with pumpkin.”
Even though I wasn't sure how a sweet wheat beer with lemon and pumpkin added was going to hit those notes, I tried going into this with an open mind.
On appearance alone Traveler’s Pumpkin Shandy looked like a standard pumpkin beer. It was a flat dark amber, leaning brown, with a small dull white head that was quickly gone. It is not really clear or hazy, with the blurry shadow of my hand visible behind the glass.
The aroma was not promising. Pumpkin spice, malty sweetness, and lemon combined to form an aroma somewhere between medicinal and pumpkin bathroom cleaner. I can’t say I was thrilled to take my first sip.
The medicinal qualities of the aroma bled into the taste. Traveler was heavy handed with the pumpkin spice and the lemon wheat beer base did nothing to calm down the spice or distract from the syrupy sweetness.
The feel was nondescript. It did nothing to clean up the sweetness, but it also did nothing to make things worse, you could say. It was the mouthfeel I would expect from a 4.4% alcohol by volume shandy – thin, light and inoffensive.
Being kind, this tasted like a ginger lemon cookie baked with pumpkin – or an overly sweet tea brewed with a squeeze of lemon and a few too many dashes of pumpkin pie spice.
Being less kind, this was not a beer I want to drink again.