Either The Crafty Pint timed this East Coast trip remarkably fortuitously or there’s so much innovation going on in Australia’s craft breweries these days that there are unexpected treats waiting around every corner. Because just over 24 hours after helping out with the brew of Stone & Wood’s one-off kellerbier* the opportunity arose to be the first person to taste Murray’s new Pumpkin Ale, due for release this weekend to coincide with Halloween. Made with pumpkin (of course) and a heap of spices, it’s the second time brewers Shawn Sherlock and Ian Watson have produced the beer.
“We’ve taken the flavours and aromas of pumpkin pie and put them into beer,” says Shawn. “We sliced and diced 70kg of pumpkin before dry roasting it to soften it up and enhance the caramel sweetness. This was then added with the grain at the start of the mash, by which stage it weighed around 50kg.”
Also added are cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice – just like a traditional pumpkin pie.
“It’s relatively highly hopped,” says Shawn, “to give it some bitterness and dryness. It means it’s not as sweet as some American versions, even though by this brewery’s standards it’s sweetish.”
So what of the result? Well, to look at, I can think of no better reference point than Irn Bru, the Scottish soft drink once promoted with the advertising tagline “Made in Scotland from girders”. Sadly, to an Australian audience, it’s as useful a reference point as the kits worn by Wolves for midweek floodlit games in the 1950s so we’ll move on.
Let’s just say it’s a bright, bright orange – tangerine on fire sort of bright – and develops lovely golden bubbles when swirled. As for taste, it is kinda sweet, mainly in the caramel sense, but the spices – in particular the cinnamon – are as defining a feature in a beer that is remarkably drinkable and has Crafty looking ahead excitedly to the spiced beers brewers have planned for Christmas.
*OK, admittedly weighing out a bunch of hops and sprinkling them liberally into a tank of beer is akin to adding seasoning to an already cooked gourmet dish just before it’s taken from kitchen to diner, but allow us this one brief moment!