October 11, 2011 | 12:00pm
Beer: Wasatch Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Utah Brewers Collective
Style: Pumpkin beer
ABV: 4 percent
Pumpkin beer month continues! Huzzah! This week's addition to the best family of vegetable beers around often flies under the radar, but is nonetheless so tasty that it topped our recent list of the nation's best pumpkin ales.
Utah Brewers Collective is the name of the megazord formed by the combination of Wasatch Brew Pub and Squatters Pub Brewery, which were once upon a time known as Schirf Brewing Co. and Salt Lake Brewing Co., respectively.
Schirf Brewing was founded by Greg Schirf, who came to Utah from Milwaukee and, after discovering that Utah was way behind the beer times, opened the state's first brewery in 1986. He called his beers and brewpub Wasatch, named for the mountains east of Salt Lake City. Schirf was also the guy who proposed the bill to make brewpubs legal in Utah to the Legislature in 1988. More than a dozen brewpubs are now thriving in the state thanks to him.
Squatters, founded by Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis, joined the ranks in 1989, and the two major breweries found themselves in a back-and-forth battle for the title of Utah's best brewery. They combined forces in 2000 to cut costs, increase distribution and better compete with macrobreweries, and though they now share a location in Salt Lake, the Cooperative still produces beers bearing the name of the brewer that created it. Hence, Wasatch Pumpkin Ale.
Nutty auburn and brilliantly clear, Pumpkin Ale is the color of fall. A finger of light khaki bubbles textured like oceanic foam fizzles away quickly, leaving little between you and the rather intense nose. Sweet heavy cream. Hints of cinnamon, almond and nutmeg blend with buttery baked bread and pumpkin so sweetly caramelized it tastes like it's been thrown on an outdoor grill. I want to make a candle out of it.
The flavor is sadly not as intense as the aroma, but that might not be a bad thing. With massively sweet and spicy pumpkin brews, a little is usually enough, and a full bottle can be wearying. Wasatch's pumpkin ale exhibits a cleaner flavor that avoids this cloying quality and increases drinkability. Inside, pumpkin rind mixes with apple juice at first, and very subtle cinnamon and allspice rise to replace them after the swallow. A bit of tanginess remains on the tongue after the dry finish, but it's not enough to upset the balance that's going on here.
At four percent ABV, Wasatch Pumpkin is one of the few truly sessionable pumpkin ales. With a medium body that's fairly light on the tongue, high carbonation and a clean finish, if there's any pumpkin ale to spend a chilly night drinking, this is it.
Food pairing suggestions:
Keep things in the squash family by contrasting Wasatch Pumpkin Ale's clean flavor with a bowl of thick, rich butternut squash soup. The beer's dry enough to wipe out the sweet soup while adding spices that complement it.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited specialist on beer.
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