Putting pumpkin in beer isn't new; in fact it was used in lieu of malt since the colonial period. Due to the sheer abundance of the native fruit and the scarcity of good malt, early settlers used the meat of pumpkin to create fermentable sugars. As quality malts became more common the popularity of pumpkin beers fell but the ingredient reappeared as flavouring. Now pumpkin beers have become a popular seasonal and resemble pumpkin pies in taste and ingredients.
In Ottawa there are four brew pubs offering a seasonal pumpkin beer. I'm a bit late coming out with this 'guide' but there is plenty of time to head out to your local brew pub and have a pint of the labour intensive brew before the kegs are empty.
The Clocktower Brew Pub
575 Bank Street / 422 MacKay Street / 418 Richmond Road / 89 Clarance Street
Made with generous amounts of pumpkin puree, it pours a nice pumpkin orange colour with an off-mocha head. The pint is dusted with a generous amount of pumpin pie spice, like a popular fall latte, which masks the natural aromas of the brew and creates a not so attractive beer-spice-sludge. It has a crisp taste with delicate flavours of pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice) with hints of sweet malt and herbal hops. It's a nice pint to sip on but the aroma of the added spice can become a bit much.
Availability: On tap at the Brew Pub (4 locations).
Nightmare on Mill Street
Mill Street Brew Pub
555 Wellington Street
Pours a nice orange copper colour with an off white head and smells like a mixture of cinnamon, all spice, ginger and caramel. The taste starts off strong with a spice bite which is then balanced by sweet pumpkin and malt flavour. The aftertaste is somewhat dry with bittering hops and more spice.
Technically this isn't a local Ottawa brew pub offering as the kegs and bottles are produced in Toronto. However, it's a solid pumpkin beer and Mill Street Ottawa does have nice shiny copper tanks to look at so it's on the list!
Availability: On tap at the Brew Pub and in bottles in the Autumn Harvest Sampler (with the Oktoberfest beer) in the LCBO and Brew Pub.
Pumpkin Spiced Porter
Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery
2750A Iris Street
Big Rig gets the title of being the only beer from an Ottawa Brew Pub made with whole chunks of spice rubbed roasted local pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin puree. Pouring a dark red almost brown with an off white head, it smells like a warm cooked spices - ginger, all spice, cinnamon. The taste starts off strong with a roasted coffee flavour and a spicy ginger, all spice combination at the end. As the beer warms up, the spice and sweetness of pumpkin intensify making it a nice beer to enjoy with a slice of pumpkin pie.
Availability: On tap at the Brew Pub and available to-go in a 64 oz growler.
Ashton Brewing Company
113 Old Mill Road (Beckwith, ON)
Pours a pale, cloudy yellow with white head and has a faint fruity aroma. ABC's version of Pumpkin Ale is probably the most dangerous because it doesn't have the big flavours and aromas of pumpkin pie spice and caramel that can become cloying after a pint or two. Instead, the unfiltered brew is light, refreshing and has delicate spicing with a slight pumpkin sweetness.
Availability: On tap at the Brew Pub and at Quinn's (1070 Bank Street); available to-go in a 64 oz growler.