Imperial pumpkin ale, 10%
Believe it or not, pumpkin beer has a history in North America that goes all the way back to colonial times, when settlers used the gourd as a fermentable in their makeshift ales. Those early iterations, though, would have tasted far different from the modern day pumpkin beers we’re all accustomed to, because pumpkin itself doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table as an ingredient. That’s why not a whole lot of pumpkin ales actually contain pumpkin. Rather, it’s the spices commonly associated pumpkin pie that have come to define the style since its reemergence in the 1980s.
A few years ago, Old Ox sought to buck that trend with an old school pumpkin beer. The brewery made its Oxorcist stout with the pulp of the orange squash... but no spices. And according to Old Ox co-founder Chris Burns, that confused the hell of its customers. So, the following fall, the Ashburn brewery retooled the Oxorcist recipe, removing pumpkin, and adding cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg -- in moderation, of course. "We still wanted to show subtlety," Burns shares. "When you go over the top with spices, it ruins you for the rest of the night."
While Oxorcist II may not go overboard with those spices, it is not an otherwise timid beer. The imperial pumpkin ale sits at a mighty 10% ABV, though fermenting it at cooler temperatures and leaving some residual sugar in the mix hides a lot of those boozy notes. The spices, meanwhile, are balanced with vanilla bean and maple syrup. All in all, it’s a dangerously smooth treat, likely to please both pumpkin beer fanatics and skeptics.