Get Ready, because pumpkin beer time is upon us. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the stuff, and part of that is from living in the Northeast, where pumpkin beer basically grows on trees from August to October. You can't escape it, and after a while all you want is a cozy porter or a crisp lager.
Maybe because of our never-ending summers, but pumpkin beers are not so invasive in Houston, which makes them something of a treat as we near Halloween. A few local breweries do pumpkin beers (the most famous being Saint Arnold's Pumpkinator), so over the next few weeks, we'll be gourding out on them.
Southern Star's Cygourd
When you taste a pumpkin beer, chances are you're actually tasting nutmeg, cinnamon, and other baking spices that we most identify with pumpkins and fall. Generally, that will be front and center, but there should also be a malty taste—sweet and roasted, hopefully—along with a starchy finish from gourds used in the cook (whether pumpkin or other gourds, or even puree). So for me a pumpkin beer is more like a "fall spice" beer. All this is to say Southern Star hits all the notes with Cygourd. You'll get nutmeg and cinnamon, caramel and cracker (from the nicely balanced malts—not too sweet, not too roasted). After the initial hit, the beer rounds off with breadiness and starch. It's not very adventurous, but it's a nice sipper that I'd be glad to have as my baseline fall spice beer. Rating: 6.7
Southern Star's Bombshell Blonde
And since we're on Southern Star, let's stay there with Bombshell Blonde, one of the better blonde ales I've ever had. It's made with Vienna malts, and not too many hops, so it's not very sweet or heavy as much as it is smooth and well-rounded. That's key, as you want something lighter that doesn't make you work too hard to enjoy. A good beer, especially when it's still warm out there. Rating: 8.1
On the Shelf: Karbach's Light Circus
Introduced to coincide with Karbach's spring festival Light Circus, and now available in stores and at the taproom, Light Circus is a hazy IPA at 6 percent ABV, meaning it should be lighter and more easily drinkable. And that it is. Instead of a dank burst of hops, or a very juicy experience, Light Circus tastes nuanced and careful. It's a little floral, a little tropical, somewhat hoppy, but altogether easy to put down. Almost too quickly, actually. It's a nice hazy IPA for when you may not want the big flavors and creamy finish. Rating: 7.3
Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America.