721 Grand Avenue, Pacific Beach
Craft beer can be a hard sell in Pacific Beach. Though artisanal ales and lagers are finally starting to show up in greater quantity, bland fermented beverages described as “lite” and served out of receptacles featuring neon blue mountains and "vortex necks" still rule the day in that part of town. Yet, Pacific Beach AleHouse (721 Grand Avenue, Pacific Beach) soldiers on its mission to not only serve, but produce craft beer and convert partygoers to the heartier side of the suds spectrum.
One beer that stands a good chance of helping accomplish that difficult mission is Pacific Beach Pumpkin Ale, a seasonal offering available through Thanksgiving that plays off the masses’ autumnal yen for all things gourdy and fall-spiced. To that end, brewmaster Vince Falcone brews each 14-barrel batch of this beer using 100 pounds of pumpkin, half of which is smoked, all of which is honey-glazed.
For those who haven’t yet received the memo, pumpkin is low in fermentable sugars, the type that make an impact in the brewing process and give flavor, and you can’t taste it in the finished product. That’s why most pumpkin beers taste like pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, allspice) and, typically, way too much like those flavor additives.
But the PB version bucks that trend. There’s just a hint of spice that comes in along with a nice, faint nuttiness in the mid-palate. The beer really tastes like a basic, biscuity amber ale; the type of brew that has served as many craft beer virgins’ eye-opening first taste of craft over the past two or three decades. If it’s not pumpkiny enough for you, they’ll garnish the rim of the glass with a sugar-and-spice mixture, but purists like me (who find that sacrilegiously weird) will enjoy it much more served straight.