Elysian Brewing is really asserting itself as the standard bearers of pumpkin beer. Long before any of their brews made their way to the Phoenix market, I had heard tales of their Great Pumpkin. Before that arrived, the same brewery’s Night Owl pumpkin beer became available, and quickly became a favorite of mine. The next year, we finally got Great Pumpkin. But not only that, three “big bottle” varieties of pumpkin beer showed up from the same brewery, along with the standard Night Owl. The others were Dark of the Moon, a pumpkin stout, and Punkaccino, a coffee pumpkin stout.
Cut to 2019, and you can now buy a variety 12 pack of all four of Elysian’s pumpkin beer offerings in normal 12 oz bottles – three of each. That’s great news, but little did I know that while browsing a liquor store while on a business trip in California, I would happen upon a fifth Elysian pumpkin beer – Dark Knife.
Dark Knife touts itself as a “schwarzbier”, which a passing familiarity with the German tongue would tell you means “black beer”. And that’s exactly what this is – not a stout, not a porter, a black beer. While it has flavor notes in common with what you’d see in a stout, it’s a bit lighter, not as full bodied, and a little more refreshing. The pumpkin pie spice flavors are less pronounced than Elysian’s other pumpkin beers, which tend to be very forward with it. While I have found myself favoring subtler pumpkin beers in recent years, at the time I had this I was anticipating a blast of cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla, so it was a tiny bit of a let down to have to kind of search for it.
One of the best pumpkin beers I ever had was Buffalo Bill’s Black Pumpkin stout. I was hoping this Dark Knife would be similar. It’s definitely a great beer – worthy of being a fifth inclusion in a future pumpkin variety pack from Elysian – but it’s no Black Pumpkin. I’d take Dark of the Moon or Great Pumpkin over this, but I do prefer it to the Punkaccino (which is a little too much), and depending on my mood, possibly even Night Owl. Good for fans of dark beers and subtle pumpkin flavors. I happen to be both.