Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale

Lynch Street Bistro, 1031 Lynch Street, 314-752-5777.

As Grandma answers her front door, chilled November air pushes into her living room, and you shove a bottle of merlot into her hands. Uncork it, Grammy! All these aunts and uncles, the second cousins and screaming nephews, can make a body crave a little relaxer — or three. Tradition, and necessity, dictates a few bottles of hearty red wine with the turkey.

But there's always that one loner — cousin Gertie's stepbrother — who sits in the corner and watches. He doesn't say anything, doesn't look like he's enjoying himself. Unlike everyone else enjoying wine, he brings his own six-pack. We give him a sideways glance and nod. He looks away. On Thanksgiving, though, we accept the oddballs with open arms, give thanks for the bounty, rejoice that some foreign despot hasn't needlessly invaded our country and tortured our American brethren. And we usually toast with wine.

But this year Drink of the Week is breaking with tradition. Rather than greeting the relatives with our hands wrapped around a bottleneck, we're gunning for the affections of Gertie's stepbrother and wheeling a keg of Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale up the sidewalk. It's made by the fine folks at the Anheuser-Busch macrobrewery in south city.

Now, as St. Louisans, it's easy to slag Anheuser-Busch. They make a few of the most popular beers in the world, beers that we don't like too much. Admittedly, we kick them knowing full well that if they were to disappear tomorrow, we'd be the first in the Kleenex line. Drink of the Week likes our targets huge, because we're a terrible shot. We admit it's not fair. Sometimes we even feel guilty about it.

Jack's Pumpkin Spice is the first in a series of four seasonal draughts that the brewery is releasing in the next year, and if all of them are as great as this one, it's going to be a good 2006. Jack's, released under the Michelob umbrella, is worthy of our Thanksgiving. In a blind taste-test, you'd no more be able to peg this as a product of the world's largest brewery than to mistake a Hyundai for a Lexus in a road race. It purrs with a velvety carbonation, subtle spices and pumpkin. It's not cloying, not overdone. Some pumpkin beers end up tasting like a pumpkin-pie- and-beer smoothies. Jack's Pumpkin is sweet, with very little hoppiness. You can whiff clove, nutmeg and cinnamon in the bouquet, but it's more a suggestion than a command. They know what they're doing down there in the 63118.

The ale was originally released in bottles as part of a specialty six-pack but was so well received that A-B decided to release it on draught. You can find it at select bars until mid-December, when it is replaced with the heretofore unannounced follow-up. We drank our first — and second and third — pint of Jack's at the Lynch Street Bistro, which butts up against the brewery. It's a good place to drink beer, the kind of beer that you'd be happy to deliver to your kin and oddball half-kin over Thanksgiving. Randall Roberts

 
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