Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pumpkin Beer

My mom always told me to eat my vegetables, I just never thought they would taste so good in my beer. There are so many pumpkin beers out there right now that we figured we should do some in depth research and help you, our loyal followers, find the best of the best for your holiday season.

We decided to take thirteen pumpkin beers and a special surprise beer and do a blind taste test. We don't mess around with a blind taste test, we go all out and blindfold everyone who's drinking. Now this means you can't really judge the color or the head retention or lacing or anything visual; it forces you to focus on flavor. Next time we probably won't do so many because my taste buds were blown out!

When we rate for this, we do it on a 1-10 scale, so we can divide in half for our standard five point rating. The judging can be tough when we go this many beers in a row. You can see the scores on the white board below right.

We tried:

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale, Jack-o by Curious Traveler, Jaques, Warlock by Southern Tier, Flat Jack by Flat 12, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Stella poured into a pumpkin, Hampton Pumpkin, Smashed by Shipyard, Spooky Tooth by Fat Heads, Pumpking by Southern Tier, Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Frogs Hallow by Hoppin Frog, Pumpkinstein by the Empty Can (homebrew).

It was a shit-ton of beer. Most of them were pretty good. The homebrew was a year old and would've been better fresh. The Stella poured into the pumpkin for a few hours was, as you might expect, less than awesome. I probably should have toasted the pumpkin or something. It mostly just tasted like cheap beer mixed with grass.

When I'm looking for a good pumpkin beer, I'm looking for one that has a great base beer with tasty pumpkin and pie spices. I love something that takes me back to being a kid and smelling pumpkin pie in the oven. I want a big, sweet, malt character and I really don't want a lot of hop bitterness.

My 3 favorites were:
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Spooky Tooth by Fat Heads
Flat Jack by Flat 12
I've been drinking so much Schlafly it would have shocked me if this didn't make my top three. It's soooo good. I picked up three six packs this year and have been pacing myself so I don't drink them all in one sitting. For me it hits all the critical flavors that a pumpkin beer should have. It's sweet but not too sweet. It's got awesome fall and pumpkin flavors that blend perfectly with the caramely, almost Oktoberfest-like, malt base. The pumpkin is mixed well with a lot of clove and just enough cinnamon and spice. I give it a solid 4 and I'll be first in line every year when this stuff comes out!

El Duque:
I realized now why I don't get super hyped about pumpkin beers.  Most of them are either mediocre or down right terrible.  There are so many flavors trying to be balanced out in a pumpkin brew that it is almost impossible to make this beer actually taste like it is beer and not some sweet, over-spiced mess.  I'll make my top 3 easy:

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Every other pumpkin beer
Your Mother

The silliness of the blind taste test and the social aspect of the taste test made the beers a little more tolerable for me, especially the skunked Stella soaked in a pumpkin.  I think pumpkin style ales have gone the way of American seasonal gimmicks like Oktoberfest, Irish Stouts, and "Summer Ales."  Some breweries (like Schlafly) will take on these dumb seasonals and knock them out of the park and make them tolerable, but most seem to let their beer be as interesting as doing punkin art in 3rd grade art class.

I tend to enjoy pumpkin beer as a seasonal treat each year.  Slogging through 14 rounds of them is not something I want to attempt again, especially when we had a few grenades thrown in for fun (shakes fist).  Loved the blind taste off because preconceived notions were tossed out.  I thought Southern Tier would make a better showing. We tried those early in the rounds and they didn't stand up to the competition well.  Top 3:

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
Fat Heads

I think my pallet started to blow after the 10th.  El Duque started talking about Bazooka Joe and it was all down hill from there...  We really need to mic these up in the future.

The Little Lady:
I really enjoy pumpkin beers. They tend to be closer to the styles I gravitate towards. They're malty, roasty, and some have a nice spice profile that really feels like fall to me. If you look at the picture of the scoreboard you can see that my scores really didn't vary much from one beer to the next. That's mostly indicative of a general enjoyment, and waiting for something to really stand out from the crowd. Nothing really jumped out at me, but I still enjoyed the taste test. My top 3:

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale
Flat Jack by Flat 12
Warlock by Southern Tier

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