The Day: The Day before Halloween
The tasters: Jasmine, Joe and Luke
The palate cleanser: Freshly roasted pumpkin seeds
Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale: Alright, let’s just say it. This is an Anheuser-Busch product. We are not fans. We do not want to give them love. That said, this was voted “Most drinkable” of all the beers. That is, after all, what A-B does best. This beer is no different. Very clear, pale oranish, spicy nutmeg smell, with a hint of sweaty feet, like it’s lager based. Not very interesting. The smell is more exciting than the taste.
Harvest Moon: Harvest Moon is a Blue Moon product, which is owned by Molson-Coors. We are not fans. We want to give them even less love. Happily, this is a pretty poor excuse of a pumpkin beer. It smelled like an amber beer. That was it. There was a strange aftertaste. We don’t think it is even brewed with pumpkins. The label says it has “the flavor of vine-ripened pumpkins”.
Buffalo Bill’s: Slightly cloudy, smells pumpkiny more than spicy, which is unique to this one. A light must or yeast smell as well. It has a slight sweetness, almost like a cider. Has a medium drinkability–meaning that while you might not want to drink it all night, you can handle more than one. This would win for best overall pumpkin flavor if it hadn’t been for our last late entry. But it still wins Second Place.
Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale: no pumpkin or spice smell. Oddly, we detected a slight lemon dish detergent scent. You immediately notice that it is boozier tasting than the others (7% alcohol while the first three clock in around 4-5%). Some brown sugar flavor, some cinnamon. Great complex flavor, but not really pumpkiny. There was a light pumpkin aftertaste with some bitterness.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin: The smell was more fruity than spicy. Smells and tastes a lot like a Belgian beer. Although it has 9% alcohol, it tastes less boozy than the Dogfish. This was hyped up a bit to us by the folks at The Jug Shop. I was told by two different employees that it was chosen as their staff favorite. I guess I can see why. It’s a rich, heavy beer. It has more weight, more alcohol afterburn. But it ranked at the bottom of our drinkability list. It’s more the kind of beer that you want to sip by a fire. Which is okay, but not particularly memorable to this tasting staff.
A late entry–the next day, Luke and I went to Beer Revolution and discovered among their bottles a Kern River Pumpkin Ale. At that moment, we were drinking the Kern River they had on tap, which was delicious (the Isabella Blonde, maybe? We can’t remember). Rebecca told us that the pints we were drinking “cost five dollars instead of four because I spent six hundred dollars in gas driving a van down there and back to get it”. So we grabbed that bottle and took it home for the panel.
It was voted number one. It had the best overall pumpkin flavor–with both nutmeg and cinnamon flavors and actual pumpkin (which we are all well aware is a pretty light flavor in general). It was medium-bodied, plenty drinkable. Just delicious. If you can find it, or anything from Kern River Brewery, we suspect, get it.
A final, not quite in the running entry is Midnight Sun Brewing’s T.R.E.A.T. The reason it’s not technically in the running is because only Joe had it. Also, he claims it’s “not fair, like it’s cheating. It tastes like a pumpkin pie wrapped in chocolate. It’s delicious, it’s amazing. But I don’t really think of it as pumpkin beer.”
I guess it’s like putting bacon on your hamburger. Of course it’s going to be better than the ones without, but purists might say it’s not a fair fight. You might say, that’s how I roll.