Fall is in the air: baseball games are getting more intense; kids are going back to school; and pumpkin beers are starting to fill up the shelves. While I understand there are some beer folks out there who are less than excited about this development, I myself enjoy getting into the seasonal spirit and like to sample from the patch of new beers available. I’m not one for seasonal creep, but now that the calendar has flipped over into September I am getting started on my second annual blind tasting spree of pumpkin beers.
The concept is pretty straightforward. I go to my local stores, stock up on a bunch of pumpkin beer singles, and later on my wonderful wife pours three of them into taster glasses for me to sample. After I have recorded and discussed my thoughts, the beers are revealed. It was a lot of fun last year, and I couldn’t wait to get started this year. So without further ado, here are the results after the first batch.
The first pumpkin beer of the season was Punkin Head by Dogfish Head Brewery. This was also my favorite of the set. It poured a medium orangish body, topped off with a thin foamy white head. The smell was mostly vegetal malts with a hint of pumpkin spices. The taste was mellow and creamy upfront. There’s also a slight pumpkin taste that about midway through turns to spices/pumpkin pie. There’s also a sweet maltiness throughout that blends into the spices well and really makes this beer work for me. ABV on this one is higher than most at 7.0%. While I doubt that it will remain my favorite, this was a very solid beer and should end up well placed in the grand scheme of things.
Next up was a new beer to me, Icabod Pumpkin Ale by New Holland Brewery. This was decidedly the loser of the three. The pour was a dark orange body with a thick, creamy white head (get used to this sort of description). Not too much going on in regard to the smell. The taste starts out nondescriptly with mellow malts, but then there is a sudden spike in vanilla/fall spices halfway through that really throws me off. It comes out of nowhere and is a bit too much for my tastes. Mouthfeel is medium plus and the carbonation is a little light. Checks in at 5.5%. I’m calling this beer a miss because the spices came on way too strong and there was not much else there to balance them out.
Rounding out the first set was Post Road Pumpkin Ale by Brooklyn Brewery. This is one I have good memories of from previous years but this time around, while enjoyable, I was a bit surprised after the reveal that I did not rate this one higher. Of the three beers poured today, this one had the lightest colored body (still orange) and had a nice foamy, white head. There’s a moderate spice smell that made me a bit worried going in following the Icabod, but fortunately the taste turned out better on this one. This has more of a malty sweetness up front that takes hold before the spices kick in towards the finish and give this beer a balance the previous one did not have. This one had a thicker mouthfeel than the others and it suited the tastes well. This was the most mellow of today’s beers at 5.0%. Overall, I put it just behind the Punkin Head. I don’t think this is a contest winning pumpkin ale, but I do think it was pretty decent.
So, after one round the standings are as follows:
- Dogfish Head Brewing – Punkin Head
- Brooklyn Brewery – Post Road Pumpkin Ale
- New Holland Brewery – Icabod Pumpkin Ale
I suspect this list will shake up a lot as the fall goes on. Despite being solid enough beers, I don’t see either of the top two sticking around that high for long. Nothing against them, I just hope/expect to have at least one or two offerings really blow me away. However, after considering the bottom beers from last year’s tasting, if number three is the worst pumpkin beer I try this season I will have done alright for myself this year.
Stayed tuned for Round 2!