It was time to get back out there and try more pumpkin beers. I have a mini-fridge full of them, so I wasn’t about to let one bad tasting spoil me on the whole patch. Although this round produced some bizarre results, it was an improvement upon the previous one. Here’s a look at what came out of the refrigerator for me this time.
Beer number one started things off on an odd note. It had a pale yellow body, just slightly hinting at amber, and a fizzy white head. The smell was bready yeast all the way, which also dominated the taste up front. The beer then developed a strong floral taste before coming to a rather peppery finish. This beer would best be described as crisp and peppery as nothing about it suggested that it was a pumpkin beer. The mouthfeel was on the thinner side and rather strongly carbonated. I was certainly confused; had my peppercorn saison been opened by mistake? The answer was no. At this point I should tell you that this beer was Pumpkin Batch by Samuel Adams, labeled as a 5.6% fall seasonal saison brewed with real pumpkin. Huh? Suffice to say, this was a miss for me. It tasted nothing like a pumpkin beer, my whole reason for picking it up, and I found the peppery finish too strong and unchecked. Don’t know what else to say about this one.
The next beer didn’t exactly do much to restore sanity to the evening, but it was at least delicious. I was apparently overzealous when selecting beers for my Oktoberfest and pumpkin tastings and another one of Southern Tier’s fall seasonals, this one called Harvest, snuck its way into the mix. It had a brown label that blended right in with the others, apparently a bit too well as I assured my wife that other than the aforementioned Peppercorn Saison, everything left in the fridge was a pumpkin beer and fair game for pouring. While I won’t include it in my pumpkin rankings, Harvest did redeem the brewery following the Pumking debacle last tasting. Briefly, the beer poured a cloudy, dark yellowish amber body with a bubbly head. The smell and taste both brought forth a flavor profile I love so well: sweet caramel malts and piney, bitter hops. The beer gets ever so slightly boozy as it warms (ABV is 6.7%) and I could swear there was a subtle hint of fall spice on the tail end of the finish. Or it could have been the power of suggestion. Either way I was confused again. Medium bodied with the just the right of carbonation to carry the style. Overall this was a very good beer, but one that has to be disqualified from the contest.
And now the final beer of the evening, Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale by Magic Hat Brewing Company. It feels like it’s been forever since I last had a beer from Magic Hat (my mercilessly unforgetful drinking buddy Untapped says 2.25 years almost to the day) as the brewery did not really keep my attention once I became more fully immersed in the world of beer. This offering, however, was quite solid. Competitively solid even. It was the darkest brew of the night, pouring a deep amber and copper body. It smelled of sweet malts with a hint of fall spices and perhaps even (at last!) pumpkin. The taste was malty and vegetal, with a mellow fall spicy finish that blended vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. There was also a mild bitterness that occasionally came through. The mouthfeel was on the thicker side and the carbonation was rather high. This is the one place where the beer faltered. The carbonation was a bit too aggressive, causing the beer to start foaming up in my mouth mid to late sip. It didn’t ruin the beer for me, but it did make a bit harder to enjoy a mellow yet flavorful 5.4% pumpkin ale that was just begging to be drunk with ease on a cool fall day. That flaw aside, this beer restored my faith in the pumpkin tasting, which I’ll admit had taken a hit at this point. I don’t know that I would have picked up this beer without making it my goal to try all the pumpkin beers I could find, and I can’t say for sure I would have given it a totally fair shot not drinking it blind. So cheers to Magic Hat for putting out a fine pumpkin ale.
So we end things here on a positive note. I am keeping high hopes that this is where the tasting turns around for the better and we can start placing some beers in the upper tier soon. As things stand now, here are the latest rankings:
Upper Tier Beers (Best of the Best)
Second Tier (Good but not the Best)
- Dogfish Head Brewing – Punkin Head
- Brooklyn Brewery – Post Road Pumpkin Ale
- Magic Hat Brewing Company – Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale: This would have been upper tier if not for the mouthfeel issue.
- New Holland Brewery – Icabod Pumpkin Ale
Third Tier (The Average)
- Captain Lawrence Brewing Company – Pumpkin Ale
- Two Roads Brewing Company – Roadsmary’s Baby
- Samuel Adams – Pumpkin Batch: I admittedly was not thrilled with this beer, but it did not deserve banishment to the bottom tier on the grounds that it was drinkable without requiring concentrated effort.
Bottom Tier (Never Again)
- Southern Tier Brewing Company – Pumking
- Steadfast Brewing Company – Pumpkin Spiced Ale