Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Beers!

I'm a pretty big fan of pumpkin things in general: Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, the pumpkin milk that I bought from Target last night (don't judge, it was delicious). So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm a pretty big fan of pumpkin beers. Over the past few years, I've had some good ones (Dogfish Head's Punk'in Ale and Midnight Sun's T.R.E.A.T. come to mind immediately). But as pumpkin ale season rolled around this year, I realized that there were a ton that I had never tried before. So I went about getting and tasting as many pumpkin beers as I could possibly find. I'm sure there are a lot that I wasn't able to find, but here are the ones I did.

Kern River Brewing Company - Pumpkin Ale

I haven't had a ton of Kern River's beers as most of them don't make it down this way. From what I can tell, though, they know how to make damn good beer. I have yet to be let down by them. Beau was able to find their Pumpkin Ale and brought it to a tasting about a month ago.

Kern River's Pumpkin Ale pours a slightly hazy golden color with a very thin tan head. Usually with pumpkin beers, the first thing you smell is pumpkin, but this one was different. I picked up some pale malts and floral hops first with just a faint hint of pumpkin and nutmeg underneath. It almost smelled like a pumpkin pale ale.

The floral hops and pale malts hit first in the taste as well and made up the body of the flavor with some very subtle hints of butternut squash, pumpkin and bready malts underneath. I do wish that this beer had been a little more pumpkin forward, but it was kind of a nice change of pace to find a pumpkin beer whose taste didn't just whack you over the head with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice.

Final Grade: B

Shipyard Brewing Co. - Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (Pugsley's Signature Series)

I'd seen this beer for the past few years, but the price always scared me away. But Beau and I were having a tasting so, in the name of science, I sucked it up and brought this beer to try.

Shipyard's Smashed Pumpkin pours a clear copper color with a half inch tan head. The smell was, well, different. I probably spent twenty minutes trying to figure out what I was smelling in this beer and the only thing I could think of was: pumpkin bubblegum. The pumpkin was there, but it smelled almost candied and artificial. I also picked up some raisin and something that smelled like Banana Laffy Taffy. Weird.

If you hadn't told me this was a pumpkin ale, I would have assumed from taste that it was either a barleywine or a grand cru. It's a big, boozy mother with notes of candi sugar, big sweet malts, a ton of raisin and booze. I didn't get any pumpkin in the taste at all. I think that all the big flavors and alcohol in this one (it clocks in at 9%) overwhelmed the pumpkin. I wasn't a huge fan of this one.

Final Grade: C

New Belgium Brewing - Lips of Faith Kick

You might recognize the name "New Belgium" as the guys that make Fat Tire, but what a lot of people don't know is that they also make one of the more interesting series of experimental beers out there: Lips of Faith. This series has been going for a few years and has featured some incredible beers. For this one, they collaborated with Elysian Brewing and made a sour beer using pumpkin and cranberry juice.

Kick poured a hazy burnt orange color with some small patches of cream colored head. The sourness was pretty evident in the smell with a big hit of brett upfront followed by apple cider vinegar, apricot, caramel, orange rind, white wine and some cranberry. No pumpkin though. Hmmm...

The cranberry flavors totally took over in the taste with some faint malt and lemon in the back. The sourness wasn't quite as big as I like, but it was pretty sufficient. Overall, I liked that it was a sour, but I really wanted to smell or taste the pumpkin. A little bit of a disappointment for a pumpkin beer, but still a good beer.

Final Grade: B

Bootlegger's Brewery - Pumpkin Ale

Bootlegger's Brewery is an up and coming brewery that I've just started to see on shelves within the last few months. Some of their beers look pretty interesting, so definitely look for more from them in the future. I didn't even know that they made a pumpkin ale until it showed up at Texas Liquor a few weeks ago.

Bootlegger's Pumpkin Ale pours a slightly hazy orange/amber color with a very thin cream colored head. The smell was full of pumpkin flesh, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and some brown sugar. This was definitely more along the lines of what I've come to expect from a good pumpkin beer.

There's a really nice blend of spices in the flavor to complement a healthy dose of pumpkin along with a hint of grain and molasses on the finish. A lot of pumpkin beers out now have a very artificial pumpkin flavor, but this one definitely did not. I wasn't expecting much from this one, but it ended up easily being the best pumpkin beer I had this year. Well done, Bootlegger's.

Final Grade: A

Uinta Brewing Company - Punk'n Ale

I've been wanting to try a beer from Uinta for a while. Something definitely seems strange about the idea of good beer coming from Utah, but I had heard good things about this brewery, so I was willing to give them a try. I was able to find a bottle of their pumpkin ale at Total Wine in Redondo Beach.

Uinta's Punk'n Ale pours a reddish orange color with a thin cream colored head. The smell had a pretty pleasant dose of pumpkin along with the familiar pumpkin pie spice aromas (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove). There was a hint a hazelnut in there as well.

The taste started off with some bready malts and baking spices and then progressed to hints of grain. I didn't get much pumpkin until the finish. Then I caught a bit of pumpkin and cinnamon, but they were pretty subtle. The smell definitely got my attention, but the taste kind of lost me.

Final Grade: B-

Stone Brewing Company - La Citrueille Celeste De Citricado

When I heard that Stone and The Bruery were doing a collaboration, I got pretty excted. When I found out that their collaboration was brewed with pumpkin...oh, man. Let me just read off the ingredient list for this puppy: pumpkins grown on stone's own farms, rye, yams, toasted fenugreek, birch bark and lemon verbena. Pretty crazy stuff.

La Citrueille Celeste De Citracado pours a dark brown color with a very thin light brown head that showed pretty good retention. The smell was full of a lot of spices that I couldn't even begin to distinguish as well as roasted yam, rye bread and something that smelled a bit like curry (which I'm pretty sure was the fenugreek).

The taste had a lot of the yam and fenugreek, but not lots of pumpkin. I also picked up some floral and lemon flavors towards the finish which I think came from the lemon verbena. Overall, this beer was a completely original take on the style. And while I'm not sure how it worked as a pumpkin beer, it may have been my favorite of the Stone collaborations to date.

Final Grade: A-

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat

I tried going into this one with an open mind. I really did. As much as I dislike Anheuser-Busch and everything they stand for, I couldn't overlook the fact that they had tried to make a pumpkin beer. After tracking down a single bottle, I decided it was worth a shot.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat pours a slightly hazy burnt orange color with a fairly nice looking cream colored head and some spotty lacing. I smelled some of the wheat upfront along with some overripe banana and pumpkin with some cinnamon and nutmeg.

The taste starts with a little pumpkin upfront. Then the taste becomes pretty watery and changes to sort of a wet wheat flavor. The finish brings some familiar wheat flavors of banana and bubblegum, but the carbonation and sweetness are so overdone that the beer almost tastes more like a pumpkin-wheat soda than a beer. Still, this was better than I expected.

Final Grade: C

Federal Jack's Brewpub - Kennebunkport Pumpkin Ale

I know I said I wasn't going to review any beers that I've reviewed in the past, but I just had to give this one another show. It couldn't be as bad as I remember it being, could it?

Kennebunkport Pumpkin Ale pours a clear golden color with a thin head that fades pretty quickly. The smell started off pretty well with a rich smell of pumpkin bread. But as the beer warmed, that smell quickly changed to a nasty bready yeast smell.

While the smell started off nice enough, the taste never came close. The beer is thin and watery with a hint of artificial pumpkin along with a gross buttery yeast flavor that I've come to expect from anything from Kennebunkport. The beer behind the yeast flavor tasted like Keystone Light. Gross.

Final Grade: D

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 34

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