Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Beer Taste Off - 2013 (Round 1)

It’s that time again! Our annual pumpkin beer taste-off is in full swing. We’ve had other taste-offs over the years, but for whatever reason, I didn’t blog about all of them.

This year, we have 17 (!!!!) beers to try, so we’re breaking this down into rounds or else we’d be too drunk to even spell “pumpkin beer”.

(Pictured above from front to back: Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Wolavers Pumpkin Ale, and Schlafly Pumpkin Ale) 

What Are We Looking For?
We are looking for a beer that has a nice spice/flavor profile and isn’t too hoppy or floral. I want to drink a pumpkin ale and think, “This beer makes me want to rake leaves, play football, cook beef stew, and carve pumpkins.” I want a pumpkin beer that makes me think of fall.

To date, our standing champion has been Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale. Every year this beer has been our favorite for pumpkin beer and nothing else has even come close. Let’s see if it has some competition this year!

Schlafly Pumkin Ale – St. Louis Brewery, Inc., Missouri
This is the first beer we tasted. It didn’t have a noticeable spice/pumpkin nose like you would expect from a spiced beer; however, it did have a subtle, pumpkin spice flavor up front, followed by a smooth ale finish. It was a nice, friendly beer that I would serve at a fall cookout. It didn’t bowl me over in the flavor profile, but it was “nice”.

Wolavers Pumpkin Ale (Organic) – Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont
This beer had a light, pilsner color with a floral, herbal, almost “dill-like” nose. Unfortunately, this beer didn’t taste like a pumpkin beer at all; there was no spice/pumpkin profile and it had a strange floral aftertaste. It was; however, a crisp, “grassy” beer that would be a good pilsner stand-in if it weren’t for that aftertaste.

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Sam Adams Brewing, Boston, MA
This beer had potential in its nose and color. It had dark, almost amber/lager color and a nice spicy pumpkin, hoppy scent. Everything went to hell in a hand basket when we tasted it though. BLEH! This beer tasted like burnt caramel and plastic! It was so bad we dumped out the rest. What a waste. Does Sam Adams not have people in their research department test this stuff before it’s bottled?? Yuck!

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale – New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI
This was the last beer we tasted in this round and unfortunately didn’t “wow” is in either nose or taste. It had a slight, hoppy/green scent with no hint of spice or pumpkin, and the flavor tasted just like any regular, ol’ ale. Disappointing.

So, that's it for this round. Out of this bunch, I would have to say the round winner is the Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, but it wasn't even close to our favorite Shipyard Pumpkinhead. Stay tuned for our next round!

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