Pumpkin season back!
Nothing screams “Love it or Hate it” in the beer world quite like the annual return of pumpkin beers. As the mid July swelter keeps pavements steamy the first few pumpkin beers of the season begin to sneak into stores.
Diving head first into this tasting I already know that pumpkin beers are not my favorite. They can be a little too sweet or feel like they were spiced by a super heavy hand. Hell, some don't even taste like a pumpkin sat next to the tank let alone go in it. To set myself straight a few friends and I got together and tasted 10 pumpkin beers available in our St. Louis market.
This is a blind tasting and ranking so all of the tasting notes presented are completely based on my palate and should not be taken to heart.
|Name of Beer: PumpkinHead|
|ABV: 4.5% IBU: N/A|
Tasting Notes: "This beer tastes like someone threw a cinnamon stick in my Busch". The spice content was minimal and had a strong chemical flavor. This beer also had an incredibly light body, poor head and a grassy finish. Unfortunately this was disappointing considering how popular this one is among pumpkin beer fans.
|Brewery: Dogfish Head|
|Name of Beer: Punkin'|
|ABV: 7% IBU:28|
Tasting Notes: When this bottle came to me I was shocked. This was my favorite pumpkin beer of the season a few years back and this year it fell so short. It poured a burnt amber color and drank with a pretty heavy bitterness. Spiced apple and citrus flavors came through after the beer warmed up. Very little aromatics other than some light clove and a touch of vanilla.
|Brewery: Blue Moon|
|Name of Beer: Harvest Pumpkin Ale|
|ABV: 5.7% IBU: 15|
Tasting Notes: This one was one of the few that had actually pumpkin flesh flavor. Medium bodied with pretty high carbonation. Overly sweet with strong brown sugar and dark fruit flavors. The pumpkin spices were pretty light and felt absent when those brown sugar notes took over.
|Brewery: New Holland|
|Name of Beer: Ichabod|
|ABV: 4.5% IBU: 26|
Tasting Notes: The malt shines through more than anything else in Ichabod. It pours the color of fall leaves with heavy cinnamon on the nose. Very little spice comes through on the tongue but it does leave a bit of a tingle. Slightly sweet and earthy, Ichabod was aiming hard for the target but it didn't quite hit it.
|Name of Beer: Vanilla Pumpkin|
|ABV: 5.6 IBU: 11|
Tasting Notes: This was a lot like the whipped cream that sat peacefully on top of a pumpkin pie. The vanilla comes through in a big way. Light notes of bread pudding and clove are what lies beneath the strong vanilla. Actual pumpkin flavor is either missing or just hiding behind layer after layer of sweet and spice.
|Brewery: Southern Tier|
|Name of Beer: Pumking|
|ABV: 8.6% IBU: 30|
Tasting Notes: Higher in alcohol but didn't drink like it. This one was slightly bitter with herbal tea notes underneath vanilla and clove. Smelled like cinnamon buns and pie crust and was surprisingly dry. Pumking fell right in the middle.
|Name of Beer: Rumpkin|
|ABV: 16.9% IBU: N/A|
Tasting Notes: Right off the bat you get smacked in the face with cinnamon and booze. Rumpkin is surprisingly smooth with a nice burn. Light canned pumpkin flavor and notes of nutmeg, pie crust, burnt toast and light vanilla all packaged into a pretty full bodied beer.
|Name of Beer: Pumpkin Ale|
|ABV: 8% IBU:16|
Tasting Notes: This was an ester heavy, toasty, fruit bomb which really brought out the raw pumpkin flavor. Very light bitterness followed by raisin bread, brown sugar, toasted nuts and sweet molasses. The beers maltiness makes the balance between beer and dessert very clear.
|Name of Beer: Night Owl|
|ABV: 5.9 IBU: N/A|
Tasting Notes: Another crowd favorite that really holds its own. Loads of actual pumpkin flesh flavor as well as clove. This one poured deep orange and rich cinnamon could be smelled as soon as the glass hit the table. Semi-sweet toffee, gingersnaps, and vanilla take the main stage but follow into a toasty, malty finish. Spice lingers on the tongue after every sip.
|Brewery: Big Muddy|
|Name of Beer: Pumpkin Smaher|
|ABV: 6% IBU: 10|
Tasting Notes: After 10 different pumpkin beers the flavors really start to blend together. Nearing the end our tasting this beer hit the table and stunned us. Despite impending palate fatigue this one really stood out. The spices on the nose were relatively light compared to many of the others but the true pumpkin flavor came through. This one conquered it all: sweet, savory, and still a damn beer. Notes of Cream, cinnamon, black tea, toffee and clove all balanced wonderfully. Damn
There you have it! This tasting was tons of fun and after about the 7th pumpkin beer pretty taxing. I am interested to know where some of these beers fall on your personal lists. There was a lot of debating when my group was tasting and a lot of the final results shocked us. It just shows how different everyone palate really is. Cheers.