A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.

<< >>

Blizzard Gumbo

Ahh, the perfect Saturday – we have been informed that, due to the 12th blizzard this month, that there is a citywide parking ban for the next two days. Initially I had plans to attend a New England-style boiled dinner and whiskey party, but once I thought about it nothing sounded better than just stowing my car in a friend’s driveway and not leaving my downtown apartment for two solid days. That’s what this weather does to me, and I’m perfectly fucking fine with it.

The evening prior I had spent a few hours at a local BBQ joint observing their methods for an upcoming magazine piece I am writing, and stuffing my face with delicious smoky meat for a few hours, during which I had consumed three beers to help take the edge of the previous night’s “90’s videos and red wine fest” that had gone well past three in the morning. When I arrived home, I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down in front of the TV, though after about 45 minutes I found myself feeling quite sleepy despite only 2 glasses deep. Taking advantage of the possibility of catching up on rest, I call it a night at 10PM and doze off immediately, only to awaken at 12 with mind-numbing anxiety. After about 15 minutes of trying to shake it, unsuccessfully, I get up and open more wine, drinking two bottles of California Cabernet that is pleasant enough, and catching up on the new season of Kroll show until finally being able to pass out again, around 3.

Hence, today all I really want to do is take a Clonazapam, drink lots of water, and cook the kind of food that involves a long, leisurely pace. This, and I will probably alternate between getting work done and focusing on my second play through of Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4, the inspiration for which being the fact that I had no idea the first time around that my attractive female inquisitor could engage in a sexual relationship with the cute female elf rogue – not to be missed out on (I promise this has nothing to do with the fact that it’s Valentines Day). Who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to playing Civilization 5 for the 123rd time, I don’t know, I don’t know if I’ll have the time…
The idea to attempt Louisiana Gumbo for the first time started with the package of Niman Ranch Andouille Sausage I’ve got in my fridge, the gift bag spoils from a trade event I attended a few nights ago. It got the gears turning, and after rolling out for a bowl of chicken pho at Huong’s for breakfast I head to the grocery store to procure ingredients, as well as other provisions to get me through this fucking storm.

Ingredient breakdown is as follows:


I decide to forego the seafood in my version, opting for air-chilled bone-in chicken thighs to compliment the sausage, and add a flavorful fat content to augment the roux. I only mention the air-chilled aspect not to be an asshole, but because I recently came to the revelation that there is considerably less water retention in these birds. How much difference does that make? I don’t know but it sounds good.

In addition to the “Trinity,” of onion, celery, and bell pepper, I’ll be rolling with okra as a thickener instead of filé powder. I decide to employ a method I learned while cooking Bahian stews of soaking the okra in lime juice beforehand to temper the slime factor a bit, but not too much as I need it to act as a thickener. Lastly, I will add a liberal amount of garlic because, well, there is simply no other way in this house.

I decide to toast up some dried peppers and buzz up into fresh chili powder to compliment the fresh thyme and bay leaf. Also, I may toss in a little MSG.


Creole Rose, with its signature “Popcorn Aroma,” is the natural choice here – I actually make a separate trip to Rosemont Market to procure this all-important element.

Getting Started:

30 minutes prior to cooking, I season the chicken thighs with chili powder, salt, and pepper. In the meantime, chop the celery, green pepper, onion, and garlic, as well as getting the spice blend ready (salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne pepper).
Now every Southerner will tell you that your gumbo is basically as good as your roux. Though there are many tips and tricks out there that act as shortcuts, I decide to do it the old fashioned way, first browning the chicken in butter before removing to a bowl and adding the flour to the pot (after lowering the heat), scraping up the browned bits. For the next 57 fucking minutes, I stand over the pot and stir while listening to the first Gravity Kills album and using my free hand to operate the laser pointer toy to keep my cat out of the goddamn kitchen. Over this period of time, I watch the color of the roux slowly transition from beige to peanut butter to caramel to almost milk chocolate, which was my target hue. The whole time I was concerned because I couldn’t tell if I was seeing flecks from the chicken or if I was burning the roux, but in the end, when I added the trinity of vegetables, it all smelled fantastic. Stir for a couple minutes, then add garlic before ladling in a little over two quarts of chicken stock, one cup at a time, and then the spice mix and chicken thighs. After coming to a simmer, the pot is covered and let to roll for 90 minutes, during which time I prep the okra and sausage.

It’s worth noting that I understand and am confortable with the fact that any or all of my methods constitute sacrilege in the religion of Gumbo, and my response is simple: Chill the fuck out, I’m a northerner and I don’t know any better.
I add the okra and sausage to the pot to simmer for another 40 minutes, starting the rice in the meantime. The Creole Rice package suggests that the best way to cook it is by adding a bit of butter and salt to my stock base, because what could that possibly hurt?

As the Gumbo closes in on the last ten minutes, I pull the chicken and remove the meat from the bones (which, as you may have guessed, is not difficult at this point) to put back in the stew. I will admit that yes, the finished rice did have a buttery, popcorn-y aroma but also that could have been the result of, well, adding butter. Either way, it has a very pleasant flavor that seems custom designed to work with Gumbo.

The last step before serving is adding both salt and a liberal amount of Tabsaco sauce for vinegar and heat. After assembling, my first bite does not disappoint, and immediately justifies the full hour spent slaving over the roux. Seriously, this Gumbo is fucking awesome, and it’s only going to get more awesome when I enjoy leftovers tomorrow. Really deep, rich flavors – I immediately put down a pretty large bowl despite the fact that I burn the fuck out of my mouth in the process. This is because I lack any semblance of patience in almost any situation and that will probably never change.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s “Sunday Blizzard Carbonnara”

A Big Mac in the comfort and safety of your own home

I want a Big Mac in the comfort of my own home.

Typically, on the rare occasions that I enjoy this glorious treat, it is consumed behind the wheel of my parked car, as this is the one fast food sandwich that presents solemn issues to consume while driving. I mean, you can, but you’ll be finding shredded lettuce for months, in everything from the cup holder to the cigarette lighter. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction to gripping the Big Mac with two hands, preferably in a relaxed fashion rather than navigating through traffic while using your knees to manipulate the wheel.

Today, however, in the middle of yet another cold and fucked up winter day, I decided that I was going to relish a Big Mac in front of my TV, preferably while watching a documentary about a notable historical figure who has achieved things of equal importance to what I was about to do in his/her lifetime. Of course, if I pick one up at the drive thru and bring it home, it will be tepid at best, so I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands here.

Most people’s first assumption would be that I have plans to somehow augment the ingredients of the Big Mac, in an effort to show that I can do it better when I use grass-fed beef, aged cheddar, bibb lettuce, etc. The primary concern I have with that method is that it would involve fixing something that isn’t broken, which is a colossal waste of time, every time. I call it the “Green bean casserole syndrome.”
No, I’m going straight to Shaw’s Supermarket to procure my ingredients, because there’s nothing that’s supposed to be “farm-fresh” about a Big Mac. I momentarily consider adding fries to the menu, but the thought of cleaning out the fucking fryolator puts that idea to rest. Seriously, EVERY time I use the home fryer it sits on the counter for weeks, taking up space, until I finally decide to go through the awkward and messy process of dealing with it’s contents. Plus, to be honest, you’re not going to achieve the same flavor of McDonald’s fries at home, it just won’t happen; even if you re-incorporate the beef tallow that was corrupting oblivious would-be vegetarians for decades, you won’t be able to get it exactly right.
“Two All-Beef Patties”

Historically, McDonald’s has been repeatedly questioned on this statement, fielding accusations involving everything from ant thoraxes to used syringes. In this case, I give them the benefit of the doubt, opting for 80% lean beef from what I presume were manic-depressive cows. I plan on seasoning the shit out of them, and pressing them thin, using a mold to shape them because I want perfect little circles.

“Special Sauce”

It is widely assumed that Mac sauce is just Thousand-Island dressing, but upon doing a bit of research I find it more accurate to make a boosted-up version of French dressing. I start with a bottle from Wishbone (I sat in the aisle for awhile contemplating between that and Ken’s), and add Heinz sweet pickle relish, minced onion, white vinegar, sugar, salt, and, my only concession to the fast food rule, Kewpie mayonnaise. This is because I don’t allow lesser forms of mayo into my house, and I’m not about to start now. I make this a bit in advance to let the flavors properly meld.


Iceberg – the most nutritionally devoid vegetable known to man – is the ONLY way to roll here, shredded up finely. It’s the only lettuce that will actually get soggy in a salad spinner, making it even easier to prepare. What’s great is that I get to enjoy a “White American Salad,” prior to cooking, featuring iceberg and the leftover French dressing. Of course, Hidden Valley Ranch would be preferable, but this will do in a pinch. I just wish I had some warm Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to go with it..


Holy fucking Christ, there is some chemical in Kraft Singles that makes them absolutely irresistible, and though the package boasts “No artificial flavors,” there is something man-made in there. I even like peeling back the plastic, and the mildly rubbery texture of the cheese. In this case, I have opted for the “Orange American” varietal. I have also already had three of them, prior to cooking.


I’ll be honest; I don’t eat jarred pickles very often so I have no fucking idea about the difference between Vlassic, Cain’s, etc. In the end, my aversion to babies makes me steer clear of one based solely on it’s association with storks, so I go with the Cain’s bread and butter pickle chips. I don’t even really like the pickles that much on the Big Mac, but I’m a slave to authenticity here. Wait, I just used the word “Authenticity” in regards to food. I hate myself. Where are my pills?


I used to live with one of my best friends, Jon Dietz, who was an absolute Nazi about finely dicing onions. Though aesthetically pleasing, I normally don’t take the time to mince them super fine, but in this case, it’s important. This is for you, Dietz.

“On A Sesame Seed Bun”

I love how Supermarkets have bakeries, and then they have the “bakery aisle.” To me, that aisle smells like pure nostalgia, an amalgamation of scents from Thomas’s, JJ Nissan, Freihoffer’s, Country Kitchen, and the like, that kind of bread that can ONLY come from a factory, untouched by human hands. There are three options for sesame seed hamburger buns, and I go with the “Koffee Kitchen” or some shit like that, based entirely on the fact that they come in packages of 4 buns instead of 24. I only need two, and the rest will just slowly become a mold farm on top of my microwave over the coming weeks before I finally acknowledge them and throw them away.

Mac Attacks Not Heart Attacks

Ok, time to get this bitch started.

I get some butter melting in the pan to toast the buns – I know you’re technically supposed to trim the middle bun a bit, but I decide to compensate by just pressing both sides on the griddle.
Once the buns are toasted, the patties go into the hot pan. I really want them thin so I do like you aren’t supposed to do and press the fucking things down, speeding up the cooking process. After about two minutes on each side, they are sufficiently browned and good to go.
First the bottom bun, then sauce, then onions, lettuce, and Kraft single before the first patty goes down. Then my buttery middle bun, more sauce, onion, lettuce, and pickles before the last patty piles on and I crown it. It is slightly bigger than the McDonald’s version, largely due to the size of the burgers, but it looks quite pretty.

How Does It Taste?

Pretty spot on. In the original you taste more of the toppings, but in my version, for better or for worse, the burger flavor comes through more. My decision to aggressively salt the meat pays off, because if you’re going to cook the shit out of something it better be seasoned well. True to form, my version would be damn near impossible to eat with one hand, while driving. I think the biggest difference is that real Big Macs have a certain soft and mushy quality, even the beef, that I simply have no idea how to replicate, yet I weirdly enjoy…

What Do I Drink With It?

This is my first time drinking wine with a Big Mac, so I go for something middle of the road in regards to fruit and acidity, in this case the Altesino Rosso from Tuscany. I mean, the Big Mac is practically custom designed to pair with sugary drinks that are terrible for you, so whatever you choose will no doubt be an improvement, and honestly I plan on annihilating the burger before I’m even 1 glass down anyway so…

What Did I Watch?

There is a series on Netflix called “The Men That Built America,” which chronicles the exploits of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford. Though it’s actually quite interesting, it recaps the entire 1.5 hour episode about 8 times throughout each one, presumably to accommodate what would have been the commercial break. The upside to this is that the repetition, while extremely frustrating, is quite useful in retaining historical facts.

Worth the McEffort?

Yeah, just to say you did it. Plus now I have enough Heinz sweet relish and Cain’s bread and butter pickles to last me for the next decade, so there’s that.


So a few days later, upon a friend’s request, I made the Mac again, and I have to say it came out twice as good for two reasons:

First, for the burger patties, I started with 2-3 ounce balls of meat, which I smashed down with a metal spatula in a red hot cast iron pan, flipping after 45 seconds, seasoning, and pressing down again. This not only added char, but the texture was much more true to form.

Second, the Big Mac sauce got even better over three days of letting the flavors come together.


Kids Cereal on Donuts, Because, Why Not?



Once again, I find myself staring down a donut topped with memories of watching The Karate Kid until the VHS cassette wore out and brutally clubbing my older cousin with my Millenium Falcon toy. This time it’s Little Bigs in South Portland bringing the Charms & The Cap’N, plus some real marshmallow to remind you that you’re technically a grownup now. I would like to offer the suggestions of both Cinnamon Toast Cruller and Apple Jack Fritter if anyone is looking for a project..


What it’s like to be hungover after 22-31 drinks..

Usually still a bit drunk upon awakening. Mania ensues, texting, making idiotic plans, posting stuff. Then I finally stand up, experience vertigo and nausea. Pill regimen. I Stare off into nothingness for 40 minutes in the shower, thinking about breakfast. Drink lots of water – avoid coffee because my heart rate is already through the roof, and in regards to anxiety where most would have butterflies I have a hornets nest – after convincing myself that everyone is not, in fact, out to get me, I leave the house in search of what I perceive to be sustenance. This usually needs to have a soup component. After eating, all hope of my day descends into hell, and my number one priority is to get home immediately. Sometimes I’ll get stoned at this point, which always seems to make it worse because now I’m physically sick and I can’t think in a straight line. I’ll lie in bed for a few hours, mind racing about how the world is collapsing around me and too dizzy to fall asleep, before convincing myself that a bottle of wine could even me out. It does. Around 5 I forget what the first part of the day was all about, and head to the store to pick up more wine and make myself dinner. After around three bottles, a heavy supper, and several mindless shows, usually documentaries about successful people in an effort to make myself feel worse. I begin to get restless and have to go to bed immediately to avoid the risk of going out. Drink lots of water. Goodnight.

A day off the grid.

PumCaca V – So We’re Still Doing This?

To see previous years go here – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012


We’re Back. For More.

After a very relaxing 2013 sans PumCaCa, I was rallied once again this year to keep the tradition going, this time by both Mark Stevens, co-operator of Maine Beer Tours, and Jim Devon, professional drinker and my co-pilot for the “Hadlock Field Incident.” Mark immediately set about amassing a veritable treasure trove of pumpkininnyness, aided by contributions from the other “tasters.”

The venue this year is Mark’s trailer/office, situated on the Bunker/Tandem Campus. It is actually a great place for me to know about, and if I am out with the kind of girl that I really don’t want to bring home to my living space, I will be giving him a call, because sketchy hook-ups in trailers is fun. I’m told.

Before I introduce this year’s judges, I feel the need to say that, over the years, as the pumpkin beer craze has grown, we’ve see our number of entries grow from six in 2009 all the way to almost thirty, only five years later. Along the way, we have all tasted lots of disgusting beer, but I feel like this time it was much harder to distinguish them from one another. It’s as if they all collectively decided to dial their flavors back and go for something more quaffable, perhaps in anticipation of the pumpkin spice backlash? I’m not sure, but it would appear that even the brewers are over it with their own pumpkin beers.

Well they fuckin should be. These tastings are not unlike a death march.

And now, the judges:

First off – Me. I started this wretched little thing of ours.


Jon Dietz, longtime veteran of PumCaca and beverage professional


Jim Devon, He just likes to drink beer and this is how he goes to work. Interesting side note, you will see this image at the top on a greeting card in 2016. No Joke. Thanks Jim.


Mark Stevens, Co-Owner of Maine Beer Tours, which is always a great time and you should go check it out. Also, I need to defile his trailer.


Joe Watts, Assistant Beersmith at Bunker Brewing. Each year we always try to have someone on the panel who claims to “like pumpkin beer” so… Yeah. Joe.


Shahin Naganaganaga Nagaworkhereanymore, the heart and soul of Novare Res Bier Café. This is his second tour of duty, and it’s worth noting that he went above and beyond hosting the event in 2012.


Joel Beauchamp, Portland’s original “Health Goth,” Joel and I will be opening a nightclub together in 2015. So watch out. Joel doesn’t like to take notes. He also doesn’t like pumpkin beer.


Arlin Smith, Co-Owner of Hugo’s and Eventide Oyster Co. He was kind of enough to supply us with a bottomless flask of homemade Twisted Tea from Eventide, which definitely helped take the edge off around number 16.


Chresten Sorenson (Not pictured because he is so shy. He also didn’t give me any notes. At least Arlin gave me a paragraph or two. Still, Chresten is such a delight that he is still welcome to return next year).

And.. the PumCaCa 2014


This year we decided to put a rating on each beer between 1-100, with 100 representing the “best beer you’ve ever had,” pumpkin or not. We felt this could help, especially with several of the selections pretty much tasting the same, that is to say, like shit.

Shipyard Brewing, Pumpkinhead – Portland, ME

What the Website Says:

“Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor. A seasonal favorite! Try Pumpkinhead with a shot of spiced rum or in a pint glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon.”

Judge’s Corner

Joe: It’s as if you mashed up a piece of freezer-burned cinnamon toast with a full can of Budweiser. 26/100

Dietz: Classic Dentyne aroma with slightly buttery notes. Does not taste good, actually it doesn’t taste like much of anything you’d want to ingest. Like drinking a PBR that had a few pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch floating in them for a month. 31/100

Joe W: 28/100

Jim: Smells like rotten grape soda, cinnamon, and apples that have already been eaten. Why is my tongue numb? 39/100

Shocktop Brewing, Pumpkin Wheat – St. Louis, MO

What the website says:

“Our Pumpkin Wheat seasonal offering combines the smooth taste of Shock Top with the flavors of Fall. We start with a traditional Belgian-style wheat ale and then brew with ripe pumpkins and a variety of autumnal spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, for a refreshingly smooth beer that fully captures all the flavors of fall. LIVE LIFE UNFILTERED!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like pumpkin pie, tastes like dirty nutmeg water. 25.2/100

Dietz: Quite a bit of nutmeg on the nose, and the color is dark like morning urine. Cinnamon and bitter nutmeg on the palate, with a really shitty beer base. 28/100

Mark: Nutmeg Nightmare. 20/100

Shahin: Tart, with flavors of nutmeg and, for some reason, yogurt. 15/100

Joe W: (Apparently not quite into taking notes yet) 20/100

Jim: This smells like a homeless man’s armpit with a dusting of nutmeg, and tastes like my son’s apple juice after it has been left in the sun for a very, very long time. 30/100

Woodchuck Private Reserve, Pumpkin Cider – Middleberry, VT

What the website says:

“Every once in a while you know you stumble upon something glorious. That something just so happens to be our Private Reserve Pumpkin. We have combined our signature taste with a refreshing pumpkin finish. Limited to just two and half hours on the production line this is a true connoisseur’s cider.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This smells like the “bubblegum flavoured” fluoride that they used to torture me with at the dentist, and tastes like Red Bull and Kandy Korn. 11/100

Dietz: The nose is astonishingly bad, like an apple urinal cake. Foams up in the mouth, and is sickly sweet with an atrocious finish of candy and oxidation. If Jolly Rancher made pumpkin beer, it’s taste like this. Also it doesn’t taste like pumpkin at all. 6/100

Shahin: Like an apple Jolly Rancher, with a cummy/semenal mouthfeel. 12/100

Jim: Smells like cranberry soap, tastes like watermelon Jolly rancher and vinegar. 4/100

Joe W: 3/100

Mark: Kandy Korn Cotton Candy. 10/100

Harpoon Brewery, UFO Pumpkin – Boston, MA

What the website says:

“It’s a simple story; we brew this beer because we like pumpkin (pumpkin pie, really) and thought an unfiltered pumpkin ale would be great, especially during the New England fall. Turns out it is. Imagine a pumpkin vine wound its way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer. Add Northwestern hops and a blend of spices, and you’ve got UFO Pumpkin. The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. And like all of our UFO beers, UFO Pumpkin is UnFiltered.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like Bazooka gum, taste like nothing. It’s bitter, kind of reminds me of sucking on plastic. 26/100

Dietz: Reasonable amount of pie spice on the nose, with a touch of manure. Bitter, astringent, and utterly unpleasant. How or why would anyone drink 12 ounces of this shite? 20/100

Joe W: Very wheaty, fluffy, and astringent with heaps of terrible spicing. 27/100

Shahin: Smells like dirty pennies, and is quite bitter with flavors of old Big League Chew and bath salt drips. 11/100

Mark: Somebody spiced up the Budweiser. 20/100

Jim: Smells like rotten peaches, and tastes like clove-flavored bubble bath. 55/100

Smuttynose Brewing Co, Pumpkin Ale – Portsmouth, NH

What the website says:

“Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is our homage to the craft and heritage of America’s brewers. Recipes calling for the use of pumpkins in beer date back to early colonial times, when brewers sought to extend their supply of costly imported malt with locally grown ingredients, such as squash and “pompions.”

In that spirit, we brew our ale with the addition of pumpkin to the mash, along with traditional spices to create a delicious American original.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Tastes like beer, with a slight bitterness and faint hints of pumpkin. 50/100

Dietz: This actually doesn’t smell that offensive, and there’s a touch of actual beer coming through. Were those hops?!? Slight pine resin and mouthwash notes on the palate/finish. 43/100

Mark: Definitely less spice, a touch bland but much, much better than anything thus far. 50/100

Shahin: Herbal hop nose, with biscuity malt backbone. Tastes like a pale ale got a handjob from a pumpkin, it’s not much but it’s definitely in there! 59/100

Joe W: Much better balance of spices, though there is a weird lack of malitiness and a house yeast flavor coming through. 62/100

Jim: Though it has a scent that is faintly reminiscent of cheddar cheese, it’s not bad. I can taste a bit of pumpkin. 80/100

Saranac Brewery, Our Pumpkin Ale – Utica, NY

What the website says:

“A hearty ale brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and ginger with a full body and amber color.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Tastes like Tootsie Rolls and mini-marshmallows, and I’m wondering “How many licks it’s going to take” to get this shitty, sticky coating off of my tongue. 31/100

Dietz: Crazy insipid, with a weird peaky acidity. This is pretty gross. 19/100

Mark: No smell, and I’m definitely getting that Tootsie Roll thing. 35/100

Shahin: Kind of like a Cow Tail, I’m getting a lot of fake chocolate/sugar. 13/100

Joe W: I feel like this beer is going to congeal in my stomach and stay there until I die. 14/100

Jim: Smells of ceviche and choad. Tastes like marshmallows that have been marinated in hooker tears. 60/100

Rogue Brewing, Pumpkin Patch Ale – Willamette Valley, OR

What the website says:

“ GYO is a Rogue Ale term for Grow Your Own. We made this beer with our own hops, barley and pumpkins.
15 INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dream Pumpkins; Carawheat, Weyermann Carafe & Rogue Dare™ Malts; Rogue Farms Independent™ Hops; Ginger; Cloves; Vanilla Bean; Cinnamon; Cardamom; Nutmeg; Free Range Coastal Water & Pacman Yeast.
From Patch to Batch. Dedicated to Farmers and Fermenters.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like pumpkin pie, with subtle flavors as such. I like both the texture and the notes of caramel. 65/100

Dietz: Smells like pumpkin, and a hint of cinnamon. Slightly buttery, and a bit too much vanilla, but could be considered actual beer. I actually swallowed this one. 49/100

Mark: This actually isn’t bad, and they get the balance of spice way more than any we’ve tried so far. 65/100

Shahin: Cotton candy nose, caramel apple, minimal spice. I will take this opportunity to quote Emily Kingsbury when I say, “I Love It,” though I actually don’t. 29/100

Joe W: These guys grow the hops, malt, and pumpkins, and you’ve got to admire the vertical integration. Spices where they should be, in the nose, and I can definitely detect cardamom, orange peel, and vanilla. 74/100

Jim: Not bad, but a bit perfumed and sour in the finish/aftermath. 87/100

Southern Tier Brewing, Pumking – Lakewood, NY

What the website says:

“All Hallows Eve is a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent. It is thought that we harness this magic to brew our powerful pumpkin ale. Not so, but it is with great respect to the magic of their trade that our brewers produce this fine beer. Take a whiff of this complex ale and your journey has just begun. At first sip, a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds, yet another victim enraptured by the Pumking!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: It smells like an almond scented air freshener in an elderly person’s Oldsmobile, and it tastes like eating a bowl of almonds and potting soil. I imagine that if you ate 100 Almond Joy bars, collected your fecal matter, and barrel-aged it, you’d hit the nail on the head. 2/100

Dietz: The nose is shockingly atrocious. Crazy broken cookies and something swampy, vegetal, coconut, and shit. This displeases me greatly. Undrinkable. 7/100

Mark: Coconut almond pie with a graham cracker crust. Sounds like it could be pretty good, right? It wasn’t. 10/100

Shahin: The grand wizard of pumpkin beer. Ropey mouthfeel, and tastes like Nana’s old macaroons dipped in vodka. 11/100

Joe W: This beer smells really interesting, like pie crust, and tastes like garbage. 18/100

Jim: Smells like gangrene, with flavors of marzipan and spray paint. 23/100

Shipyard Brewing, Smashed Pumpkin – Portland, ME

What the website says:

“Pugsley’s Signature Series is named after Shipyard Brewing Company’s master brewer, Alan Pugsley. A big bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aroma of pumpkin and nutmeg. Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of Saphir and Hallertau Hops to balance the sweetness of the fruit. To fully experience all the flavors, this beer is best enjoyed at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: More like “Dentyne Private Reserve.” It smells like the kids toy aisles at Laverdieres, and when it’s in my mouth it hurts my fillings. 13/100

Dietz: Mo Dentyne, Mo Problems. This tastes like foamy sewage water and lingers in the worst way possible. I hate this. 9/100

Shahin: The nose is reminiscent of doing a line of cinnamon through a toilet paper tube, and the flavors remind me of simultaneously drinking apple juice, chewing big red gum, and eating popcorn. 16/100

Joe W: 9% ABV Zombie Farts. 2/100

Jim: Smashed assholes, it tastes like chewing on a nasty old Christmas tree that has been left outside in the dumpster for some time. 5/100

Shipyard Brewing Co, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Smashed Pumpkin – Portland, ME

What the website says:

“Our award-winning, limited release Bourbon Barrel Aged ales are carefully cellar-aged in small batches in decanted bourbon barrels at our brewery in Portland, Maine. Aged over 100 days. Unlimited shelf life. Recommended serving temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit in brandy-style stemware.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: When I was 13, we used to fill two-liter bottles with a mix of rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey. We would take it out in the woods and pass it around, chasing with Cott brand fruit punch. That’s what this reminds me of, sans the pleasant memory of throwing up in front of the cops on bikes, and I aggressively hate it. 2/100

Dietz: It does smell more like pumpkin pie than Dentyne. However, the grossness is more than you could possibly believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it contained a cleaning product of some kind. How can you make something this awful? 4/100

Shahin: Kandy Korn butt plug with Old Crow lube. Hobo whiskey farts after gorging on windowsill pumpkin pie. Spicy camel clutch. 4/100

Joe W: Worst bourbon flavor I have EVER tasted. 2/100

Jim: Like a bourbon and sour milk. 12/100

Traveler Beer Co, Jack-O Traveler Seasonal Pumpkin Shandy – Burlington, VT

What the website says:

“Driven by an obsessive love of high jinks, the Jack-O Traveler spent his days cooking up mischief for everyone who crossed his path. One of his favorite pranks involved tricking unsuspecting bar patrons into buying him beers and then skipping out just when it was his turn to buy a round.

So clever was Jack, he even scammed the devil himself into granting him a reprieve from hell. Unfortunately for our Traveler, when his shenanigans finally caught up with him and he died, the man upstairs wanted nothing to do with Jack either.

It’s said that after Jack was barred from heaven, the devil gave him a burning coal, which he promptly put into a carved pumpkin to light his way. Legend has it that he wanders the earth to this day, searching for innocent bystanders to hoodwink into buying him his favorite beer, a pumpkin Shandy.

Representing the darker side of Shandy, Jack-O Traveler is an alluring beer illuminated by the tastes of fall. He strikes the perfect balance between bright refreshment and seasonal spice. Jack is an American craft wheat beer brewed with fresh pumpkin, for a delicious, dark hued, Shandy-inspired beer.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Tastes like the kind of ginger ale I would imagine they served at Auschwitz. 0/100

Dietz: Clove, cinnamon, and an acidity that is completely out of place, apparently from lemon peel. There is a rank chemical flavor in the mid-palate, yet another horrible product. 9/100

Mark & Shahin: It’s like a pissed-on urinal cake that has been marinating in Schweppes ginger ale. 10/100 and 13/100

Joe W: Lemon and Pumpkin? 11/100

Jim: It tastes like a carpet cleaner made from Pine Sol, cinnamon, and blood. 28/100

Almanac Beer Company, Dark Heirloom Pumpkin – San Francisco, CA

What the website says:

“This velvety American Barleywine-style ale is brewed with over 1,000 lbs of organic heirloom pumpkins and aged in rye and brandy barrels for a year. This decadent autumn sipper pairs well with pecan pie, bread pudding and a warm campfire.

Farm to Barrel

Our Farm to Barrel beers highlight the tradition of aging beers in oak barrels. This strong ale is aged in used brandy and rye barrels for 12 months. During this time the flavors of the barrel and beer merge, making something new. As the barrel “breathes” it slowly imparts flavor of brandy and rye, oak and vanilla into the beer. Inside our pumpkin infused barleywine slowly evolves, developing more complex flavors and aromas. This slow process can’t be rushed. We test the barrels every few months (perks of the job) and when we think it’s ready, the barrels are drained and blended with a fresh batch of delicately spiced barleywine . The resulting beer can be aged for up to three years in the bottle, where the flavors will continue to blend and evolve.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Nose is remiscent of sweet tarts, and I get more flavor of apple than pumpkin. Not too bad. 72/100

Dietz: It’s dark and sour, no real trace of pumpkin just a delightful barrel aged sour with a bit of malic acid. 82/100

Mark: Tart with notes of apples and funk. Thank you!! 85/100

Shahin: Oude brune nose, with a touch of balsamic vinegar, crab apples, and tart cherries. 88/100

Joe W: Not much pumpkin but a great beer. 98/100

Jim: Like a sour apple blow pop, with hints of raspberry. 85/100

Dogfish Head Brewing, Punkin Ale – Milton, DE

What the website says:

“A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.
Punkin Ale is named after the seriously off-centered southern Delaware extravaganza Punkin Chunkin (check out some of these Discovery Channel videos of Punkin Chunkin, you gotta see it to believe it!). In fact, Punkin Ale made its debut as it claimed first prize in the 1994 Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest. Yes, that was a full 6 months before we even opened our doors for business!
Punkin Chunkin has grown in size and scale, with pumpkins now being hurled more than 4,000 feet through the air! If you come down to see if for yourself, drop by and visit us.
Since its debut, we’ve brewed Punkin Ale each and every fall. It is released right around Sept. 1 each year. When you find it, grab some extra because it’s usually gone by Thanksgiving.
Every Beer Has A Story… here’s Punkin Ale”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like a can of domestic pilsner that’s been open for awhile, and tastes like flat Orange Crush with a very unpleasant and bitter finish. Weird, because this one used to always perform well. 32/100

Dietz: Smells passable, with the prerequisite nose of pumpkin pie spice. There is actuall a bit of malt to it as well, not too bad. 59/100

Mark: A touch spicier than I remember, but not too overpowering. 55/100

Shahin: Nutty, reminds me a bit of Anne from Arrested Development, as in, “Who?” Fairly unremarkable. 50/100

Joe W: Forgettable, no real taste of pumpkin. 30/100

Jim: Not bad, not much of anything, really. 78/100

Samuel Adams Brewing, Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Boston, MA

What the website says:

“Real pumpkin & warming spices like ginger, cinnamon & nutmeg give this brew a smooth, hearty, and inviting character perfect for the crisper days of fall. Special ingredients include real pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Though the nose isn’t overly offensive, it tastes like a can of cream soda that’s been open for a month, accompanied by some cinnamon snooters. 35/100

Dietz: Darker, roastier, but more of that Hot Ball cinnamon on the nose. It’s like a cinnamon scratch N’ sniff, with definite flaws from diacetyl. Better than Shipyard, but that ain’t sayin’ much! 38/100

Mark: Overpowering with the cinnamon, with buttery notes on the finish. 35/100

Shahin: Schmmmmmmmah? This is crap, like Sam’s Club cream soda. 28/100

Joe W: 30/100

Jim: I burped and almost puked. 60/100

Magic Hat Brewing, Willhelm Scream – Burlington, VT

What the website says:

“WILHELM SCREAM THE CALL FOR FALL. The distant drums of change are thumping, signaling the coming of chilling frosts, falling leaves and ghoulish screams. In a patch ripe with orange glow, Wilhelm Scream awakens and unleashes his season-stirring call for fall. His revelers listen for his echo across the ripened dancing days and prepare their seasonal celebration of harvest and ale. WILHELM SCREAM IS RIPE WITH FALL FLAVORS OF PUMPKIN, CINNAMON, NUTMEG AND CARAMEL MALTS. MEDIUM-BODIED AND THE COLOR OF ORANGE SETTING SUNS, IT FINISHES SIMILAR TO THE WAY WE FINISH SUMMER: WITH JUST A HINT OF BITTERNESS.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This tastes like a can of beer filled with already-smoked whore cigarettes. They should rename it, “Yeast Infection.” All I want right now is a cold glass of water. 20/100

Dietz: A bit of One-Pie on the nose, but overall pretty insipid. Completely forgettable. 22/100

Mark: Like Sam Adams, but worse. 30/100

Shahin: Tastes like school lunch carrots. 18/100

Joe W: No Thanks, All Set. 17/100

Jim: Willhelm, in addition to screaming, also took the time to fuck my mouth with a nutmeg-flavored celery stalk.

At this point, we receive reinforcements of the Eventide’s Twisted Tea (which is about 70 proof) , hand-delivered by Arlin’s sister, Ryan. All rejoice with this manna from heaven, and take a well-deserved break from the pain.

Wolaver’s Organic, Pumpkin Ale – Middleton, VT

What the website says:

“ A golden amber ale with well balanced malts and hops and mildly spiced. Brewed with local, organic pumpkins grown by Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: What a delightful Autumnal harvest, and how privileged am I to get to put this in my mouth? The handcraft that went into this organic, artisanal brew make me want to call a farmer, any farmer, and thank him for helping to gather up Gaia’s gifts for us all. 11/100

Dietz: Foams up into a violent mousse once it hits the mouth. Poopy, with too much fake cinnamon. I’m losing focus here. 19/100

Mark: Major bite, major spice, major disappointment. 28/100

Shahin: I taste Monsanto hate, and also very inexpensive garam masala. 22/100

Joe W: Guys, this was the gold medal winner at the GABF. I’m giving it a 74/100 and I don’t care that you’ve lost all respect for me.

Jim: Sour, like pickled grapefruit with anchovies. 30/100

Central City Brewing Co, Red Betty Spiced Pumpkin Ale – Surrey, BC

What the website says:

Suspiciously nothing.

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Lots of bitterness, and it tastes badly flawed. Betty’s River Runs Red and other autumnal period references. 32/100

Dietz: Treacle tart and emptiness on the nose. Some really odd shit going on here.. 39/100

Mark: My mouth hates everything right now, and I’m getting more of the same. 25/100

Shahin: 7-11 Pumpkin pie while chugging pale ale, and caramel corn. 29/100

Joe W: I think this is a great pumpkin beer, balanced in all respects. Even has a pleasant bitterness! 85/100

Jim: Spoiled pumpkin pie pudding, and about as pleasurable as a stream full of leeches. 34/100

Southern Tier Brewing, Warlock Imperial Stout – Lakewood, NY

What the website says:

“Warlock is brewed to enchant your palate on its own and also to counterpoint our Imperial Ale, Pumking. Make your own black magic by carefully pouring this imperial stout into a goblet. Dark and mysterious, the Blackwater Series is serious about high gravity. Reanimate your senses with Warlock’s huge roasted malt character, moderate carbonation and spicy pumpkin pie aroma. FOOD PAIRINGS include spicy BBQ, smoked or roasted foods, or maybe you can try it as a float with a scoop of ORGANIC vanilla ice cream, or paired with a slice of carrot cake!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Every second that awful, bitter shit was in my mouth took a significant amount of my life force from me. Like a heavier, more nausea-inducing Pumking. 1/100

Dietz: Gross, Nilla Wafer nose. Ejectorama. High alcohol, vanilla, graham cracker, all the wrong parts of cinnamon and nutmeg. I actually feel ill. This is really, really crappy. 9/100

Mark: Roasted version of Pumking. Almond, Nilla Wafers, and Tootsie Rolls. Awful. 8/100

Shahin: It’s like someone abducted a Werthers’ Original and did unspeakable evils to it. 2/100

Joe W: Like a sweet, dark pumpkin cake. Too sweet. 9/100

Jim: More of that gangrene, this time with rotten brownies and almonds. I feel like my tongue is furry. 5/100

Redhook Brewing, Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter – Portsmouth, NH

What the website says:

“Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter is dark chestnut brown in color and is made with pureed pumpkin. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are added to the whirlpool and maple syrup is added during fermentation. This full-bodied, rich roasty porter makes you want to eat turkey and watch football, or build a bonfire.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Back to that Tootsie Roll bullshit, this time with a super smoky, burnt coffee finish. It actually kind of tastes like nato beans. That’s not a good thing. 24/100

Dietz: Dunkin Donuts pumpkin spice latte nose, bitter and oxidized (years old) like really bad milk stout. 42/100

Mark: Burnt chocolate with some tin foil. 30/100

Shahin: Like sucking Dustin Hoffman’s cock in Tootsie, with hints of metal and soy sauce. 9/100

Joe W: Some oxygen may have snuck in on the bottling line but otherwise pretty good! 62/100

Jim: Carob, weak sour chocolate, and bleu cheese. That is all. 15/100

Waterfront Brewing (Shipyard, apparently), Spiced Pumpkin Ale – Portland, ME

What the website says:

There doesn’t seem to be one.

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This tastes like Pumpkinhead that has been gargled and spit out by a pirate with scurvy. 5/100

Dietz: Comically bad nose. Super pissy. Like peeing in your mouth while chewing Dentyne, which is fucking foul. Not even remotely like pumpkin nor remotely desirable. 7/100

Mark: It’s like pissing uphill and into the wind while chewing Big Red. Why??? 10/100

Shahin: Hospital on the nose, with hot balls and PBR. 11/100

Joe W: Hannaford deserves this beer. 2/100

Jim: Urethra. Literally like cinnamon and urine. 12/100

Weyerbacher Brewing, Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Easton, PA

What the website says:

“We set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins!
This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren! We have added lots of pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove, giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor. This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Perfect finisher on a cool autumn night or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like old egg nog and tastes like a caramel eucalyptus cough drop. The finish is like Fernet. Yuck. 13/100

Dietz: Masala tea on the nose, with an unfortunately intense palate. Brutal. I hate this. Why did I agree to do this tasting? I’m going to throw up in my mouth. 8/100

Mark: A spice bomb with relentless medicinal funk. Make it stop. Please? 10/100

Shahin: Vegetal peppercorn bile. 8/100

Joe W: To be kind – cloying. 7/100

Jim: Like eating pears and Christmas candles. 52/100

Cambridge Brewing Co, Great Pumpkin Ale – Cambridge, MA

What the website says:

“New England’s first and CBC’s most sought after seasonal beer, The Great Pumpkin Ale, is back in bottles and on draft! We are very proud to be brewing with locally-grown sugar pumpkins from our friends at The Farm School in Athol, and Wilson Farms in Lexington. We’re also using organic barley that was grown in MA and then small-batch malted by our friends at Valley Malt in Hadley, MA.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like a mouse that got run over by a car, three days later. Tastes like Stove Top stuffing. 15/100

Dietz: Wet concrete, with a touch of used maxi-pad. What would the base beer taste like here? Pissy, bitter, gross. 23/100

Mark: Less offensive, but not nearly as good as I wanted it to be. 35/100

Shahin: A pumpkin beer with a little bit of space and a hint of savory. Nothing super offensive, or flavorful, going on here. 35/100

Joe W: I think it’s the fault of the contract brewer. 50/100

Jim: Like rotten meat that has been in the basement for a good, long time. 19/100

Heavy Seas Brewing, Great’ER Pumpkin – Halethorpe, MD

What the website says:

“In the most worthy of pumpkin patches and during the silence of the midnight hour, the Greater Pumpkin raises up and pours a rich deep and burnished orange color. Heady aromas of bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove linger seductively over the thick white head of this tremendous brew. Its love at first sip as the full malt body, dominated by British crystal malt, brown sugar and pumpkin, slowly washes over your tongue. Bourbon barrel aging rounds out the flavors with notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Pairs well with crisp autumn weather, crunchy fallen leaves, and the knowledge that your kids will be asleep soon so you can raid their Halloween candy bags.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Definitely smells like a pet store/food, and tastes like the watery, runny oatmeal they serve in jail. 14/100

Dietz: Cereal grains, graham cracker, and unwashed parakeets. Somehow it’s worse in the gob than on the smellies. 11/100

Mark: Smells like some old ham I found in a shopping cart at Home Depot this one time, and somehow I think the taste is worse (true story). 8/100

Shahin: Old tapioca pudding WITH SPICES. 12/100

Joe W has apparently dropped out at this point, though even our silent tasters (Joel and Chresten) press on because WE’RE ALMOST THERE.

Jim: Again, like something horrible from the basement. Maybe some old salted caramel? 12/100

Newport Storm Brewing, R.hode I.sland P.umpkin – Newport, RI

What the website says:

“Boasting 3 pounds of pumpkin per keg, coupled with lactose milk sugar, a touch of chocolate malt for a ruby/orange color, caramel and cara malts for sweetness and copious quantities of pale malt, the only ingredient left for this liquid pumpkin pie libation was spices. Staying true to RI, we sourced those spices locally from Spice Mill, located in Wakefield, RI. The mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves will ‘warm you up with a cold one,’ all fall and winter long! Available: on draft and in bottles 9/1 – 12/31.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This smells like a Werther’s Original that is currently being aggressively sucked on by somebody with halitosis. It tastes like astringent root beer barrel candy. 15/100

Dietz: The diacetyl is strong with this one. Badly flawed. 6/100

Mark: This tastes like the butterscotch discs I found at the Christmas Tree Shops, c.1995. 10/100

Shahin has also lost interest at this point…. Everyone is one the threshold of Hell.

Jim: Like Butternut squash.. look all I’m saying is that it tastes squashy!! 56/100

Long Trail Brewing Co, Imperial Pumpkin – Bridgewater Corners, VT

What the website says:

“This limited release, seasonal treat is small batch brewed with pumpkins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves with increased malts and a touch of bitterness for the perfect balance.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Typical sweetness from a high-alcohol beer, and no discernable pumpkin flavor. 37/100

Dietz: Meh, could be worse. I’m not sure what makes this Imperial. If I were Emperor, I would execute every last one of these motherfuckers. 34/100

Mark: Non-offensive, which doesn’t necessarily make it good. 25/100

Jim: Tastes like it may have turned a little… 72/100

26 (Thank God)
Allagash Brewing, Ghoulschip – Portland, ME

What the website says:

“Allagash Ghoulschip is our version of a pumpkin beer. We brewed it, on Halloween 2008, with a monster mash that included shredded Maine pumpkin and toasted pumpkin seeds. After much toil and some trouble, molasses were added to the boil. The wort then spent the night outside, in our Coolship, possessed by the yeasts of beers past. In the morning, the cooled wort was racked into a stainless tank and pitched with our house yeast. After primary fermentation the beer is then transferred to oak barrels. Ghoulschip fermented and aged in the dark recesses of our cellars for almost three years. The resulting beer is light bodied and pumpkiny in color. Apricot dominates the aroma, with vanilla and caramel lurking in the background. The flavor profile is scarily clean, with a dry, tart finish that will haunt you. Boo. 6.9% ABV”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Man, this is what I needed. Aromas of corked wine, in a good way, with super funky, sour, and acidic notes that taste like goddamn Valhalla right now. 1000000/1000000

Dietz: Sour, touch of butterscotch. Still hanging in there, and very drinkable. 76/100

Mark: Bottled in 2011 and great, the sourness is killer. I would drink this anytime. 80/100

Shahin: Vinous, musty, horse blanket, pretty fucking good! Mellowed out over the years! 88/100

Jim: Sourdough. Tasty. Best. 90/100

And, to close, I will give you Arlin’s brief, yet powerful assessment of the whole affair:

“So overall I felt that the majority of pumpkin spice ales we had were absolutely horrible. I found that there were just different degrees of horrible depending on how well the beer was made. The ingredients and care going into a Shipyard is much different then say Dogfish or Rogue. My notes were mostly in the teens for rating. Dogfish was disappointing mostly because it was way too fucking safe. The beer that stood out to me, and is in a league of its own anyways, was Allagash. It was an incredible sour with no shitty flavorings. The only true pumpkin beer we had. Sam Adams was probably my favorite outside of that. Go figure. Thanks for including me. It was a lot of fun. I missed a few.

Shipyard. 15
Shock top. 13
Woodchuck. 1
UFO. Just bad. 12
Smuttynose. 60
Saranac. 20
Rouge. 68 tasted like a beer
Southern tier. 3
Smashed pumpkin. 16 good body.
” barrel aged. 12
Traveler shandy. Floor cleaner. 4
Dogfish. 21
Sam Adams. 71
Magic hat. 23
Otter creek. 22
Central city. 19″
Almanac. Sour. Awesome. 65
Southern Tier Warlock stout. 2
Heavy seas. Most palatable. 59
Newportstorm. So bad. 7
Long trail. 74
Allagash. Best. By far. Holy shit. Best for last. Cool ship. 82”


I always find it hilarious when people really, really want to come to this tasting because, at the end of the day, it’s absolute torture. At the same time, I guess I would prefer to be tortured in the company of good people so… See you in 2015.