A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.

4th Annual Pumpkin Beer Tasting – PumCaCa Rides Again!

If you need a refresh, here are links to PumCaCa 2009, 2010, and 2011

There is nothing that is more confusing or upsetting to me than the hysteria over the release of pumpkin beer each year, now beginning as early as August. I cannot think of anything that turns me off more quickly than observing a group of very attractive women piling several twelve-packs of Pumpkinhead into their cart, as I can only imagine what they will smell like after rifling back bottle after bottle of this gag reflex-inducing concoction.

Because we are masochists, and it’s very important to understand your enemy, we put ourselves through this tasting ordeal each year. This time we have managed to up the number of “offerings” to a whopping twenty five, after trudging our way through what we perceived to be an excruciating sixteen last year. As a special gift to the group, I have eliminated both the ill-fated “aged pumpkin” and “blueberry” categories for good.

To even things out, we have even included two self-proclaimed “lovers” of pumpkin beer in the tasting. Our host Shahin generously provides a spread of fresh donuts, meats, cheeses, and pickled pumpkins to snack on, as well as pouring everyone a heaping “Eddie Gordo” shot to get things started. These are, of course, named after the legendary Brazillian Brawler from the video game Tekken, and involve 2 parts Eight Bells Rum to 1 part (yick) Fulton’s Harvest Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. They are just as fucking disgusting as they sound, but they set the tone perfectly.

It’s time to meet this year’s panel of judges, stars indicate previous tours of duty

From the left:
Nolan – Beer Buyer, Downeast Beverage ***
Dietz – Easterly Wines, Co-Founder of Deathmatch *
Jamie – Bartender/Musician (Pumpkin Beer Lover)
Chris – Avid Home Brewer *
Bob – Beer Wholesaler
Shahin – Manager, Novare Res
Matt – Portland Beer Retailer (Pumpkin Beer Lover) *
Joe – Food Writer, Wine Salesman, Drunk, Blah Blah Blah ***

The Official Lineup for the 2012 PumCaCa IV Beer Tasting

Cisco Brewers, Pumple Drumkin – Nantucket, MA

What the website says:

“Our Pumple Drumkin Ale is a fall favorite on the island. A deep orange hue and a subtle pie aroma meet a robust malt character in this ale which, true to its seasonal reveling, tastes like toasted pie crust in your mouth. It will finish clean and dry on the palate and leave you wishing that every day could be autumn on Nantucket!”

Judges Corner:

Joe: This reminds me of what it would be like to suck on a tea bag. It has officially sucked all of the life out of my mouth.

Dietz: malty, slightly pie spice nose. Bitterish on palate. pie spice comes through. A touch of warm maltiness, but not actually good beer.

Matt: bitter, all spice up front. There is a slight sweetness at the end. Toasted something. Not sure what.

Chris: Pale, high tannins no traceable pumpkin. It’s more mild than last year, though.

Bob: Burnt mulled cider flavor, kind of toasty. There is very little detectable pumpkin.

Nolan: Not too bad, a less rocky start than expected. Tangy, but not much too it.

Jamie: Nutty aromas, I don’t taste a lot of pumpkin and it has a very bitter finish

Shahin: Light spice, no detectable pumpkin, toasty and bitter.

 

Avery Brewing, Rumpkin – Boulder, CO

What the website says:

“We wondered what would happen if a monstrous pumpkin ale, plump full of spicy gourdiness, were aged in fine fresh rum barrels to add suggestions of delicate oak and candied molasses. Rumpkin is what happened! This first member of the Annual Barrel-Aged Series was brewed with roasted pumpkins from a local Boulder County farm, and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This is sheer brutality, with intense flavors of rotting pumpkin and caramel that may have been marinating for about a year in vanilla extract.

Dietz: The scorched earth policy of pumpkin beers, holy shit. Smells like stale carbohydrates. Like sticking your head in a bag of dry dogfood. Why did I put it in my mouth!!! Nothing but bad here. Crazy sweet alcoholic with notes of vomit

Matt: Funky with a terrible rotten smell. Overly sweet. Malty, sour bad. Tastes like rotten pumpkin pie. This is rough.

Chris: sweet boozy smell, hot booze taste. Great barrel age taste, spices turn the beer rancid.

Bob: Smells hot, wicked alcoholic. Strong and awful.

Nolan: Hot! Whew! Deep malt, dried fruit, I thought it was going to be ok until I put it in my mouth. Holy shit! This one is not going away quietly..

Jamie: This could honestly be used for torture. The first sip gave me a full-body heave. I think I now have PTSD.. It just won’t go away..

Shahin: Caramel nose, toffee, raisins, and vanilla. It tastes like poor British dental work.

Dogfish Head Brewery, Punkin Ale – Delaware

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, organic brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.”

Judges Corner

Joe: Smells like pumpkin pie, if pumpkin pie were made without pumpkin. This is all brown sugar and nutmeg, and it is really lacking in the finish department. Disappointing, because the past three years this one has always been my favorite.

Dietz: Slight pie spice notes, but in a One Pie kind of way. Nutmeggy a bit hollow in the mid, but cleans up on the finish. It is mildly refreshing and actually beer, but once again, not good beer.

Matt: Solid choice, good pumpkin spices, not much pumpkin flavor. I actually am drinking a pint of this at the tasting.

Chris: Tastes & smells like pumpkin pie. Consistent to last year, burnt brown sugar, nutmeg.

Bob: Smells like actual pumpkin pie. Doesn’t taste as good. Pumpkin up front and light spice in back.

Nolan: Spicy and slightly sweet. After the Avery I think this is super mild, I’m pretty sure I would be ok with drinking this.

Jamie: I like this beer, it has a very pronounced pumpkin aroma, and it tastes quite pleasant with a nice finish.

Shahin: Medium toast with a strong graham cracker and nutmeg thing going on. Not a fan.

 

Smuttynose Brewing, 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: I really don’t understand this one; it doesn’t seem to have much going on at all. There is a faint whiff of spice in the nose, which gives way to a lackluster, slightly bitter flavor.

Dietz: Maybe I’m getting soft, but this doesn’t smell too offensive. An attack of bitter phenols comes through on the palate. They leached out the crappiest part of the spices they added and made a probably otherwise good beer undrinkable.

Matt: Sweet, nutmeg, allspice, bitterness. Slight hops at the end. There is a “toothpaste essence” going on as well. Simple, but not all that good.

Chris: Relies on allspice & nutmeg. It does not help the beer. There are worse, but still bottom of the list.

Bob: Not much on the nose, maybe a little nutmeg. Taste like someone took a fucking brown ale and slightly spiced it up.

Nolan: Spicy nose, tastes like a pale with cinnamon and some bitterness

Jamie: I really only get flavors of cloves that have been soaking in a mediocre brown ale.

Shahin: Bright, no nose, clean yeast, and slightly hoppy

 

Weyerbacher Brewing, Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Easton, PA

What the website says:

“Like a pyramid for a pharaoh, 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. It is available August through November.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This tastes as if I dug up rotten hot balls that I buried in the ground a year ago, pissed on them, and ate them.

Dietz: Cinnamony hot ball nose. Tinged with shit. Clovey medicinal absolutely horrendous. Why would you EVER bottle this unless you just had ZERO respect for your potential customers. Seriously like rolling a moth ball in cinnamon and a used litter box and then popping it in your mouth.

Matt: Not much on the nose for me. It resembles Kool Aid® in a terrible way. Medicine like. This is simply terrible.

Chris: Dietz mentioned something about the flavor of Axe Body Spray®, and I honestly can’t think of anything more accurate than that.

Bob: Aromas of cinnamon and a flavor like a clove that has been stuck to your taint.

Nolan: Shit! This stuff gets you right in the ass with spices. It’s like drinking out of a toilet filled with cinnamon and chemicals.

Jamie: This tastes like the Atomic Fireballs® people are trying their hand at beer. Epic Fail.

Shahin: Cardboard nose, apple cinnamon potpourri. Like a pair of Tuesday’s granny panties come Friday.

 

Woodchuck Cider, Private Reserve Pumpkin – Middlebury, 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 Table:

Joe: Can apples poop? Because this tastes like poop to me. Chewable poop gum. Actually it tastes like the “bubblegum flavored” fluoride that I was routinely tortured with as a child.

Dietz: Literally made me gag. Holy shit. The acidity is not making things better here. Something rancid going on here. bright acidity leads to super oxidized finish. Sour apple candy mixed with doo-doo. WHYYYYY!!!???? dear god, nobody could EVER enjoy this.

Matt: I smell old cheddar cheese, mixed with bubble gum. Like the bubble gum fluoride I had as a kid.

Chris: Smells like my infant’s morning shit. Tastes like fluoride.

Bob: Smells like crabapples and tastes like rotten apples.

Nolan: Did someone throw up in my glass? Fruity. Cheesy. Shit.

Jamie: Bubblegum nose. Ewwwww.. This tastes like vomit and not the first projection but rather the 14th “I have nothing left in my stomach but bile and blood” kind. Ouch.

Shahin: This is like a pumpkin Jolly Rancher®, a rotten apple, and a piece of gum you may find on the floor of a subway station all wrapped up into one.

 

Harpoon Brewery, Pumpkin Cider – Boston, MA

What the website says:

“When we first introduced Harpoon Cider, we spent some time in our tour room mixing it with different beers and sampling the results. The results were varied, but one pairing in particular – Harpoon Cider with Winter Warmer – was a pleasant surprise. We recreated the combination for years at festivals and at our breweries for years before we were able to combine the seasonal spicing with freshly pressed apples in one bottle, which is exactly what we have done with Harpoon Pumpkin Cider.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Faint cinnamon and apple nose. Cloves and Motts applesauce flavor, but no pumpkin. Not completely offensive.

Dietz: Motts applesauce. Half decent cider with cinnamon notes. It would have been a pretty good cider if they hadn’t adulterated it.

Matt: Very light in color. Cinnamon applesauce fragrances in the nose with a Green Apple Blow Pop® flavor. I feel like this would be appealing when cold. No pumpkin at all.

Chris: Smells like margarine – straight cider with Apple spices

Bob: Smells and tastes like applesauce.

Nolan: Motts! Certainly a lot less offensive than the last one…

Jamie: I know this sucks, but compared to the woodchuck it feels like a reward. Not necessarily a compliment to Harpoon, but the Woodchuck was just soo fucking terrible!

Shahin: This tastes like a Hostess Apple Pie® made with Cortland Apples.


Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, La Parcella No. 1 Pumpkin Ale – Dexter, MI

What the website says:

“Packed with real pumpkins, hints of spice and a gentle kiss of cacao to lighten the soul. An everyday easy way to fill your squashy quotient. Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed.”

Judges’s Table:

Joe: This is very typical of the sweet/tart style of this brewery. As with last year, i enjoy the beer but there is no noticeable pumpkin flavor. Tastes pretty fucking great at this point!

Dietz: The nose is fine, actually. Sour ale. Decent. Slightly bitter. Not the best sour ale, and also would be hard to identify as a “pumpkin” beer. Another “why bother?”

Matt: Not much nose. Sharp, lots of apple, but no pumpkin flavor. Slightly acidic. Little bit of funk. Not bad at all. A good starter sour for people who don’t think they like sours.

Chris: Lovely sour beer. There is certainly pumpkin, but it’s hardly noticed

Bob: I like this as a sour beer, but I taste nothing resembling pumpkin.

Nolan: A little funky and tangy. Earthy, with some hints of vanilla. A breath of fresh air!

Jamie: I don’t taste pumpkin at all.

Shahin: Brett, Bitter, Acidic, and not a lot of spice. Nice amount of funk in the finish.

 

Blue Moon Brewing Company, Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Golden, CO

What the website says:

“In 1995, we crafted our first autumn seasonal—Pumpkin Ale. At the time, Oktoberfest beers were in high demand. For our version, we wanted to create a beer that was a little different than what was already out there and complemented the season by highlighting the flavors we’ve all grown to love during this time. It was so popular that it became the first nationally available pumpkin ale. Harvest Pumpkin Ale, as it’s called now, is crafted with pumpkin and spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice for a taste you’ll want to fall right into.

Judges’s Table:

Joe: The nose reminds me of when I was very young and would trap insects in jars. After a while, even if I poked holes in the top, they would die. This beer smells like a jar full of dead insects. It has an enormously offensive, rotten, sickly sweet flavor.

Dietz: Pumpkin spice definitely representing on the smellies. Foamy, faintly bitter. Thankfully faintly everything. Gross and soapy. You want to get it out of your mouth, but even after you do, you still keep tasting it and feeling it in your throat… Like right before you puke.

Matt: Smells like nasty gym socks. Light, watered-down flavor. Bad green bean essence with pumpkin. Terrible.

Chris: Malty spicy nose. Fucking awful taste, rotted corpse

Bob: Heavy spice nose. Smells like day old refrigerated pumpkin pie, but tastes like shit.

Nolan: Tastes like Coors Light got raped by Spicy The Horse.

Jamie: It would appear that the people at Blue Moon are harboring a secret hatred for pumpkins.

Shahin: Nutmeggy Queef….. Period.

 

Lakefront Brewery, Pumpkin Lager – Milwaukee, WI

What the website says:

“In 1989, Lakefront Brewery owner, Russ Klisch was reading dusty brewing tome, tipping one of our fine lagers and came across a beer recipe that Thomas Jefferson had brewed with pumpkin at his home in Monticello.

Pours a light orange with an off-white head. Flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves meld well with a slightly sweet background that actually does taste a bit like pumpkin. Caramel and Munich malts reinforce this beer’s mouthfeel and lend to the malty sweetness.

Serve our Pumpkin Lager with holiday meals the spice characters really bring out the depth of full-flavored meats and vegetables.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Tastes and smells like Chewing Dentyne while shopping for incontinence diapers at Christmas Tree shops. Double your displeasure. Bad things happened at the lakefront.

Dietz: Pumpkin and poop on the nose. The lightest beer ever produced to taste this revolting. There is nothing clean or good tasting about this.

Matt: Subtle nose, slightly potpourri flavors. A lot like Dentyne, sans the approval of the ADA.

Chris: Allspice A-fucking-gain. This is way too light for the spices. Like shitty gum that a bum spit at your mother on mother’s day.

Bob: Smells like all the other crap. Tastes like the mall, overly spiced and fragrant.

Nolan: Nowhere to hide this shit around the Lakefront. Smells and tastes like an armpit.

Jamie: It smells like a rotten pumpkin, and tastes like a dick that has been sprayed down with axe deodorant.

Shahin: Allspice Cologne. Like tipping back a bottle of Old Spice. This is what they fed Nazi war criminals for Halloween.

 

Saranac, Pumpkin Ale – Utica, NY

What the website says:

“Saranac Pumpkin Ale is brewed with Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, Ginger and Vanilla. Look for a full-body and amber color. We’re sure you’ll enjoy this special brew! Pairs with Fowl and Game Birds!”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: It’s just like having the pleasure of drinking flavorless, liquefied Lucky Charms® marshmallows right out of a growler!

Dietz: Deep amber color. The nose made me think this was far more innocuous than truth would bear out. There is cream soda popping up through the palate. the finish is unsurprisingly unpleasant. In a growler – just In case you want to share with your closest enemies.

Matt: Bonus points for easy screw top access. Pepto bismal with vanilla coke. Remember the pink bubble gum medicine from when you were a kid? This is the beer made from that.

Chris: Medicinal, no pumpkin at all, but I got a nice photo of Joe!

Bob: smells like a spoiled beer and tastes like a flat bottle of vanilla coke.

Nolan: Smells a little medicinal, creamy. There is an angry old pumpkin inside!

Jamie: I’d rather give rimjobs for charity than ever put this in my mouth again.

Shahin: Cotton Candy, Old Cereal. Kind of like getting molested by the Stay-Puff® Marshmallow Man.


Southern Tier Brewing Company, Pumking – Lakewood, NY

What the website says:

“All Hallows Eve is a time of the 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 Table:

Joe: Smells like cardboard and stale graham crackers. Tastes like a severely burned action figure. Year after year this beer just keeps me scratching my head..

Dietz: Super graham crackery nose. Wow! Not shy on the gross here. Waves of crappy flavors. resinously not-delicious. Banana and hops meet allspice, clove and jojoba oil.

Matt: Smells like the king has died. Tastes like alcoholic big red gum. Sterilized quality that kills your palate. Bad chinese factory plastic aftertaste.

Chris: Apple jacks smell with an awful shitty Band Aid taste.

Bob: Allspice, actually every spice I think. Candied corn, actually tastes like it has DMS.

Nolan: Agonizingly sweet nose, favors of creamed corn. Aggressively offensive.

Jamie: I can taste the crabby merkin that was used to flavor this beer.

Shahin: Tastes like a factory rat ate a bag of five spice and pissed right into a can of brown bread, and proceeded to muddle it with candy corn.

 

Alpine Beer Company, Ichabod Ale – Alpine, CA

What the website says:

“Every time this beer is made, a different base beer is used but the main ingredients remain – Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Nutmeg.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Goddamn THIS is delicious! A fantastic sour beer with balanced, vinegar notes and just the slightest hint of pumpkin.

Dietz: Dark amber color. touch of pine on nose. Sour but delicious. Wow. refreshing. Really quite good, although I don’t pick up on the “generous” additions of pumpkin, cinnamon and allspice. Thank goodness.

Matt: Good lambic smell. That’s actually good. Very good, vinegary flavor. Slight pumpkin flavor. Shockingly, a great beer in this collection. I’d order this.

Chris: A bit of funk. Buttery and spicy. Tastes wonderful and peppery. Very far from a pumpkin beer.

Bob: A great sour with pleasant, apple cider vinegar qualities.

Nolan: Lots of lactic acid on the nose, wonderfully sour in flavor.

Jamie: This is delightful, I would happily drink this anytime!

Shahin: Bretty, with pronounced flavors of golden balsamic and pepper.

 

Heavy Seas, The Great Pumpkin Imperial Ale – Halethorpe, MD

What the website says:

“Great Pumpkin draws much of its flavor from a mixture of spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Dark brown sugar adds color and some dryness to the spicy, malt-forward ale. The addition of the spices and pumpkin in the kettle makes this brew opaque. A warming pumpkin aroma and a slightly sweet taste characterize our special fall seasonal. The bourbon barrel-aged version of this beer, Great’ER Pumpkin, spends three weeks in barrels from Virginia’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Smells like Nilla wafers, does not taste that way. This is hateful, hateful beer. Tastes like butt pirates tossing salads.

Dietz: More graham cracker and crap nose. So, so bad in my pie hole. Instant iced tea meets Nilla wafers. So bitter and gross with sweet highlights that induce repeated gag reflexes. Lingering aftertaste is revolting.

Matt: Smells muted, big alcohol flavor. Can’t taste much. Nilla wafers. Caused Joe to almost cry. Tastes like decaying oak leafs. Like being on the heavy seas, it makes you queasy.

Chris: Smells fucking disgusting. Tastes like burnt cinnamon and dead lemur babies.

Bob: Got a gag reflex from the scent. Smells like Alcohol and tastes like wet leaves.

Nolan: Ugh! Waves of shit, bitterness, and spice. Tempted to make a “poop deck” joke here but…

Jamie: This tastes like it was aged in a musty washing machine. The label should read “Drinkaaaaaaaaaarrrrhhhs Beware!”

Shahin: Pennies on the nose, ABV DTF, Phenolyic, A lot like what I imagine it would be like to go down on Bubbles from The Wire.


Wachusett Brewing Company, Imperial Pumpkin – Westminster, MA

What the website says:

“A generous amount of Two Row Barley is blended with Caramel Malt, Pumpkin, Belgian Candi Sugar, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger then fermented with our Northwest Yeast creating a profile as unique as every pumpkin in the patch.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: No nose.. Medicinal, bitter aftertaste. All nutmeg and alcohol. Crap.

Dietz: Sweet nose. Very nutmeggy I guess at this alcohol level with this amount of nutmeg you might start tripping, if your kidneys don’t fail first. This is, once again, not pleasant.

Matt: Not much nose. There is nothing imperial about this. Bitter in a horrible way. Very offensive. Too much nutmeg..

Chris: Malty with nothing going on. Just like an Amber with excess spices.

Bob: No Comment

Nolan: It has this strange, urinal cake-like finish…

Jamie: This is about as easy to stomach as the Revere, Massachusetts accent with a bit of Lowell flare.

Shahin: Bubble gum, boozy, spice – It’s like banging a girl from Lowell – over scented and regrettable.

 

Allagash Brewing Company, Ghoulschip – Portland, ME

No Info on Website about this particular very limited release

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Fresh pumpkin on the nose, this is a very pleasant sour beer. Christ I’m running out of steam….

Dietz: Sour beer nose. Touch of spice. I like this. Cloudy funky lambic-y. Definitely starts to get that gunflinty sulphur thing. Good.

Matt: Sour, funky nose and flavors, more beer depth. Slight pumpkin flavor, This is definitely one of my favorites.

Chris: Fan-fucking-tastic. Slightly sour, the flavors stick with you and are really well rounded.

Bob: Smells sour. Pumpkin lambic, awesome!

Nolan: Slightly spicy and tangy nose, very well balanced with pleasant carbonation. This is a wonderful beer.

Jamie: I’m undecided on this one. it has moments of being good, but here and there it’s a bit weird for me.

Shahin: Light pumpkin flavor, a bit of barnyard, overall nice balance!

 

Brooklyn Brewery, Post Road Pumpkin Ale – Brooklyn, NY

What the website says:

“Early American colonialists, seeking natural ingredients for brewing ales, turned to pumpkins, which were plentiful, flavorful and nutritious. Blended with barley malt, pumpkins became a commonly used beer ingredient. Post Road Pumpkin Ale brings back this tasty tradition. Hundreds of pounds of pumpkins are blended into the mash of each batch, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center, and crisp finish.”

Judges Table:

Joe: The minute it’s in your mouth it screams “eject immediately.” Like light cinnamon plastic water. The nose is deceptive here. Like doing a rail of cinnamon.

Dietz: Clearly spiced nose, but not gross. Thought it was OK, until the plastic finish kicks in. Cassette head cleaner with cinnamon and allspice.

Matt: Peppermint nose, cinnamon flavors. Completely overpowers the beer. Just tastes like cinnamon beer. Not good.

Chris: Nothing but malt on the nose, straight bitter on the palate.

Bob: Light spice on the nose. diacetyl, really bad.

Nolan: I dropped some of these butter flavored jelly beans in to improve the flavor, but it still just tastes like drinking cinnamon – YARGH!

Jamie: If I wanted to deep throat a cinnamon stick, I would deep throat a cinnamon stick.

Shahin: Diacetyl, spice, more spice.

 

Sixpoint Brewery, Autumnation – Brooklyn, NY

What the website says:

“Our Autumnal brew is made with subtle pumpkin and spice, but its prominent feature is the fresh havested “wet-hops” that are added. New hop strain and selection every year. Autumnation 2012 features Citra Hops.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Smells piney, hoppy. It’s bitter and I like it but no pumpkin flavor. I guess that’s the point though. Bob, please. Both my palate and my mood are getting shot to hell here…

Dietz: Super hop resin nose. The hops overwhelms all. Pumpkin has been subdued into oblivion by raw hop dominance. Creamy typical Six Point finish.

Matt: Big hops smell. Piney, citrus hop taste. Pine tree flavors as well. Hops are overpowering. Bitter. Not much pumpkin. Smelled like it would taste better than it is.

Chris: Hoppy Citra smell, lovely fruity IPA taste, very little cinnamon and burnt sugar.

Bob: I’m biased here, so no comment.

Nolan: Wet-hopped, nice citrus and pine notes. I really enjoy this beer.

Jamie: If there is any pumpkin in here I can’t taste it through the tsunami of hops.

Shahin: Wet-hopped, resiny, a bit sulphuric and no pumpkin.

 

Uinta Brewing, Punk’N – Salt Lake City, UT

What the webiste says:

“This sessionable pumpkin ale is brewed with fresh pumpkin and seasonal spices.
Malt and hops accented with roasted pumpkin and spices of the season. A subtle hint of vanilla and honey. Punk’n is a wonderful compliment to foods with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove flavors. Try it with roasted turkey, squash or pumpkin ravioli, peach cobbler, or pumpkin cheesecake.”

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Swiss Miss® finish, canned pumpkin pie nose – nothing in between. It’s as if the Swiss Miss® had a mountain threesome with both Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.

Dietz: Pumpkin pie filling nose makes a comeback. Swiss bitch cocoa notes on the finish. I didn’t hate it. In my top three so far, and the first that actually goes the One Pie route.

Matt: Big canned pumpkin taste and smell. Bland. I get a bad, candied carrot flavor. Tolerable, but not good.

Chris: Big canned pumpkin essence, complete with shitty aftertaste. Those Mormons can’t make beer for shit.

Bob: Smells like canned pumpkin, toasty and malty. Not too bad.

Nolan: Like many of these beers, this makes me a little sad, but I suppose at the end of the day it’s inoffensive enough….

Jamie: I don’t hate this, but I would never actively seek it out.

Shahin: (I think we’re starting to lose Shahin here)

 

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 Table:

Joe: It’s like a banana gone all Gangnam Style. It smells like Spencer Gifts. This is purely fucking wretched.

Dietz: The nose is not good. It is as if they put a clove cigarette out in stagnant pond water.

Matt: They should have filtered this. Rotten bananas. Clove. Bitter finish. Bad. Just…just bad.

Chris: Smells of allspice bullshit. Tastes like something trying to be fancy for those that hate beer.

Bob: Smells off, tastes like a shitty hefe with a nice acidic puke gargle.

Nolan: The Christmas Tree Shops wants their potpourri back.

Jamie: I’ve had a lot better “unfiltered offerings” in my time, let me tell you…

Shahin: This tastes like someone put out a cigarette in a tall glass of hefe weizen.

 

Rock Art Brewery, Extreme Pumpkin Imperial Stout – Morrisville, VT

For some reason, there is no info on the website about this particular seasonal

Judge’s Table:

Joe: Cock Art – Penis Rythms of the Evening Stout. It’s like someone soaked Tootsie Rolls® in Fernet Branca. This tasting is getting to be much like a Dothraki Wedding – if less than three people die it is considered a dull affair.

Dietz: Dank color. Smells harmless enough. Bitter cocoa, stouty. I think they toned the spruce down. It’s not good, but better than last year. I don’t hate it as much as everyone else, but it also fails to really do anything in a pumpkin way aside from the perfumy nose.

Matt: No nose. Bitter chocolate flavor as well as hint of overcooked root vegetable. Burnt ends, in the worst possible way. This one was rough.

Chris: Malty to the max, man. Cloves on the back in an awful way. Way too roasted.

Bob: chocolate shit. Roasty, chocolatey and it sucks.

Nolan: Spruce “just the tip” Stout. A lighter stout, it has a decent nose of…. never mind. I just don’t care anymore. When will this be over?

Jamie: This tastes like someone put out a jack-o-lantern that was engulfed in flames by pissing on it.

Shahin: Tropical fruit, roasty, floral, a bit of Fernet.


Shipyard Brewing Co, Pumpkinhead – Portland, ME

What the website says:

“Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor. Hints of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg aromas and flavors.”

Judge’s Table:

SPECIAL MINI-MATCH: BOTTLES VS. CANS!

Cans

Joe: Tastes like three things melted together: Candy corn, Dentyne gum, and plastic.

Dietz: Crazy fake cinnamon Dentyne nose. Ejected from my mouth before any notes could be taken. Candy corn and Act mouthwash.

Matt: Big candy cinnamon nose. More pumpkiny than the bottles I had this year. Fake cinnamon flavors, but in a good way. I like it.

Chris: Candy, gum nose. Foul clove, allspice, and cinnamon trash

Bob: Smells like Big Red wrapped in plastic and set on fire. Tastes like toothpaste.

Nolan: Smells and tastes like old, dangly cinnamon balls,

Jamie: Can-Do!

Shahin: Cinnamon dick with nutmeg balls and candy corn discharge.

 

Bottles

Joe: Nose is the same as the can but there is a painful barrage of cinnamon and nutmeg. This is just plain terrible.

Dietz: Barfed twice, consistent barfs. once again an instant ejection. terrible. Somehow worse than the canned version!

Matt: Smells more muted, tastes watered down, but otherwise the same. I still like it. Are you reading this Shipyard? Email me for endorsement details. I think the can preserved the flavor.

Chris: Smells exactly the same. The spices seem stronger, like canned pumpkin pie mix.

Bob: Smells the same maybe a little more cinnamon. Does not taste like beer.

Nolan: Still sad…

Jamie: I can actually drink one of these, but admittedly it tastes more like soda than beer.

Shahin: Fake spice rape, butterscotch, smells like cafeteria hot lunch. It’s clear that no one who makes this beer could give a shit what it tastes like.


Shipyard Brewing Co, Puglsley’s Signature Series Smashed Pumpkin – Portland, ME

What the website says:

“Smashed Pumpkin is a big-bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aromas of pumpkin and nutmeg. The Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of hops to balance the sweetness of fruit.”

Judges Table:

Joe: Astonishingly Horrible. The worst. Combines the elements of all the bad into one Voltron of a shitty beer!

Dietz: Stewed vegetables meets rotten pumpkin. The worst of the evening bar none. Well except maybe the Avery. Fuck that sucks.

Matt: Smelly, canned veggies. Stronger cinnamon than the past. Big minty finish. A fitting end to our flavor trip.

Chris: Smells like canned vegetables. Tastes like fucking Buttery cinnamon. Everything I’ve tasted is embodiment of this awful beer

Bob: No words, astonishingly horrible. Maybe the worst beer I’ve ever had.

Nolan: It just doesn’t get any worse than this. My sadness has reached its peak, and the contrast of the joy of being done with this tasting is making me well up a bit..

Jamie: If the other 24 beers we tasted didn’t turn my uterus into scorched Earth, than this one single-handedly rendered me infertile.

Shahin: LE FIN.

 

As a reward for our hard work, we allow ourselves several shots of Underberg to get the taste out of our mouths. This is followed by several DeRanke lambics, including a kriek that truly makes the whole ordeal worthwhile. While unwinding, we discuss the results. There are clear winners and clear losers, and lots of bullshit in between. As a final palate cleanser, we gobble down chocolates shaped like mummies that just so happen to be filled with pop rocks. This officially exercises the demons and we part ways to never speak of this again… until next year.


Clear Winners:

1. Alpine Beer Company, Ichabod Ale – Alpine, CA
2. Allagash Brewing Company, Ghoulschip – Portland, ME
3. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, La Parcella No. 1 Pumpkin Ale – Dexter, MI

Clear Losers:

1. Shipyard Brewing Co, Puglsley’s Signature Series Smashed Pumpkin – Portland, ME
2. Avery Brewing, Rumpkin – Boulder, CO
3. Southern Tier Brewing Company, Pumking – Lakewood, NY
4. Woodchuck Cider, Private Reserve Pumpkin – Middlebury, VT
5. Heavy Seas, The Great Pumpkin Imperial Ale – Halethorpe, MD

 

photo credits Christopher Seavey

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