Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Late Great Pumpkin Beer Taste-Off

I've had all these pumpkin beers I traded for sitting in my fridge for a few months now. I got like 2 or 3 bottles of each initially and think I sampled about 4 different ones on different occasions. This will be interesting to try them all head to head. I start with the lighter ABV ones.

Buffalo Bills Pumpkin Ale (4.9%) - Somewhat similar to Brooklyn in aroma. Taste is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of pumpkin ales, aftertaste is nice, a bit sweet. The whole middle of the palate though is quite dull. Fizzy mouthfeel.

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale (5% ABV) - maybe the most clovey smell of the bunch. A real sorta floral, artificial candle taste in the smell. More bitter at the end. Key word here is artificial. Slick mouthfeel.

Saranac Pumpkin Ale (5.4% ABV) - The darkest of the bunch, nice mixture of spices on the nose, although it's not too potent (that's not necessarily a bad thing here). Definitely by smell has the biggest malt base here. In a blind tasting one might not be able to guess this is a pumpkin ale, although it does have an overall "ale" feel to it. Doesn't taste adjuncty. Nice caramel backing. Maybe just like a very lightly spiced amber ale. Full body for this style.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (6% ABV) - The most perfumy and potent on the nose. A somewhat artificial taste similar to Brooklyn. Maybe it's the combination of spices that give it that quality, I don't know. Really light, slightly watery.

I ranked based on Appearance (10%), Smell (30%), Taste (30%) and Mouthfeel (20%). Each % is the weight I assigned to it based on my preferences for this specific style. The rankings are as follows:

Beer Name Appear Smell Taste Feel Weighted Totals Rank
Buffalo Bills 4 3 3 3 2.8 3
Brooklyn 2 4 4 2 3.0 4
Saranac 1 1 1 1 0.9 1
3 2 2 4 2.3 2

For the next round I went with the higher ABV end of the spectrum.

Southampton Pumpkin Ale (6% ABV) - Really nice clear orange color. They hit that part spot on. Thin to no head. More spicy aroma compared to DFH. Fairly light on everything here as far as taste goes. Really nothing interesting about it. Watery thin feel.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (7% ABV) - Little bit lighter orange with a tinge of gold compared to the Southampton. More malty aroma. Much more interesting taste with a nice little malt backing, kinda toasty, mild caramelized sugars in the aftertaste. Nice body for a light pumpkin ale.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV) - Pours hazy orange. Almost a sour smell to it, not sure where it's coming from. That definitely doesn't smell right. Not like the last full glass I had a couple months ago. The earthy taste in this makes you think you're chewing on a flavored candle. Not my favorite.

Southern Tier Pumking (9% ABV) - Holy crap that smells weird compared to every other sample I've tried. This thing takes spiciness to a whole new level and warps it into something new. Smells super buttery. Kinda nasty to tell you the truth. Yes this smells exactly those buttered popcorn jelly bellies taste. It tastes exactly like that too. I don't know how people pick out anything but BUTTER in this beer. It's actually not a whole lot offensive but who has ever had/wanted a beer that tasted like a buttered popcorn jellybean? Very sweet overall too. While the taste isn't revolting, it might be if I tried to drink a glass of this. I'll settle with my 3 sips. I gave my beer-uneducated-but-always-beer-sampling mom a blind taster glass of this and her face immediately lit up as she described clove and spices in the beer, and said it was really nice and "festive." I asked her how the hell do you get clove out of that and not buttered popcorn. I dunno.

Beer Name Appear Smell Taste Feel Weighted Totals Rank
Southampton 1 1 2 2 1.4 2
Dogfish Head 2 2 1 1 1.3 1
Weyerbacher 4 3 3 3 2.8 3
Southern Tier 3 4 4 4 3.5 4

What I learned from this tasting was that I let these beers take up way too much valuable fridge space for 3 months, which could have been filled with Pliny, Blind Pig, anything Stone, etc. I also learned that I won't be drinking many pumpkin ales in the future, except maybe Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale.


stagalicious said...

Yeh... I can't do pumpkin beers either.

I find Pumking almost undrinkable. Like melting a pumpkin spiced candle into your pint glass and fighting down every swallow.

The Foaming Head said...

Four of the Eight are NY beers. I agree that Dogfish is the best of the bunch, but I disagree with the Post Road. The Saranac is solid but possibly over spiced.

Steve said...

Dogfish was one of the ones I had a full bottle of a while back. It was a real treat. Love the base beer they use for the spices. I also had a Post Road a while back too, my first pumpkin beer of the fall season. I came off that full glass with the impression that it was ok. I'm not a big fan of the average pumpkin ale as it is. At least that's what I realized this year in my first real exploration of the style. Although I only had a small sample of the Saranac I feel I could drink a larger amount a lot more easily than say the Post Road, Southampton, Buffalo Bills etc.