Pumpkin Beers: A New Times Taste Test

Categories: Beer Beer Beer
It's Decorative Gourd Season, inspiration for our second round of seasonal beer tastings. For those who'd prefer drinking pumpkin pie to eating it, these are the beers for you.

At the Great American Beer Festival in Boulder, Colorado, last week, there were 37 entries for the pumpkin beer category, with Upslope Pumpkin Ale from Boulder snagging the win. Speaking of wins, Boca's Brewzzi won the silver in the Vienna-style lager category for its City Fest Brew.

Though we here at New Times may not have the training of judges at the weekend's festival, we've taken a stab at rating pumpkin beers available locally.

Most Disappointing
Pumple Drumkin by Cisco Brewers Nantucket sports a cutesy sketched label with a Halloween tale that starts with a reference to "a pumple named Drumkin." But cute doesn't make up for a clash of IPA hops and pumpkin flavors that combine to resemble a novice brewer's first go-round.

The Shocker
Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing wears a thuggish, crowned pumpkin mascot on a pint bottle on which the brewer tells us the beer is "an ode to Puca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it." Fear is a fine term for how I'd feel if I were forced to drink the whole bottle of this pumpkin wallop. The first sip is disturbing, though some drinkers said it kind of grows on you.

Least Offensive
Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale was refreshing in that spice and pumpkin are a riff rather than an overdose of seasonal flavors. "Pleasant and drinkable" are among the tasters' descriptions.

The Sweetest
"Pumpkin pie in a bottle: You can almost taste the whipped cream," said one taster who wasn't smitten with Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, Heavy on baking spices and malt, its flavor is as straightforward as the pumpkin pie drawing on the label.

The Crowd Pleaser
"There's a reason why everyone has one pumpkin beer on tap and that it happens to be this one," said a taster of Shipyard's Pumpkinhead, one of the most popular craft brews in the genre. Shipyard reported 20,000 barrels having sold in the 2010 season, with expectations to surpass that this year.

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Dan McG
Dan McG

What no Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head? Amateurs... ;)


How can I get invited to a winter beer tasting similar to this, you know, with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout or something awesome like that? I'm pretty happy the end of the pumpkin and oktoberfest tunnels are in sight now as this is my least favorite of all seasons for beer.


The Dogfish Head Punkin Ale blows the variety from Shipyard away. Can't believe that wasn't one of the ones included.


I love how she started her stint at New Times asking a local bartender for their "shittiest beer." She knows nothing about craft or seasonal beers. Nice that she tried them, though. Keep trying, Melissa.....


I can't wait for stout season too. Have you been to any of the Friday tastings at Texas hold em? They're fun, actually.

We will also have a judging at our November beer festival. More info on that as the date approaches.


They were out of it at riverside where I bought the beers. Perhaps it reflects my anti Dogfish bias. Sam is a character but I'm not a fan of his pimp of the hops.


Hi, You Suck. In the same way we like burgers and know it's not gourmet does not mean we don't understand finer dining. That I like shitty beer doesn't mean that I think it's good.

In terms of beer, Florida is five years behind. How do I know if you're correct in my knowing nothing?

Perhaps I can explain my training with dozens of beer geeks in the industry, sommeliers, and beer expert, Greg Engert: Food and Wine's first ever beer guy to get a sommelier of the year nomination and a friend of mine. During my eight year New York stint, I used to log in hours at Williamsburg's Brooklyn Brewery the year after it opened, in 1997, to talk with Garrett Oliver back when he used to give brewery tours. You may know him. He just wrote The Brewmasters Table, his encyclopedia of beer.

I wrote about beer pairing with cheeses in 2008 for The Washington Post before every magazine and newspaper agreed that beer's effervescence and flavor profiles make for better pairings on the whole than wines do.I've written and have been featured in at least half a dozen articles on beer in magazines and newspapers since. And yes, I had to taste and learn about beers to do so.

One thing I'm learning is this: Florida doesn't even have half the beers that are quite delicious and interesting because the importers-- and the demand from consumers-- hasn't caught up yet. Why can't you get a Flemish sour here? Because there's only one or two around at places like Brother Tucker. Why isn't the Japanese Hitachino Red Rice Ale as easy to get as my beloved Budweiser when it's for sale at the Whole Foods in other areas? Why isn't beer pairing a given in fine dining and local bistros? Because we haven't gotten there yet.

You are right, You Suck. If I relied on my knowledge of what I've learned in the newly burgeoning scene down here, my knowledge would be very limited indeed. Surprising though it may be to you, my employer hired me because I have some experience in food, wine, beer, and spirits.

In terms of beer specifically: I was lucky to have lived most recently lived in DC, a city that has been well ahead of New York in terms of beers and beer pairings. A year stint in Berlin also schooled me in terms of learning a world of beers that aren't even available over here. It has also helped I've been to at least twenty beer pairing dinners in dozens of restaurants in the past four years. I've baked bread with beer and have been schooled on how to cook with beer from Kyle Bailey, one of the chefs now in the forefront of cooking with beer. A recent trip to Copenhagen this past July, which included some beer education from the NOMA folks, was very decadent icing as far as what I learned and access to experts.

Perhaps I should illuminate my knowledge rather than embracing a more egalitarian tone --the "know nothing" tone, as you stated. I could be a tone deaf know it all rather than take some time to feel out this market, where I just moved two months ago. Anything you'd like to earn your affirmation, to display my experience, and to fend off your insults.

And while we're at it, perhaps you could man up and use your real name as you assert your authority on what I know and do not know.

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