As it is October and there is a shocking amount of pumpkin beers on the shelves, this seemed timely. It is important not to get stuck with an awful six pack of something just because the packaging was cool. We all have those few holiday beers lurking in the back of the fridge that we hope an unsuspecting guest will grab. I have once again forged ahead with finding as many untried pumpkin beers as possible and paired them with some of the previous years favorites to create a buying guide that has no real authority whatsoever. Please remember that these were all done in one sitting, so the judgements on them were made in comparison to the group and whatever my mood was that day. I stand by some of this, but I won't admit to what part...
Crooked River Erie Nights- There might be pumpkin in here. I can’t confirm or deny it. That is mostly because of the overwhelming cinnamon. This should be labeled “Cinnamon
Juice”, but I do not think that is allowed by law, as I am not aware of anyone that
juices a cinnamon fruit or milks the cinnamon out of an animal. While this beer wasn’t very good, I do
think it provides a really good song title for the Red Hot Chili Peppers next
single, “Milk My Cinnamon”.
Magic Hat Wilhelm Scream- Everyone around the table remarked about how “subtle” this
was, which I think was code for “bland”.
You know when you go out to eat at a restaurant for senior citizens and
no matter what the entrée is it still tastes like everything else? For example, I have been trying to get
proof for years that Bob Evans actually serves the exact same stuff molded into
different shapes dependant on the order.
It’s just this vat of “protein matter” which is scooped out onto the
plate. It’s like Play-Do that you
eat. This would be the beer
equivalent. It’s not bad per se,
but there isn’t much to get excited about. It’s certainly not as exciting as the screaming pumpkin on
Tommyknocker Small Batch Pumpkin- This beer has a really weird finish like how your hands
smell if you have been rolling change for a half an hour. I don’t think the “touch of spice”
listed on the label was engineered to provide that experience to the
drinker. This is a beer that if
you had it served to you at the brewery, you would have to be polite and smile
and say things like “this is interesting” or “what a unique flavor profile”
before deftly pouring it out into a plant.
Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin- This doesn’t seem like a pumpkin beer. It’s almost like they re-labeled
something else. “Hey, we gotta
move this pale ale out of the warehouse.
Dump a little nutmeg in there and get your girlfriend to design a cute
label. Let’s ship it out as a
pumpkin ale!” This beer was
fine. It just doesn’t really
provide that special holiday beer experience that frankly is the entire point.
New Belgium Pumkick-
This is really pumpkin pie-ish but not nearly as rich as several other
examples. With a reasonable
alcohol content, this would be a good beer to serve at a Halloween party. It is very well balanced. It sort of reminded me of that couple
you see that walks into a restaurant with perfect hair and outfits. You know that their home is absolutely
spotless and tastefully decorated.
They might not be the most fun people you ever met, but would be amazing
neighbors. I’d drink this again.
Red Hook Out Of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter- This is a lighter version of Southern
Tier’s Warlock. On first thought,
the combination of coffee flavors with pumpkin spice doesn’t sound like a good
idea. It really works though. It’s like some kind of doom beer with a
silver lining like if you saw Black Sabbath play out in 1974 and they closed
the set with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and then kicked into “The Pina Colada
Song” while all grinning from ear to ear.
Anderson Valley Fall Hornin- This was a real sleeper. Rich integrated spice gives in to a rich mouthfeel. It has a dark brown color, so the
expectation is that it will taste like the kind of brown ale annoying British
guys name Percy sip away at while calling you “Yank”. God help you if you call his beloved football “soccer”… Next
thing you know he’s getting all worked up and all you wanted to do was have a
beer and figure out how to get back to your hotel. The good news is that this beer isn’t like that. It’s the complete opposite. It’s like if you went to a party at a
supermodel’s house like Brooklyn Decker and assumed she would serve something
awful like quinoa salad but instead whips out a killer Beef Wellington and a
six of this.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin- This was a favorite last year so I was interested to see how
it would hold up with a different group of beers around it. It’s a 9% alcohol monster and it definitely
smells and tastes really boozy.
This is a really decadent beer that should be approached with great
caution. Imagine that you were
hanging out in a bar and then your high school English teacher you had a really
unhealthy fascination with walks up to you totally wasted and plants one on you. The next thing you know you wake up in the morning at her shabby apartment with her Siamese cat staring at you. You are really ashamed at how
everything went down. “Hey…
ah… I don’t really remember last
night that well, but you aren’t going to tell anyone about me wanting you to
put a diaper on me, right? Did you
see my pacifier?” She just half smiles at you as you realize that you are still in the now soiled diaper.
Southern Tier Pumking-
This friendly liquid slice of pumpkin pie is still the king in my
book. I am starting to feel that
hipster blowback on this, like when a really good band you loved that you felt
was your personal secret got really popular. “Yeah, I liked the White Stripes first record but I don’t
even listen to any of Jack White’s stuff anymore”, he said with a condescending sniff. This beer
just tastes really good. Get over yourself. They brewed an ocean of it because they make a lot of money off of it and it tastes good.
Coronado Brewing Punk’in Drublic- The label is annoyingly hard to read, so maybe the name
isn’t right on this. It doesn’t
really matter though because I don’t ever imagine I will buy this again. It’s like chewing on a candle you found
in the attic. There’s a kind of
musty quality to it. (If you are
the brewmaster reading this, I’m really sorry. Check it out though.
It does taste like an old scented candle.)
Erie Brewing Johnny Rails- This is like Crooked River’s little brother, though it’s
actually better than Crooked River as the cinnamon is restrained enough to not
be completely overwhelming. I
remember when I was in grade school in Erie, there was this brief period of
time when kids were making cinnamon toothpicks. You were really cool if you were chewing on one of these in
Social Studies. I have to think
that one of those kids had a hand in brewing this. How else can you explain so much fucking cinnamon?
Fat Head Spooky Tooth-
I will stand by my original review on this. It is really tasty and goes down so smooth. The chance of noticing the 9% alcohol
is probably pretty slim. Somewhere
someone is hosting a Halloween party and is serving a big ice tub filled with
these, and somewhere later that night someone is going to wake up in a harness
while hoping that the two naked dudes in clown makeup and woman in the torn
witch costume don’t wake up before he has chewed his way through the leather
straps and escaped the trailer.
Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale- When I was 16 a few of my friends had the really good idea
to steal liquor from their parents.
Nobody wanted to get caught, so the tactic was to take a little bit of
everything and pour it into the same 16 oz 7-Up plastic bottle. This horrific concoction was named
“Lizard Spit” and was most noteworthy for the dominant scent of whatever cheap
bourbon had been part of the brew.
That is what I thought about with the weird blend of pumpkin pie spice
and bourbon mixed with the malt. I
think the word for that particular blend of beer and bourbon is “regret”. This is the smiling guy with the gapped
teeth who gets you to take a few tugs off a bottle of mystery bourbon and then
convinces you that one little hit of LSD won’t be a big deal…
RJ Rockers Gruntled Pumpkin Ale- This is the Night Ranger of pumpkin beers. Anyone that says, “RJ Rockers is
awesome!” becomes immediately suspect in my book. Have you ever met someone that seems to be really cool, and
then suddenly says something that throws everything out the window like “…but you
have to admire Hitler’s plan” or “…sometimes unicorns can just be really sexy”
or “…so I was running late to meet my Civil War recreation group”. Hearing “RJ Rockers is really awesome”
would be just like that.
Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale-
This is very rich pumpkin pie with a nice kick of nutmeg. I could see watching a Little House on
the Prairie marathon with the sound off with the Byrd’s “Live At The Fillmore”
blasting out of my speakers while drinking this. That might sound terrible to you, but just wait until you
try it. It will be like the first
time you watched The Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon on. How’s your mind now? Blown?
Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Ale- My notes said “tastes like a pile of leaves”. It has a crippling 10.5% alcohol, and I
clearly didn’t like it. I noted “I
imagine having my teeth pulled out by a bonfire by a man with pliers and
leather pants. There are fat guys
with beards laughing when I start crying.
It’s cold. Very cold. I can’t get away. A Hawkwind album is playing off speed
from a parked car in the distance.”.
Although it’s good to know a drinking experience like this is out there,
I don’t know when the next time is that I will want to have it.
Long Trail Brewing Company Pumpkin Ale- I picture a bunch of dudes in flannel
shirts at this brewery saying, “I am so tired of making this dull lager. Let’s make a boring pumpkin beer and
then go watch CSI Miami and make Jiffy Pop”. I’ll bet that is considered fun in Vermont. When it came here to my table, it wasn’t
so fun. Immediately