Friday, October 5, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate Pumpkin Beer

Once again proving that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I assembled as many pumpkin beers as I could to try and get a handle on them.  Which of the zillion seasonal beers are any good?  The problem was I managed to buy 19 different ones, and then set out to sample them all in one sitting.  I’ll give you my tasting notes, but 19 are way too many to try at once, so proceed with caution.  I tried to focus in as best I could, but the tasting notes are as subjective as hell.  If you brewed any of these and have a problem with what I said, I will fight you.  Or we could try your beer again and I will have a totally different opinion and love your beer.  Who knows?  This is what I thought last night...

Arcadia “Jaw Jacker”-  This is pretty damn good.  I’m not a huge fan of Arcadia generally, but this may be related to the time I was there when some guy that claimed to be a partner at Arcadia tried to sell me on some awful blues song he had written.  It’s not easy to enjoy a beer when the most Caucasian guy you have ever seen is trying to sing clunky blues lyrics acapella pretending he is Blind Willie Chitlin from Mississippi.  Putting that terrible experience aside, this is well balanced with a nutmeg open and almost a whiskey finish. 

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin-  As you probably know, Blue Moon is owned by Coors.  Coors is America’s worst macro brewery that tries to sell that Coors Light shit as the “coldest” beer, as if every moron can’t see through the fact that you can make any beer any temperature you want.  “No!  Bartender!  Better put down that Bud Light and give me the Coors Light instead.  That Coors Light is probably much colder and therefore delicious.”  This is like a thin piece of pumpkin pie and not awful.  It’s just not interesting.  If this was a band, it would be Foreigner. 

Buckeye Brewing Pumpkin Dead-  For lack of better terminology, this had a lot of bass notes.  This beer was like going over to a Stoner rock band’s house for Thanksgiving.  They may have some pumpkin pie for you, but it’s served to you with a cigarette butt in it by a guy with missing teeth.  It’s like he’s saying, “Enjoy the beer Fuckface.”. 

Buffalo Bill’s Original Pumpkin Ale-  This claims to be the first pumpkin ale, but that is probably the same thing as the 500 bars that claim to have served the first chicken wing.  Let’s just assume they have been doing it for awhile.  This one is very light and playful, if that makes sense.  One of the few Pumpkin Ales I could imagine having more than one of, it’s got an orange zest flavor that makes it pop.  I could see drinking this and watching those guys in the Flaming Lips do their thing. 

Dogfish Head Punkin- This beer isn’t fucking around.  The cinnamon hits you hard early and then it gives way to a heavy clove taste.  These guys at Dogfish make plenty of heavy flavor beers, so you can’t be surprised at how assertive this tastes.  That clove thing threw me.  This is like a wiseass hipster with a beard that smokes clove cigarettes and hates every band except Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. He’s sure he’s the bastion of taste and everyone respects him, but at the end of the night goes home to jack off in a sock looking at underwear ads.  What does that makes the beer?  Interesting and a little perverted?  Is that a compliment? 

Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin”- This thing is heavy duty.  It’s almost liquor.  When I drink this, I think of showing up uninvited at a biker party where they smash a giant jack-o-lantern over my head.  The last thing I hear before the concussion leaves me unconscious is distorted Black Oak Arkansas coming from an old boom box. 

Hoppin Frog Double Pumpkin- This is very polite.  There is an unripe pumpkin quality to it and the spices are restrained.  It’s OK but a little disappointing.  I really like Hoppin Frog’s beers, so I expected more.  It’s like when you got a copy of Reverend Horton Heat’s “Liquor In The Front" and thought it was going to be like “Full On Gospel Sounds” but instead it was “Liquor In The Front”. 

Ithaca Country Pumpkin- Ithaca has lots and lots and lots of hippies.  Hippies do a couple of things pretty well.  They are good at making pot pipes out of found objects and good at making beer.  I don’t know what the hell happened in this case.  The flavor profile is OK, but there’s too little carbonation.  “Dude!  I think the air is getting out of the bottle!”  This is Pumpkin Stroh’s.  Maybe the guys that make it aren’t hippies.  Maybe they used to sell office equipment.    

New Holland Ichabod-  This beer was swampy.  Lots of cinnamon and not enough ginger/nutmeg flavors for my taste.  I bet there was a bunch of dudes with beards standing around brew tanks and everyone pussed out when the head brew master said “What do you think?”.  Hey man…  You remember how Steve flipped out last year when I said the IPA wasn’t hoppy enough?  I’m not saying shit about this…  We’ll be making the Xmas Ale in a month.  I’m keeping my mouth shut until then. 

Brooklyn Brewing “Post Road Pumpkin”-  This just flat out smelled good.  It has really good balance and isn’t heavy.  I got to the end of the glass and I wanted more, and I can’t say that about most of these.  This beer was like being at a Cramps show, they end their set, and you look around thinking, “Damn!  That’s it?  There’s no more?”.   

Rivertown Pumpkin-  There is a ton of molasses in this flavor profile, which made it unique amongst these beers.  When I taste molasses, I think “old timey” like Jerry Garcia playing in a jug band.  Unfortunately when I drank this I also wrote in my notes “…there’s so much molasses, it’s like you ate out someone’s grandma…”.  I don’t think the brewery is likely to put that quote on their website, but it’s honest.  Well, it’s the first thing I thought of anyway. 

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin-  This had the darkest color of all of them.  It tastes kinda macro, with a thin processed mouth feel.  Still, it is balanced and tastes like it is supposed to taste.  You drink it and think “Yep.  That’s a pumpkin ale all right.” and that’s sort of it.  I’m not too sure that to think of Sam Adams.  It seems like I should always like their beer more than I do.   

Saranac Pumpkin Ale-  This is another big hippie brand.  If you go to Western NY, the folks love their Saranac.  I think this is because Saranac got into the micro/craft beer game really early.  The problem is their beer just can’t hang with the Big Boys.  This is OK.  It has the spicy autumn feel, but I didn’t get very excited.  I went to see Phish one time.  People were very excited.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I left after their first set.  No one seemed to mind.  Like Phish, Saranac will do fine without me.  

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale-  I bought this in Indiana where they guy at the beverage store was all jacked up about this brewery.  He was also jacked up about the Cleveland Browns, so I took his opinion with a grain of salt.  However, I have a newfound respect for that poorly dressed gentleman with the copious amount of ear hair.  This beer is terrific.  This tastes like Thanksgiving.  It reminds me of when I saw The Blasters play.  It immediately raised the bar on the whole damn thing. 

Shipyard Pumpkin Ale-  This is pretty light on the stereotypical flavors.  It’s more like pumpkin zest ale instead of pumpkin ale.  I had pretty high expectations for this and was disappointed.  Imagine you went to a rock show on a Friday night and hoped Jack White was going to blow your head off, and instead Bon Iver shuffled out.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin-  And then I tried this…  This is smooth, tough, and assured.  All the flavors are amped up, and the alcohol content is too.  You knock back a couple of these, you’ll probably end up in a wheelchair.  The Shipyard Pumpkin Ale is Iggy Pop on his “Blah Blah Blah” album and this is The Stooges “Fun House”.  Blah Blah Blah is OK, but why listen to that when you have Fun House? 

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale-  I looked at my notes and uncomfortably noticed I had written “…really herbal musky like a hippie chick’s two day old panties.  I can imagine gagging pulling them down while her Siamese cat looked on impassively”.  I would like to take a moment to say that I have never had that experience, and it takes quite a flavor for that to be projected into my mind.  This was not my favorite beer of the evening. 

Southern Tier Pumking-  This is a warm friendly hug.  It’s a big piece of pumpkin pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  It’s dessert in a glass, and it’s really good.  When I was 17 and interested in tricking cheerleaders out of their sweaters, this would have been a very effective tool.  “Yes my dear… drink deeply.  This elixir is just like candy.  Pay no attention to the 8.6% alcohol content.  Yessss.   Yessssss…. Now step into this van.”  You know, who am I kidding?  We had Bartles & James wine coolers and that didn’t help me either.  Chloroform wouldn’t have even helped.  I just had to outgrow that awkward stage, and with luck 2013 is the year I do just that!        

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin-  This has a reddish color with plenty of dark flavors.  It’s just not very reminiscent of autumn or pumpkins.  I had just had the super sweet Pumking from Southern Tier, and this style is so dramatically different it probably didn’t show as well as it normally would have.  I did get this image of a goateed goth guy in a creepy leather outfit picking his teeth with a long pinkie fingernail asking me detailed questions about where I lived.  Every time I would try to change the subject, he just pressed on wanting to know about what kind of locks I had, a security system, and so on.  I knew he would be waiting to hurt me one night, and like a bad dream I couldn't get away.  Is it possible for pumpkin ale to be evil?

My top three were Schlafly, Southern Tier, and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin.  I figure if you are drinking a specialty beer like this, you may as well go all the way.  These all had sweetness but ultimately you felt like you wanted more than 4 oz of them.  The Schlafly comes in traditional six packs of 12 oz bottles, while the Pumking and Smashed Pumpkin are both 22 oz pricey single serve bottles.  Drink up Cheese.


At October 13, 2012 at 1:16:00 AM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Enjoyed your sacrifice, but will steer clear. Still cannot do anything pumpkin after that summer in college working in a pie factory.


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