Fall is my favorite season for beer. It is harvest season for hops so fresh hop beers start hitting the liquor store shelves and winter warmers and seasonal stouts start to show their faces as well. In addition to those great styles popping up the Pumpkin Beers start flooding the market. Every year there are more and more pumpkin beers as new breweries and old not so craft breweries try their hand at crafting these autumn treats. I love pumpkins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream liquor, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin coffee, jack o’ lanterns, the color orange, pretty much anything pumpkin related. With this in mind I got some friends together to taste all the pumpkin beers we could get our hands on and that turned out to be quite a few. In total we tried 18 different pumpkin beers that varied in style from pumpkin porters to pumpkin Oktoberfest and a few other unique pumpkin variations. Since we were tasting such vast list of beers it was only appropriate that we scored each one to find out what our favorites were. We scored the beers using the standard BJCP score sheet. The beers were rated on a 50 point scale with aspects of the beer weighted with different maximum point values depending on their importance. This taste test was not a blind test, everyone knew what they were drinking but did their best to not let that influence their decisions. Another thing to keep in mind is that none of us are professional beer judges; just professional beer drinkers.
We drank the following beers in this order:
- Weyerbacher – Imperial Pumpkin Draft
- Blue Point – Pumpkin Ale
- Brooklyn – Post Road Pumpkin
- Smuttynose – Pumpkin Ale
- New Holland – Ichabod
- Weyerbacher – Imperial Pumpkin Bottle
- Harpoon – UFO Pumpkin
- Shipyard – Smashed Pumpkin
- New Belgium – Pumpkick
- Heavy Seas – The Greater Pumpkin
- Southern Tier – Pumking
- Terrapin – Pumpkinfest
- Dogfish Head – Punkin
- 21st Amendment / Elysian – He Said Pumpkin Belgian Tripel
- 21st Amendment / Elysian – He Said Pumpkin Baltic Porter
- Rogue – Pumpkin Patch Ale
- Uinta – Punk’n
- St. Ambroise – Pumpkin Ale
The first beer we started with was the draft Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale out of a growler. We started with this one due to the convenience of the screw top lid. This brew was well received by everyone with folks making note of the nice amber color, good clarity, spicy hops and prevalent cinnamon. This beer placed 8 overall and was not anyone’s individual favorite.
The next beer up was Blue Point Pumpkin Ale. This one didn’t fair to well in the tasting. One of my favorite comments about this one is that it tasted like “broccoli and bud light”. This brew was second to last overall in the tasting. There were several “take it or leave it” kinda beers in this tasting, beers that weren’t bad but they weren’t interesting, unique, or impressive in any way but that made the great ones even more enjoyable. Additionally the diversity of the styles used to brew pumpkin beers kept things interesting. Many of the beers were your standard pumpkin ales but quite a few were a bit different. New Belgium’s Pumpkick is a pumpkin ale brewed with cranberry juice which adds a tart/sour note to their brew. The two different 21st Amendment / Elysian “He Said” pumpkin beers where both unique as well. These beers were packaged in a 4 pack with two cans of each beer style. One is a pumpkin Baltic Porter and the other is a pumpkin Belgian Tripel and both were vastly different in flavor but still pumpkin beers. There was Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin in the mix too; this is an imperial bourbon barrel aged pumpkin beer. Roasted pumpkins are actually a thing(who knew?) and Rogue found room for them in their pumpkin brew. Dogfish Head Punkin is a brown ale brewed with pumpkins and then there is Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest, it’s an Oktoberfest pumpkin beer hybrid; so many different styles of pumpkin beers resulted in many drastically different flavors.
The results of the pumpkin beer tasting were kind of a surprise to me as the beers that I thought would be the top two didn’t even make it to the top 5. My personally highest rated beer came in 11th place and that beer was Southern Tier Pumking. This is a really complex pumpkin beer that seems to incorporate all of the flavors of a pumpkin pie from crust to filling. It was highly rated by some and poorly rated by others so it landed a lot lower in rank then I expected. Some folks said it tasted like “popcorn flavored jelly beans” and others said “sweet potato, pumpkin and spice”; it’s interesting to see such a drastic variation in the appeal of a beer that I really love. That is the fun part about doing tastings though, everyone has a different take on the same beer. I also thought for sure Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin would be a winner too as it has been a favorite pumpkin beer of mine for a few years now. This is an Imperial pumpkin ale aged in bourbon barrels; the blend of cinnamon, pumpkin, and bourbon meld together wonderfully in this beast of a barrel aged pumpkin beer. Those were some of my favorites; now let’s get to the results.
1st Place: 21st Amendment / Elysian He Said Baltic Porter
2nd Place Tied: Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale
2nd Place Tied: Terrapin Pumpkinfest
3rd Place: Dogfish Head Punkin
You can see the rest of the results in the image below and a bit about the winners below that.
Let’s find out what makes those winners so special…
1st Place: 21st Amendment / Elysian He Said Baltic Porter – With the highest average score of 38 points this beer narrowly beat out the two second place winners by one and a half points but it is a solid 1st place pick. This was a dark rich ruby/black porter with some spice, pumpkin and roast on the nose. Loads of spice, hops, roasty malts and pumpkin make up the pallet. The porter has a smooth and slightly creamy medium weight body that finishes very clean. This beer really encompasses all the things that I look for in a pumpkin beer. Tastes like fall in a glass.
2nd Place (tied): Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale – Tied for second place is a beer made from roasted pumpkins. The aroma is mostly malt with hints of pumpkin and spice. It pours a nice orange/brown color with a minimal amount of head. Tastes of sweet malt, pumpkin and spice with an intermingling of what appears to be spicy hops creates a unique balanced pumpkin ale.
2nd Place (tied): Terrapin Pumpkinfest – Crisp and bold like an Oktoberfest should be with a big helping of pumpkin and spice make this a very solid choice for second place. This brew starts with a sweet malty aroma with a slight hint of spicy hops. It pours a deep golden orange color. Flavors of caramel, spice, cinnamon, and light pumpkin make up the delicious flavors in the palate of this brew.
3rd Place: Dogfish Head Punkin – The not so brown pumpkin brown ale smells sweet and roasty with a touch of cinnamon. It pours a deep golden orange and definitely not brown, but who cares? It’s a great color just not brown as stated on the label. Your palate is engulfed in the festive fall flavors of chocolate, mild roast, pumpkin and spice. This is a well rounded beer with a light body and nice carb.
Overall the beers we tasted were great. Plenty were memorable and some were forgettable but I am glad to have had a chance to try them all. Sadly a few more pumpkin beers have come my way after the tasting so they didn’t get a chance to contend in the competition. One of the great ones is Burnt Hickory’s Die Kreuzen Imperial Pumpkin Porter. If you see this around don’t let it pass you by with out a taste, it is phenomenal. One I’m looking forward to try soon is Warlock by Southern Tier. It is am Imperial Stout brewed with pumpkin and it looks tasty as hell. Maybe those will make it to the tasting next year. I hope everyone out there has had a chance to dive into some delicious pumpkin beers this season. I’m almost pumpkined out for the season but I can’t wait till next years pumpkin beer tasting.