Posted September 12, 2013 by whopperjaw in Eats & Drinks

The Great (?) Pumpkin Beer Tasting

Pumpkin Beers
Pumpkin Beers

It’s past Labor Day, and for weeks already, pumpkin beers have been in ample stock at bottle shops nationwide. Don’t be surprised if Christmas/holiday seasonals are available in the next few weeks. Whopperjaw decided to drink while the drinking is good, so contributor Mark gathered a couple of friends for an unscientific blind tasting of pumpkin product.

A few qualifications are in order:

  1. While we attempted a fair geographic representation, the bottle shop we selected from is Belmont Station in Portland, Oregon. The selection in your area, obviously, will vary greatly.
  2. There are scores – if not hundreds – of pumpkin beers out there. Choose wisely, friends.
  3. We welcome your suggestions and favorites in the comments section.

The five we sampled:

The problem with Shipyard starts before you taste it, then gets worse. The can reads, “malt beverage with natural flavor added.” For us, that begged the question: “Just what are we drinking, Smirnoff Ice?” Tasting notes ranged from “weird” to “cinnamon nightmare” and, perhaps inevitably, replacing the “p” in the name with another consonant. Interesting, then, that last place in our blind tasting went to Anderson Valley, the beer most enthusiastically recommended by a Belmont Station clerk. While I found it inoffensive, my co-tasters commented on its “questionable” and “resiny” flavor.

Overall, we felt that Shipyard and Anderson Valley were unquestionably the poorest efforts. Alaskan’s Porter, while a good beer, lacked a certain pumpkin oompf. I questioned if pumpkin is a good match with the Porter style, and another taster wondered, “Where’s the pumpkin?”

Billed as “America’s Original” (first brewed in 1986) on the label, Buffalo Bill’s fared well. Fruity and light, the beer presented good citrus characteristics. One taster called it “refreshing.”

The unanimous victor was Elysian. Comments ranged from “right on” and “well-balanced” to “subtle vegetal smell.” I’ll add, parenthetically, that I have never tasted an Elysian brew that I didn’t like.


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