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.
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.
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.
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.
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"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.