Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pumpkin Head to Head

There was a time I really disliked beer. The mass produced versions found on the shelves really were not to my liking. Having to serve a beer near freezing temperatures to mask any offensiveness isn't my idea of good drinking. Back in the 1990's I did a fare amount of international travel and one of my trips took me to Bonn Germany. As any good wait staff would do in a dining establishment, beer was offered and I declined. When asked by my traveling companions why I didn't like beer my answer was something to the tune of "beer of nasty." Well, undeterred, my companions talked me into ordering a local German Lager and from that night on, I was hooked. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember thinking "where in the world did this stuff come from?"

Fast forward umpteen years and beer is my second love next to whisk(e)y. My profile preferences tend to lean toward a malty beer rather than hoppy. This past week I was visiting a friend who wanted to do a little side by side tasting of 4 different seasonal Pumpkin Ales. I'm not one to turn down an invitation to drink for free but over the years I've avoided the "flavored" beers.

The four beers we lined up were:

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale: This one poured a light copper color. Nosing this beer didn't produce anything of interest. Upon tasting it, it was even less interesting. To me, it tasted like a standard light Ale, moderate carbonation and nothing in the way of interesting flavor, much less pumpkin. Beer Advocate readers rated this one a B- so I must be missing something here. This one wasn't finished and got dumped in the flower bed.

Uinta Brewing Punk'N Ale: Probably the poorest example of a pumpkin ale among the four as it lacked pretty much any pumpkin flavor whatsoever. Again, the flavor components were pretty much boring and in the end, this one was not finished either and tossed in the flower bed. Beer Advocate rated this a C+ which I think is generous.

Schafly Pumpkin Ale: The color on this one was poured somewhat darker than the rest leading to a slight anticipation of something better than the previous two. The nose did have some mild spice and pumpkin so a better start overall. The entry was good to start but then the finish took a weird turn and had the taste of simple syrup; a very sweet mid-palate. It wasn't bad per se, but didn't balance very well as a beer but I would say at least better than the first two. Beer Advocate rated this an A- as I would have given this a B- at best.

Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale: This ale poured an orange bronze color and had moderate carbonation. The nose on this beer was very compelling and smelled of pumpkin pie. Very intriguing. The entry on this one was fantastic with the entry confirming what the nose displayed; a pumpkin pie profile with spices, mild hops and a finish that wasn't overly sweet. This one hands down was my favorite. In fact, I ended up grabbing a case for the beer bunker. Beer Advocate rated this an A-, a rating I agree with (not that that means anything). For fans of pumpkin ale, the WA Pumpkin is very very good.

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