Happy Halloween! No tricks here -- just a little treat for the beer drinkers. A few weeks ago, Brian and I picked up a six-pack sampler of pumpkin beers. We didn't intend to review the beers, but wanted to know which brew to buy more of so we took some tasting notes. Here is the result of the three head-to-head battles with a special bonus beer at the end! (Ideally, we would have tried them all at the same time, but that would have meant drinking six beers in one sitting. No one wanted to called in "sick" the next day.)
Round #1: Uinta Brewing Company Punk'n vs. Blue Point Brewing Company Pumpkin Ale
(consumed with braised beef and roasted vegetables)
Salt Lake City, UT
4% ABV, 10 IBU
Appearance: A cloudy, light copper.
Aroma: Lighter, more delicate aroma of cooking spices and bread.
Flavor: More like a brown ale, subtle. Better flavor and more spices than Blue Point.
Bonus: Brewed with renewable power, USDA organic and 2010 Silver Medal in World Beer Championships.
Long Island (Patchogue), NY
6% ABV, 26 IBU
Appearance: Clear copper.
Aroma: Pumpkin, stronger nose of the two.
Flavor: Malty, nice yeasty flavor. No bitterness on finish. Pleasant bitter notes on mid-palate.
Bonus: Sustainable practices at the brewing facility and product packaging.
Winner: Uinta Brewing Company Punk'n
Round #2: Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale vs. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
(consumed with cheeses: Prima Donna and Brie)
Wilkes Barre, PA
5.5% ABV, unknown IBU
Appearance: A little cloudy, darker amber color.
Aroma: Gingerbread, cinnamon and sugar. From Brian, "You know it's a pumpkin beer from the nose!" (Not all of the pumpkin beers sampled smelled like their namesake.)
Taste: Gingerbread! Yummy. The ginger flavor really lingers. A sweeter brew that is fun, bright and a true seasonal. Lovely spices. Finish reminds me of sweet tea. Coarser mouthfeel; not as creamy as Dogfish Head. I couldn't drink more than two because of the distinct taste; good to sample. Recommend for the folks who like sweeter pumpkin ales.
Bonus: Second largest brewery in PA.
7% ABV, 28 IBU
Appearance: Clear copper color.
Aroma: Toasty with hints of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Taste: Just as toasty as the nose with a strong "toasted popcorn" flavor. Great mouthfeel, a good sipping beer that is not heavy. Complex but subtle flavors. This fall beer could easily stretch into winter drinking, if only it didn't sell out so quickly. Deserves to be classified beyond "seasonal" because it is not overtly pumpkin. Toasty nose and flavor are what set it apart from the other sampled beers. (The "toasted popcorn" flavor became very distracting. Brian was blissfully unaware until I pointed it out and that was all he could taste too. I wonder if our batch received higher than usual toast.)
Bonus: Delaware's first brewpub; also distills vodka, rum and gin. Supports local non-profits.
Winner: Stegmaier Pumpkin AleRound #3: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale vs. River Horse Hipp O Lantern Imperial Pumpkin
(consumed with pizza)
8% ABV, 16 IBU
Appearance: Clear copper, a little dark than the River Horse.
Aroma: Sweeter nose of pumpkin, very aromatic!
Flavor: Tastes like pumpkin pie! Sweet with cinnamon flavor to start, followed by clove then nutmeg. Very complex flavors. Ideal if you like your pumpkin brews on the sweeter side without going too far.
Bonus: Sustainable practices, food for restaurant is either local or grown on premises.
8.5% ABV, unknown IBU
Appearance: Clear copper.
Aroma: Distinct pumpkin.
Flavor: Enjoyable hoppiness (I'm not an IPA drinker), caramel finish, and toast that doesn't overpower (unlike Punkin). Brian really liked this one and couldn't imagine what he'd change to make it better. He said he would order more than one at a bar and, the true testament, would not tire of it if we got a six-pack.
Bonus: Unfiltered, vegan-friendly beers (with some exceptions like the Oatmeal Stout).
Winner: River Horse Hipp O Lantern Imperial Pumpkin
(consumed with veggies and dip, Cheddar and Brie cheeses)
Iron Hill Great Imperial Pumpkin Ale
9% ABV, unknown IBU
Appearance: Beautiful deep golden amber color, good foamy head.
Aroma: Gingerbread and nutmeg.
Taste: Malty sweetness with a solid body; good toast, long finish with pleasant bitterness. Cooking spice aftertaste. Not sweet. Great average of all the "best" pumpkin beers above.
Bonus: The Great Imperial Pumpkin is a bottled reserve for dine-in or take-out. Iron Hill was the site of our wedding's rehearsal dinner!
Overall winner: Iron Hill Great Imperial Pumpkin Ale (subject to further taste testing)
We are by no means beer afficionados. Tell me, what pumpkin beers should we have tried? What are your favorite fall beers??