UPDATE (again . . .) – Beer Tasting: Pumpkin Beers (Ales, Lagers, Stouts, Saisons, etc.)

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It is not that long ago that finding a pumpkin beer at the local beer mart was like finding fresh avocados in Antarctica. It just did not happen. However, in the last few years, pumpkin has basically become the next best thing to chocolate. I mean, you can get pumpkin in just about anything this time of year, and beer is by no means an exception. We thought that will several pumpkin beers hitting the shelves this year, it would be nice to compare them (blindly) to determine a true pumpkin beer king. Obviously, we cannot obtain every pumpkin beer produced in the country since many of them are not distributed in Colorado and/or interstate alcohol regulations prohibit us from acquiring them. When we set out on this venture, we assumed that we would have about 6 to 8 pumpkin beers to sample for this tasting. Well, we were wrong. In fact, we managed to get our hands on 22 different pumpkin beers. These 22 beers come from 17 different breweries since some breweries released multiple pumpkin beers. We also had several different styles of beer in this tasting, including ales, lagers, barrel-aged ales, and even a stout!? One beer in particular that we were not able to attain but is worth noting is Pumking from Southern Tier. While we cannot get Pumking in Colorado, we have had many of them before and it is a solid, well-balanced, (imperial) pumpkin ale.


The tasting was conducted over four nights (drinking all 22 in one night would have resulted in immediate and certain death and some of the beers have been acquired after the initial tasting and have been added to the list using the same scoring system). To ensure reduce any bias in the tasting, I drank all the beers blindly. Justine did the pouring and book keeping (although, as you will see below, she did miss a photo . . . but that is due to the large amount of alcohol consumed that night). Let me repeat, I did not know what each beer was until the very end of the tasting. I made an attempt at guessing which beer I was drinking during the tasting (I have had several of these in the past). I was spot on with each guess (assuming that it was a beer that I have had previously).

The ratings were determined using the following factors: (1) Appearance/Color, (2) Aroma, (3) Sweetness, (4) Spice, and (5) Pumpkeness. Yes, pumpkeness may not be a real word, but after a few pumpkin beers it is super fun to say and really does describe the 5th and final category. Each beer was given a score from 1 to 5 in each category thus making the lowest score a 5 and the highest a 25.

Below is the complete listing of beers with the corresponding scores and tasting notes. The beers are ordered by total points awarded (descending). The winner, by only 2 points was the Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin from Uinta’s Crooked Line. This beer is just superb. It has a wonderful balance of pumpkin sweetness and spice as well as the added notes of vanilla and earthiness from the oak. I was very impressed with this beer. Other notable beers were Sam Adams (never expected this beer to rank so high), Rumpkin from Avery (I mean, pumpkin and rum, hello!), Dark O’ The Moon from Elysian (a pumpkin stout, now that is stepping outside the lines), and The No. 1 Pumpkin Ale from Jolly Pumpkin (lovely sour pumpkin ale).

Regardless of your pumpkin beer preferences, we hope that you find this listing and review valuable. While some of these beers are only available in and around Denver, Colorado, most of them should be available from coast to coast. We hope you are able to pick up one or two and enjoy them as much as we did.

Cheers.


Appearance/Color: 5 – Deep reddish-brown
Aroma: 5 – Like pumpkin pie sitting in oak barrels?
Sweetness: 5 – Sweet, wonderful vanilla and pumpkin notes. Lovely.
Spice: 5 – Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, oh my!
Pumpkeness: 5 – Very oaky, but pumpkin comes through very well and works nicely with the oaky flavors

Total Points: 25

Notes – The only perfect score goes to Uinta’s Crooked Line contribution. And again, Uinta does not let me down and puts out a solid product that you should be racing to the store to buy this minute.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Brilliant reddish-orange
Aroma: 5 – Potent, very potent pumpkin pie spice aroma
Sweetness: 5 – Super sweet thanks to the loads of pumpkin
Spice: 5 – Spices are very well balanced with the super strong pumpkin flavors. Wonderful combination.
Pumpkeness: 5 – Wow, its like eating spoonfuls of pumpkin puree

Total Points: 24


Appearance/Color: 5 – Pumpkin orange
Aroma: 5 – I think that the brewery liquified pumpkin pie and put it in a bottle
Sweetness: 5 – Sweet, crisp, smooth, yum!
Spice: 3 – Spicey aroma but not so much spice on the tongue
Pumpkeness: 5 – I am not sure if I am drinking beer or eating spoonfuls of pumpkin puree

Total Points: 23


Appearance/Color: 4 – Rich, deep reddish-brown
Aroma: 5 – Smells like pumpkin pie in a glass
Sweetness: 4 – Very nice balance between caramel notes and spice
Spice: 5 – Spice squared
Pumpkeness: 5 – Like getting smacked in the face with a pumpkin pie

Total Points: 23

Notes – This was a big surprise . . . I honestly expected the Sam Adams beer to be positioned somewhere around 10th, not tied for second place. Wow.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Deep brown
Aroma: 5 – Is it beer or rum!? Or pumpkin pie beer and rum!?
Sweetness: 4 – Sweet? Well, sort of, the initial sweetness is quite strong but is then overpowered by the rum
Spice: 4 – Spiced nicely, like a good spiced rum!
Pumpkeness: 5 – Wonderful pumpkin flavor comes through before your mouth is bombarded with rum.

Total Points: 22


Appearance/Color: 5 – Pumpkin orange
Aroma: 4 – Sweet aroma, brown sugar-like
Sweetness: 4 – With all the pumpkin, it is surprising that this one is not super sweet. The spices mellow out the sweetness
Spice: 4 – Mounds of spice … Very well done.
Pumpkeness: 5 – Quite a lot of pumpkin, like a pumpkin patch in a glass

Total Points: 22


Appearance/Color: 5 – Deep, rich brown
Aroma: 4 – Spicy aroma of grains of paradise and garam masala
Sweetness: 4 – Sweet and succulent. Well balanced but a bit sweeter than I would expect for a saison.
Spice: 5 – In honor of its style, this one comes through very well on the spices . . . wonderful notes of garam masala and sage
Pumpkeness: 4 – Wonderful pumpkin flavor that is somewhat masked by the rich malt taste

Total Points: 22


Appearance/Color: 4 – Golden orange
Aroma: 4 – Like you just opened a jar of pumpkin pie spice
Sweetness: 5 – Quite sweet due to the immense pumpkin used
Spice: 4 – Wonderful spiciness that is nicely balanced by the sweet pumpkin notes
Pumpkeness: 5 – Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin yum!

Total Points: 22


Appearance/Color: 4 – Golden orange
Aroma: 4 – Cinnamon and possibly ginger notes
Sweetness: 4 – Quite sweet but the spice tames the sweetness quite a bit
Spice: 5 – Almost like eating pumpkin pie spice right out of the jar
Pumpkeness: 4 – Mellow pumpkin flavor that is slightly masked by the spice

Total Points: 21

Note: Sorry for not having a picture for The Great Pumpkin, this was the last beer of the night and neither of us were capable of remembering to take a photo. The label is from Elysian’s site.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Rich brown
Aroma: 5 – Can we say pumpkin pie AND rum!?
Sweetness: 5 – Very sweet and succulent
Spice: 5 – Spice galore!
Pumpkeness: 2 – The rum masks the pumpkin flavors quite a bit

Total Points: 21

Notes – While the score is a bit lower than some of the other beers in the list, Rumpkin is a stellar beer and ought to be in a league of its own.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Orangish-brown
Aroma: 4 – Clean, yet spicy
Sweetness: 4 – Subtle sweetness, well-balanced with the spice
Spice: 5 – Packed with more spice than a pumpkin pie
Pumpkeness: 4 – Mellow pumpkin flavor balanced nicely with spice

Total Points: 21


Appearance/Color: 4 – Brilliant orange
Aroma: 4 – Wonderful balance between pumpkin, toasty malt, and spice
Sweetness: 4 – Sweet yet spicy
Spice: 3 – Moderate spice
Pumpkeness: 5 – It is like pumpkins were being given away the day this was brewed

Total Points: 20


Appearance/Color: 4 – Deep Amber
Aroma: 3 – Pumpkin, enough said
Sweetness: 4 – Toasty, not incredibly sweet
Spice: 5 – Incredible amount of spice
Pumpkeness: 4 – Tons of pumpkin

Total Points: 20


Appearance/Color: 4 – Dark . . . very black
Aroma: 4 – Spicy, ginger notes and pumpkin
Sweetness: 2 – Not so sweet, the lactic acid makes the beer seem a bit dry but still lovely
Spice: 5 – Perfect balance of pumpkin and spice, wonderful
Pumpkeness: 4 – Yummy pumpkiny goodness

Total Points: 19

Notes – Burly Gourd was the only milk stout in the competition. Burly Gourd was released only once in 2011. This beer aged for a year before sampling.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Chocolatey brown color
Aroma: 4 – Smells like nutmeg
Sweetness: 4 – Quite malty and toasty
Spice: 4 – Packed with spice (nutmeg and allspice maybe?)
Pumpkeness: 3 – Spices seem to mask the pumpkin flavor quite a bit

Total Points: 19


Appearance/Color: 2 – Very light
Aroma: 4 – Smells like I cut open a pumpkin
Sweetness: 5 – Super sweet
Spice: 3 – Moderate spice (sweetness overpowers the spice)
Pumpkeness: 5 – Pumpkin squared!

Total Points: 19


Appearance/Color: 4 – Light amber, little head
Aroma: 3 – Notes of clove and sweetness
Sweetness: 5 – Very sweet, caramel notes
Spice: 2 – Little spice
Pumpkeness: 4 – Mellow pumpkin flavor

Total Points: 18

Notes – Dry, like champagne


Appearance/Color: 5 – Pumpkin orange
Aroma: 4 – Cloves, nutmeg . . . very strong spice
Sweetness: 1 – Sweet!? This one is super sour!
Spice: 4 – Even with the sourness, a lot of the spices come through well
Pumpkeness: 3 – The sourness masks a lot of the pumpkin

Total Points: 17

Notes – The Jolly Pumpkin contribution is super sour and thus has a lower score. That does not mean that I think poorly of Jolly Pumpkin. In fact, if I were rating these beers not on the basis of their pumpkin characteristics, this one would be second overall, period.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Black as night
Aroma: 4 – Roasted, caramel, toasty
Sweetness: 4 – Sweet, yet slightly bitter, like dark chocolate ice cream
Spice: 3 – Slight notes of cinnamon but masked by the intense roasted malts
Pumpkeness: 2 – Little pumpkin flavor

Total Points: 17

Notes – This is the only stout in the competition. While not scoring very high, the Dark O’ The Moon is definitely one you want to get your hands on if you like stouts.


Appearance/Color: 4 – Orangish-red
Aroma: 1 – Uh, this one smells like a dog?
Sweetness: 5 – Extremely sweet
Spice: 2 – Subtle spices
Pumpkeness: 4 – Lots of pumpkin

Total Points: 16


Appearance/Color: 2 – Very light, almost straw colored
Aroma: 2 – Slight cinnamon/nutmeg notes
Sweetness: 3 – Slight sweetness
Spice: 2 – Little pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkeness: 2 – Very little pumpkin flavor

Total Points: 11

Notes – Tastes cheap (dumped)


Appearance/Color: 3 – Medium amber, very little head
Aroma: 1 – Bland, very bland . . . almost like nothing is in the glass
Sweetness: 3 – Just a touch of sweetness
Spice: 1 – Almost no spice at all
Pumpkeness: 2 – Lacking pumpkin

Total Points: 10

Notes – Almost flat, mass produced tasting (beer was dumped)

The pumpkin beers! Note that the Upslope Pumpkin Ale and the Uinta Crooked Line Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin are not pictured since they were acquired after the first night of tasting.

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