21 pumpkin beers, 5 judges, 1 night…

PumpkinChallenge_feature2

Ahhh fall. Without a doubt my favorite season of the year. The beautiful foliage changing colors, all four major sports in play, hoodies come out of storage, Halloween decorations go up and, of course, pumpkin-flavored foods and drinks hit the shelves. As recently as last year, only a handful of breweries dared heading to the farmer’s market to pick up a truck-full of pumpkins to add to their mash. Did they consider brewing this style of beer as unmanly or selling out? Whatever reservations brewers may have had in the past, they’ve obviously overcome them. This year, it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon with their own brand of pumpkin beer. The more the merrier I say!

With such a bevy of pumpkin beers to choose from this season, I decided it would be fun to gather as many different brands as I could get my hands on and see how they stack up. In a few weeks, I was able to collect 21 different beers. Keep in mind that I’ve limited my collection to ales and lagers (no porters, stouts, barley wines or ciders) to help level the playing field. I’m sure some will argue that I’ve left out their favorite, so please realize that I do not have access to every pumpkin beer that has been released…only those that have been distributed to my local stores (prior to 10/10). Lastly, these are strictly pumpkin beers…no harvest ales, Oktoberfests, autumn ales or sweet potato beers. Pumpkin Challenge

I, along with four fellow judges, blindly sampled the beers and rated them on appearance, aroma, taste, finish and pumpkinicity – a term I made up to account for a beer’s overall pumpkin aura/vibe/you get the point. Using a 10-point scale for each category, I’ve taken the average for each of our ratings and added any noteworthy comments. The numbers do not lie.

Without further ado, I present…

It’s the Great Pumpkin Beer Challenge!

(ranked from worst to first*)
* Always remember that beer tasting is a completely subjective activity. Every palate is different, and one drinker’s swill may be another’s champagne. Cheers!

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Uinta Punk’n
Location:
Salt Lake City, Utah
ABV:
4%
Appearance: 6
Aroma: 2 “ketchup and vinegar”
Taste: 2 “sweaty gym towel”
Finish: 2.5
Pumpkinicity: 1.5 “absolutely nothing pumpkin about this beer besides the label”
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 14

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Cisco Pumple Drumkin
Location:
Nantucket, Massachusetts
ABV:
6.9%
Appearance:
6.5 “burnt orange, clear”
Aroma: 4 “flowery”
Taste: 3
Finish: 2 “astringent”
Pumpkinicity: 2
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 17.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: New Belgium Pumpkick
Location:
Fort Collins, Colorado
ABV:
6%
Appearance: 5.5
Aroma: 3 “Bloody Mary”
Taste:
3 “Bloody Mary”
Finish: 4
Pumpkinicity: 2
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 17.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Big Muddy Pumpkin Smasher
Location: Murphysboro, Illinois
ABV: 6%
Appearance: 5
Aroma: 3.5 “funky spice”
Taste: 4 “below average homebrew” “cream soda notes” “candy”
Finish: 3.5 “too much residual sweetness”
Pumpkinicity: 3.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 19.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Location: Portland, Maine
ABV: 9%
Appearance: 5
Aroma: 4 “sour pumpkin” “alcohol on the nose – paint thinner”
Taste: 3 “sour but not in a good way”
Finish: 4
Pumpkinicity: 3.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 19.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Wild Onion Pumpkin Ale
Location: Lake Barrington, Illinois
ABV: 5.4%
Appearance: 6 “nice carbonation”
Aroma: 3.5 “smells like a pumpkin is sitting on the other side of the room”
Taste: 4 “bad pumpkin homebrew”
Finish: 4
Pumpkinicity: 3
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 20.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Location: Brooklyn, New York
ABV: 5%
Appearance: 6.5 “nice amber”
Aroma: 4
Taste: 4 “spices but not pumpkin”
Finish: 4 “subtle bitterness” “a little pumpkin”
Pumpkinicity: 3 “lacking”
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 21.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
Location: Portland, Maine
ABV: 5.1%
Appearance: 5.5 “light as a lager” “over-carbonated” “fizzy”
Aroma: 5.5
Taste: 4 “malty, faint pumpkin” “is this a lager?”
Finish: 4 “crisp”
Pumpkinicity: 4
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 23

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Horny Goat Hornycopia Pumpkin Ale
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
ABV: 5.7%
Appearance: 6
Aroma: 4.5 “almost nothing”
Taste: 5.5 “faint pumpkin”
Finish: 5.5 “clean and crisp”
Pumpkinicity: 5.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 27

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
ABV: 5%
Appearance: 6.5 “burnt orange” “high carbonation”
Aroma: 6 “sweet like candy” “pumpkin spice”
Taste: 5.5 “bitter!”
Finish: 5 “soapy consistency and subtle bitterness”
Pumpkinicity: 5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 28

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Greenbush Unicorn Killer
Location: Sawyer, Michigan
ABV: 7.3%
Appearance: 7 “Halloween orange” “dark amber, copper”
Aroma: 6 “berries, Thanksgiving dinner”
Taste: 5.5 “bitter on the tongue, fresh cranberries” “bitter as hell but nice”
Finish: 5 “light and refreshing”
Pumpkinicity: 5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 28.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Mendocino Seasonal Pumpkin Ale
Location: Hopland, California
ABV: 5%
Appearance: 8 “amber, copper”
Aroma: 4.5 “next to nothing” “faint pumpkin, straw”
Taste: 6 “malty, vanilla notes”
Finish: 6 “bitter but clean” “not sweet enough”
Pumpkinicity: 5 “more spicy than pumpkin”
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 29.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Arcadia Jaw-Jacker Ale
Location: Battle Creek, Michigan
ABV: 6%
Appearance: 6
Aroma: 7 “cinnamon sticks and cloves”
Taste: 5 “sour and spicy” “bubble gummy” “very spicy heat”
Finish: 7 “candy, dry sweet”
Pumpkinicity: 5 “not pumpkin as much as cinnamon”
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 30

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Harpoon UFO Pumpkin
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
ABV: 5.9%
Appearance: 7.5 “great head”
Aroma: 6.5 “green apple” “spicy”
Taste: 6 “funky green apple” “spicy pumpkin flavor comes through”
Finish: 5.5 “short and sweet, mild bitterness” “sticks to my tongue”
Pumpkinicity: 5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 30.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Location: Milton, Delaware
ABV: 7%
Appearance: 7.5 “light Halloween orange”
Aroma: 7 “earthy spices” “nutty”
Taste: 6 “mellow pumpkin”
Finish: 6.5 “sweet and nutty”
Pumpkinicity: 5.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 32.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Tyranena Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale
Location: Lake Mills, Wisconsin
ABV: 7.5%
Appearance: 7
Aroma: 7 “nice mix of pumpkin spice and cinnamon”
Taste: 7 “cranberry and vanilla spice” “very sweet”
Finish: 6.5 “thin and refreshing”
Pumpkinicity: 6.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 34

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Lakefront Pumpkin Lager
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
ABV: 5.4%
Appearance: 7 “hazy and unfiltered”
Aroma: 7.5 “a little boozy” “prominent pumpkin spice”
Taste: 7.5 “candied fruit” “smooth” “light”
Finish: 6 “thinner and sweet” “sweet, malty and pumpkin”
Pumpkinicity: 7.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 35.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Southern Tier Pumking
Location: Lakewood, New York
ABV: 8.6%
Appearance: 6.5 “lager clarity”
Aroma: 8.5 “cinnamon” “pumpkin spice”
Taste: 7 “pumpkin and vanilla cream soda” “a little tart” “sour vanilla and clove”
Finish: 7 “thicker with subtle bitterness” “smooth”
Pumpkinicity: 7
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 36

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
ABV: 5.7%
Appearance: 9 “really red” “great head”
Aroma: 8 “earthy notes”
Taste: 8 “roasty with good balance” “tastes like a real pumpkin”
Finish: 7.5 “thicker and bitter” “no bad sweetness”
Pumpkinicity: 7.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 40

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Lakefront 25th Anniversary Series Imperial Pumpkin
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
ABV: 8%
Appearance: 7 “cloudy amber”
Aroma: 9.5 “boozy, sweet pumpkin”
Taste: 9 “brandy barrel-aging comes through nicely” “pumpkin syrup” “rich”
Finish: 8.5 “thick and boozy” “sweet and dry”
Pumpkinicity: 7.5
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 41.5

Pumpkin ChallengeBrewery/Beer: Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale
Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin
ABV: 7.5%
Appearance: 8.5 “hazy amber”
Aroma: 9.5 “pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon”
Taste: 9 “very spicy” “pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon”
Finish: 8 “slight bitterness” “pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon”
Pumpkinicity: 9 “pumpkin pie in a bottle” “this is what a pumpkin beer should be”
Pumpkin Challenge Overall Rating (out of 50): 44



 

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