Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Showdown: A Blind Tasting of the Final 6

Pumpkin beer should be in a class of its own with how many different types there are and the varying flavors of each. It's one of the most popular fall beverages among both beer connoisseurs and people who are just looking to get a delicious glass of Pumpkin Spice beer at John Harvard's Brew House. Brewing companies have noticed this rising popularity of pumpkin beer and as a result more and more companies are producing their own pumpkin beers. By stepping into the pumpkin beer brewing spotlight, they too hope that they can share in having their product be a part of the coveted pumpkin(beer) pie that everyone loves getting a taste of. This year Tom and I decided to do a blind taste test on what we considered the top 6 pumpkin beers that were offered this year to truly decide, without bias, which were our favorites.

  The contenders for best Pumpkin beer of 2013

We narrowed it down to these six (listed from left to right):
1) Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, 8.0% ABV
2) Ithaca Country Pumpkin, 6.3% ABV
3) Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, 7.0% ABV
4) Wolavers Organic Pumpkin Ale, 5.35% ABV
5) Harpoon UFO Pumpkin, 5.9% ABV
6) Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, 8.0% ABV

To do our blind test we poured a 3 ounce glass of each beer, labeled with a number corresponding to which one it was, and each tried them at our leisure and compared them. It's the first time either of us has done a tasting of beers without knowing what we were drinking as we were drinking it. This is a great way to taste test beers because neither of us could form opinions just based on the name alone and which ones we've liked in the past.

 Waiting to be consumed and gain recognition for their greatness

The whole process was interesting because I thought I was going to be able to pick out each of the beers based on their flavor...boy was I wrong. Since I couldn't figure it out I had to go by taste alone. We even had Tom's Mom take part in the tasting as well so she could give us a third perspective on our favorite pumpkin beers. 

Tom with his flight of beers

These are the notes I took, based on what everyone said on each of the beers we drank.

1) Schlafly:
Tom's Mom - That one had a bit of an unusual flavor. (Ranked 6th)
Tom - Tasted borderline repulsive. (Ranked 6th)
Phil - Sweet and delicious, almost like a rich pumpkin pie. (Ranked 1st)

2) Ithaca: 
Tom's Mom - This one is nice, but not the best. (Ranked 2nd)
Tom - Definitely not the best, but not the worst, above average. (Ranked 3rd)
Phil - Very plain. Nothing particular that I liked about it. (Ranked 6th) 

3) Dogfish Head:
Tom's Mom - Not Bad. (Ranked 3rd)
Tom - Delicious pumpkin spices. (Ranked 1st)
Phil - Tasted more like a coffee beer. Good variety of spices, great flavor. (Ranked 4th) 

4) Wolaver's:  
Tom's Mom - The others are better than this one. (Ranked 4th)
Tom - Kind of plain. (Ranked 4th)
Phil - I noticed a taste of cinnamon. A light beer, not overpowering. (Ranked 3rd)

5) Harpoon UFO:
Tom's Mom - It's got a nice taste. This one's my favorite. (Ranked 1st)
Tom - Delicious and not too sweet. (Ranked 2nd)
Phil - Good, but the flavor is not enough especially when compared to the others. (Ranked 5th)

6) Weyerbacher:
Tom's Mom - A little off taste, not too good. (Ranked 5th)
Tom - Another one that was repulsive to me. (Ranked 6th)
Phil - Strong and satisfying. The spices were sweet too. (Ranked 2nd)       

Picking out my favorites

So to rank our beers I've come up with a points system. (1st = 6pts, 2nd = 5pts...5th = 2pts, 6th = 1pt). Here are the results:

1st place - We have a tie between Harpoon UFO Pumpkin and Dogfish Head Punkin both with 13pts.

2nd place - Another tie except this time between Wolaver's Organic Pumpkin Ale and Ithaca Country Pumpkin both had 10pts.

3rd place - A third tie between Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Schlafly Pumpkin Ale with 8pts each.

To me it seems that the statement "like mother like son" holds true in our pumpkin beer tasting as Ithaca, Dogfish Head and Harpoon UFO were ranked as the three best by both Tom and his Mom.

I on the other hand appreciate different tastes and enjoyed the Schlafly, Weyerbacher and Wolaver's the most. 
Since we only had a test group of 3 different tasters I've consulted Beeradvocate.com for the number ranks (out of 100) for all the beers that were part of our tasting for a better understanding of where other people place them when compared to one another.

Beer Advocate ranks (average):
Dogfish Head Punkin - 89
Harpoon UFO Pumpkin - 81
Ithaca Country Pumpkin - 84
Wolaver's Organic Pumpkin Ale - 78
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - 88
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale - 94

Looks like the Beer Advocate community agrees more with my choices haha. It just goes to show that everyone has different tastes and ideas of what makes a pumpkin beer good. What's even better is that I thought I was going to pick Harpoon UFO Pumpkin as my favorite since it consistently has been every year and I couldn't stop talking about how great it was. It came as a huge surprise when I found out that I ranked it 5th out of 6, which Tom thought was hilarious.

With the ever growing list of new Pumpkin beers that come out each year it's hard to keep up sometimes. Breweries even tend to put a slight variation on their Pumpkin beer formula, which results in a different experience drinking the same beer each year. As a beer blogger I hope to share with you some of my insight as to which pumpkin beers out of the list of hundreds are worth spending your hard earned cash on!

Please comment on my Facebook (Phil Spadanuta) or my twitter (@philchesteak) and let me know what you think of this post. Have you tried any of our final six and have input to give? Is there any pumpkin beers that you feel deserve recognition that we may have skipped over trying this year? Any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated.
If you'd like you can also check out my post from last year of The Top 5 Pumpkin Beers of 2012.

Thanks guys and keep it here at philchesteakbeer.blogspot.com for all of my opinions on the craft beers that you must try in your lifetime!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beast Bitter

A knight's worst dream is a bitter beast waiting for him in that final throne room as he tries to reach the princess in peril, or if he's a bit more on the selfish side, a room filled with treasure. However, if you switch the order of the words you are left with Beast Bitter, which has a completely different meaning and is instead a beer that will have the knight(you) and the dragon(your mortal enemy) partying until the wee hours of the night as they discuss past relationships and how they both hate their jobs.

Beast Bitter is the second Middle Ages Brewing Company beer I am reviewing that my amazing friend Erica got for me on her trip to Syracuse, NY. Beast Bitter is an Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB) more on the malt end of the spectrum which results in a fruity and toasty tasting beer.

  Every time I try a new beer this is the beautiful sight I'm greeted with

Poured from a 12 oz bottle Beast Bitter is a nice amber orange color and smells of citrusy hops and toasted grain. I took a sip and the most noticeable flavor was that of toasted grain, which perfectly complimented the smell. As I continued drinking I began to notice some citrus notes with a non-overpowering bitter after taste. The carbonation was also well done and made the beer as good as it was and without it, Beast Bitter wouldn't have had the bite to it that I liked so much.

Beast Bitter is not overly inventive or as different as some of the other beers I've tried, but instead a beer for beer lovers to enjoy that want a nice standard beer that is consistently good, and at 5.3% ABV it packs a little more punch than most commercially successful beers.

Great from start to finish, I will be drinking this again in the future, right after I get a decent chestplate and shield so I could make the journey to the magical land of Syracuse, New York feeling prepared for the monsters that await me there.

 Instead of Mead they should have been drinking this in the Middle Ages

Beast Bitter is brewed by the Middle Ages Brewing Co. located in the upstate town of Syracuse, NY, where castles and dragons are abundant.