Thursday, October 30, 2014

Best and Worst Pumpkin Beers of 2014

Every year, during the months of September and October, I enjoy drinking Pumpkin Beer. Ever since becoming a craft beer enthusiast about 2 years ago, I've made it my mission to try as many different kinds of the pumpkiny beverage as I could get my hands on. Initially I started off small and only tried a handful of pumpkin beers my first year of drinking them. The following year I found even more to try and expanded my pumpkin beer palate. This year I outdid myself once again and sampled 22 different pumpkin beers in the same day with some close friends by my side. Below you will find our impressions of each of these beers. I've divided them into separate classes based on their alcohol content, plus it wouldn't be fair to compare the lighter Post Road Pumpkin with the super sweet and delicious Pumking. Listed in order from best to worst in each class.

Light Beers:

Jacko-O Traveler Shandy: At 4.4% ABV, Jack-O was the lightest pumpkin beer we drank. It reminded us more of a summer beer than anything. True to its shandy nature, there was a sweet lemon taste throughout as well as a hint of pumpkin. Very light and refreshing, although definitely more suitable for drinking in warmer weather.

Shipyard Pumpkinhead: Shipyard's brews have always been a good standby beer for me. Their carbonation and flavor remind me of that of a soft drink, like a flavored soda. In their pumpkin offering we tasted cinnamon and different spices. I enjoy it every time I drink it. 4.7% ABV.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale: A middle-of-the-road (if you will) pumpkin brew. Knowing this was made by Brooklyn Brewery I expected more. A good amount of flavor, but not anything special. Enough to like in this one to enjoy a bottle or two. 5.0% ABV.

Great South Bay Splashing Pumpkin: One of our very own Long Island brews! While I initially enjoyed GSB Splashing Pumpkin, upon further tasting I didn't think it was so great. My friends agreed. You could do worse, but there's not enough spice or flavor to keep this as one of my standbys in my mini-fridge. 5.0% ABV.

Uinta Punk'n: One of my least favorite pumpkin beers of all time. Punk'n has nothing going for it and is unpleasant to the taste. Burnt pumpkin flavor and not in a good way! Soapy too. I drank this one last year too and it was the same thing. Would never drink again willingly. 5.0% ABV.

Medium Beers:

UFO Pumpkin: Harpoon's offering was consistently one of my favorite pumpkin beers the last two years. I've had friends, coworkers and family all try this one and they all's good. When it comes to alcohol content and flavor UFO is right in the middle and perfect for both craft beer lovers and people who enjoy the occasional light beer. 5.9% ABV.

Wilhelm Scream: Magic Hat brewed a pumpkin beer? Who would've thought. This year was the first time we tried Wilhelm Scream and we were pleased. It had a good amount of sweetness, but also enough bitterness to accompany it. I could easily see myself drinking this one at a bar with little other options. 5.4% ABV.

Captain Lawrence Pumpkin: A little more mellow than Wilhelm, but still with a good amount of flavor. The average of the medium class. 5.5% ABV.

Ithaca Country Pumpkin: This one was my #2 choice, but sadly my friends didn't agree with me. I thought Country Pumpkin had a stronger flavor than both Wilhelm and Capt. Lawrence, while also remaining light and not too overpowering. My friends thought it was too bitter and slightly bland. 6.3% ABV.

Pumple Drumkin: This falls in the same class as Uinta's Punk'n. Pumple Drumkin is a pretty bad pumpkin beer. Average at best and too bitter for its own good. Promises of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg on the bottle are never fufilled. 6.0% ABV.

Medium-Heavy Beers:

Only 3 in this category as it was our resting/food break point

Night Owl Pumpkin: Elysian made a damn good pumpkin beer and this was the first year trying it for us. Reminded us all of a pumpkin pie cooked just a little overdone. Brown sugar and nutmeg are present throughout every sip of this pumpkiny delight. Can be enjoyed on many autumnal occasions. 5.9% ABV.

Horseheads Pumpkin: My girlfriend and I LOVED this one. My friends thought it was a little too sweet. Horseheads Pumpkin tasted just like candy to us. Cinnamon and brown sugar throughout, I could easily get this one down. Reminded me of eating a more intense Auntie Anne's pretzel. 6.6% ABV.

Roadsmary's Baby: Another great one. Roadsmary's Baby was aged in rum barrels and has a sort of vanillaly pumpkin flavor associated with it. Tasty to say the least. 6.8% ABV.

Heavy Beers:

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin: So much flavor, Weyerbacher is to die for. Tastes just like a perfectly sweet pumpkin pie flavored candy beverage. You can taste the cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices with each sip. Near perfection. 8.0% ABV.

Schlafly Pumpkin: A close runner up to Weyerbacher. Schlafly is similar to Night Owl in its pumpkin pie like-taste except sweeter. I could drink this one for weeks (and I have!). 8.0% ABV.

Dogfish Head Punkin: Dogfish Head succeeds in making a really good pumpkin ale. Erica described it as nutty and more of a brown ale. Nutmeg is present in the flavor. I liked it, but didn't think it was anything too special. 7.0% ABV.

Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout: The only pumpkin stout we tried in our tasting. Fisherman's tastes more like chocolate than pumpkin to me. Chocolately as most stouts and with a hint of pumpkin for good measure. Good, but not if you're in the mood for a straight up pumpkin flavor. 7.0% ABV.

Gruntled Pumpkin: A unique take on pumpkin beer. Had a distinct flavor, but no where near as good as the rest. Tasted a bit off honestly. 7.0% ABV.

Super Heavy Beers:

Pumking: The best of the best when it comes to heavier pumpkin beers. Southern Tier has made a real winner here. One of the sweetest pumpkin beers I've ever drank. Tastes like candy, cinnamon, and vanilla. Forget candy, give me this beer! 8.6% ABV.

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin: In addition to UFO, Harpoon also brewed their heavier take on a pumpkin beer. Delicious and full of flavor. Nothing can touch the greatness that is Pumking though. 10.5% ABV.

Punkuccino: If the words Pumpkin Coffee Beer don't excite you then skip out on this one. Tasted more like coffee than pumpkin to me, but was still a very good brew. I finished every last drop! 5.0% ABV.

The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Stout: Flying Dog what have you done to us? With The Fear they made the darkest pumpkin beer I have ever seen. The color is near black and the taste, leaves more to be desired. I think they tried too hard with this one. Tasted like burnt pumpkin with too much alcohol in it to mask the flavor. 9.0% ABV.

So there you have it! Our results of drinking 22 different pumpkin beers. Have you tried any on our list and have anything to say that we left out? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy Halloween Everyone!!!

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