Last week I wrote about Blue Mountain’s Spooky, which is one of my favorite pumpkin beers because it does not contain traces of so-called pumpkin spice. On behalf of those who embrace more traditional pumpkin beers, however, I enlisted independent and unbiased tasters — my newsroom colleagues — to pass judgment.
I gathered nine fairly common pumpkin beers you might find at a supermarket or liquor store, with selections from across the country (New Holland Ichabod Ale, Ballast Point Pumpkin Down, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Southern Tier Pumking and Samuel Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkin) and in our back yard (Flying Dog the Fear, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale and Evolution Jacques Au Lantern).
In a blind tasting, there were puckered faces and frowning looks. Sample comments:
“It smells like bathroom potpourri.”
“Starbucks called, and it’s running out of pumpkin spice for the lattes.”
But once the glasses were emptied, the consensus was surprising: Every taster ranked Dogfish Head’s Punkin first or second.
“It has a more rounded malt sweetness than one produced with pumpkin spices,” wrote $20 Diner columnist Tim Carman. “It’s subtle, sweet and complex, with good hop backbone.” Food writer Becky Krystal called Punkin “More crisp and refreshing than the others. It’s something I would drink on a cool fall day.”
The runner-up, and the only other beer to get first-place votes, was Flying Dog’s the Fear, which is the brewery’s “imperial pumpkin ale,” a dark beer clocking in at a hefty 9 percent alcohol by volume.
“You know how the burnt part of a pumpkin pie can be the best part? This is kind of like that,” said Sports writer Adam Kilgore, who named it his overall favorite.
And in case you’re wondering: Avoid the Schlafly Pumpkin Ale. Sample comments:
”This tastes like an IPA trying to be fall-themed, but failing.”
“Tastes like when you accidentally swallow shampoo.”
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. dogfish.com. Six-pack of 12-ounce bottles, $10 to $12.