Monthly Archives: November 2011

Pumpkin Beer Ratings and Rankings in 2011

This table has the ranking list, from my least favorite (in the first row) to my most favorite (in the last row) of the 43 beers I tried during the 2011 season! For all of the beers, I either wrote some smaller notes or more full-scale reviews. These notes or reviews can be reached by clicking on the underlined beers in the first column. As can be seen, the overall ratings of the individual beers are in the second column. Click here for my first post of this season, where I explain the rating system as well as the aim of the blog. Click here for more about me, and the making of this blog.

Overall Rankings in 2011

Shipyard “Pumpkinhead” Pumpkin Ale *
Michelob “Jack’s” Pumpkin Spice Ale *
Uinta “Punk’n” Harvest Pumpkin Ale *
New Belgium/Elysian Lips of Faith “Kick” Pumpkin-Cranberry Ale *1/4
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale *1/4
Southampton Pumpkin Ale *1/4
Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale *1/2
Shock Top “Pumpkin Wheat” Belgian-style Wheat Ale *1/2
Blue Moon “Harvest Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale *1/2
Harpoon “UFO” Pumpkin Ale **
Saranac Pumpkin Ale **
Starr Hill “Boxcar” Pumpkin Porter **
Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Cape Ann “Fisherman’s” Pumpkin Stout **1/4
Wild Wolf “Howling Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Brooklyn “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Dock Street “Great Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Blue Point Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Rock Art Imperial Pumpkin Spruce Stout **3/4
New Holland “Ichabod” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale **3/4
Terrapin “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer **3/4
Cisco “Pumple Drumkin” Spiced Ale **3/4
Elysian “Night Owl” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Sixpoint “Autumnation” Pumpkin Ale ***
Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***
Bavarian Barbarian “Grumpy Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Porter ***
Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Ale ***
Epic/DC Brau “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter ***
Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***
Dogfish Head “Punkin” Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Hoppin’ Frog “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Hardwood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature Series “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
River Horse “Hipp-O-Lantern” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale ****1/4
Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****1/2
Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****3/4

* = poor
** = decent
*** = good
**** = great
***** = exceptional


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Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Heavy Seas’ “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale comes in at 9.0% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian Ale glass.

Appearance: A hearty pour left a finger of off-white thin head that pretty quickly dissolved into a very thin ring with no noticeable lacing. The color is a very bright orange/copper that is mostly transparent. There is some very thin haziness noticeable with moderate carbonation bubbles.

Smell: This smells strongly of bourbon right off the bat. I get some clear and bold malt, some oak, and vanilla. There is also strong spicing. There is noticeable cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. There is also something smelling bit peppery, perhaps ginger.

Taste: The flavor is moderately malty, with some oak and vanilla thrown in. The pumpkin flavor is clearly there, though takes a bit of a backseat to the strong spicing and the bourbon flavor. The flavors in this are really bold and interesting, though it tastes a bit boozy. The finish has some bitter spice with oaky bourbon. The aftertaste has some coarse bitter spicing.

Feel: This beer is medium bodied, with light to medium carbonation. The feel of it is somewhat warm, in part because of the bourbon. Though this isn’t perfectly smooth since the alcohol comes through a bit (though one might expect this at 9 percent alcohol).

Drinkability: This beer is higher in ABV, and has some punchy spicing and strong bourbon notes. So I don’t think of it as an easy drinking beer. It is fairly smooth with the oak and vanilla, but isn’t something I would want more than a pint or so of.

Overall: I like how bold the flavors in this beer are. I also like the oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Even so the bourbon is a bit strong. That and the heavy spices distract one from the pumpkin flavor, which gets sort of lost. The alcohol is also a bit punchy. This makes this an interesting pumpkin ale, though not a favorite. The $7.99 per 22 that this goes for makes this a not too terribly great option, especially given other similarly priced  (or cheaper) beers around that are smoother.

Overall Rating: **1/4

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Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale comes in at an impressive 15.9% ABV.

I poured some of a 12 oz bottle into a stemless wine glass.

Appearance: A conservative pour yielded a little bit of creamy foam that quickly dissipated leaving very thin lacing on the side. The color is a very hazy dark burnt orange/amber. Some tiny bubbles rising at the top reveal medium carbonation.

Smell: From the pour, the strong rum and roasty malt smell was powerful. It also smells woody, with notes of banana and raisin. This smell doesn’t have much pumpkin and is pretty boozy.

Taste: The taste has heavy malt, with elements of banana and dark fruit. There is also strong vanilla. The rum-barrel aged taste certainly comes through pretty powerfully. The beer has molasses and dark caramel sweetness. I get some pumpkin for taste, but it is not too present once the fruit, sweetness, and oaky rum sets in. This has a lot of different flavors. It is really interesting, and in danger of being a little too busy. The sweetness fades towards the long finish, giving a little bit of a boozy burn. The aftertaste is malty and a little chalky.

Feel: This is medium bodied, and it coats the mouth pretty well. It is pretty chewy, with very light carbonation. The feel is sort of warm (though with this high of an ABV, it is hard to distinguish drunk “warm” from the other full bodied or complex “warm”). This has a lot of sweetness, and it is quite syrupy.

Drinkability: I am splitting this beer 3 ways, and still am unsure whether my pour will be too much. This is really heavy on the palate, for flavor and for feel. Because of all the sweetness, this is probably best as an after dinner or dessert drink. I would suggest something like 2-3 ounces with a rich dessert, or a flavorful cigar.

Overall: This is not a great beer qua pumpkin beer. The pumpkin is almost lost in all of the flavors. It is also not something you could drink much of, so I wouldn’t give high marks there either. Even so, it is quite flavorful. And the flavors are really nice. The banana, dark fuit, and sweetness pair well with the dark rum flavors. This gets high marks for deliciousness there. I like this beer better than most of the more easy drinking pumpkin ales because of its flavors. Though, I like it less than most of the really flavorful heavy-hitting pumpkin beers. Most of the other flavorfuls feature the pumpkin better and drink better than this. This is a cool, delicious beer to try. But again, best to have a little to sip on for something after dinner.

Overall Rating: ***

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Wild Wolf “Howling Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Wild Wolf “Howling Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale joins us at 4.8% ABV.

I tasted this beer from the brewery’s tap, and it was served in a pint glass.

Appearance: The beer was served to me in a very full glass, and was a moderately-cloudy dark-orangish amber. There was nothing by way of head or lacing, and only minimal carbonation visible.

Smell: The smell had herbal/floral hops and toasted malt. The spicing was also prominent, much more than the advertised “light spicing”. Among the spices discernible were cinnamon and nutmeg.

Taste: The flavor had lots of floral hops and minimal bitterness. The pumpkin flavor formed a nice backbone, giving only light spicing for the taste. This was nice (and different than the smell suggested). I wouldn’t call this beer malty, but there is a bit of a presence of toasted malt. Even so, they take a definite backseat to the hops. I noticed some light sweetness towards the end, which was hoppy and a bit fizzy. The pumpkin taste lasts to the end, dropping off for a hoppy and floral aftertaste.

Feel: This is a medium bodied and pleasant feeling beer. It is smooth, with some light sweetness giving body that coats the mouth without getting syrupy. The feel had medium carbonation.

Drinkability: This drinks quite well. The floral hops direct the flavor, enticing one to drink. At this low ABV, I could have a good number of these.

Overall: I liked this beer as a flavorful, but not too complex pumpkin beer. It wasn’t overly spiced, which does a lot for it. I think it is in the leagues of beers like Brooklyn’s “Post Road”, but not quite as good. Brooklyn is a bit more complex, and has more of a dynamic flavor profile. Even so, for a fairly new brewery, this is a good pumpkin ale. There’s nothing like walking into a new brewery after a fall hike to discover a new local pumpkin beer.

Overall Rating: **1/2



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Epic/DC Brau “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter (2011)

Epic/DC Brau “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter comes in at a hearty 7.3% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: A conservative pour produced two fingers of fluffy hazelnut head that lasted a bit, eventually dissipating to a thin foam with medium lacing. The color on this beer is an opaque dark brown that is almost black. Some light carbonation is visible at the top.

Smell: The nose has definite roasted malt and chocolate notes. There is also faint pumpkin and some minimal spices. This is inviting.

Taste: Immediately there is lots of roasted malt, with some coffee and chocolate. There is some vegetal pumpkin that becomes clearer as you sip. It is accented by a little spice, but not overwhelmed. The flavors in this work quite well. Sweet roasted malt with some pumpkin, and notes of chocolate and coffee. The coffee adds some bitter notes, which contrast nicely with the other creamy and sweet tastes of chocolate and malt. The pumpkin could be more steadfast. Even so, this is flavorful!

Feel: This is medium bodied, and very smooth. It is somewhat creamy, with the coffee and chocolate notes adding some texture or motion to the feel. There is also light carbonation, forming a soothing backdrop. The carbonation seems just right. The finish and aftertaste provide a pleasant and smooth feel.

Drinkability: This beer is drinkable and delicious. The ABV is a bit high, which could hold one back from having a lot of this beer. Even so, I’ll have no problem finishing the rest of this 22 oz. It is smooth and a bit creamy, and the alcohol does not come through at all.

Overall: This beer is definitely a good one. The malt, chocolate, and coffee really work together. They are binded, with pumpkin discernible. The creaminess is really nice, and is made more dynamic with the mild carbonation. This gets high marks for flavor, and for not taking the standard route of pouring lots of pumpkin pie spices in the mix. The brewers lost nothing in terms of flavor by taking this path. The one downside is that the pumpkin isn’t as active or forthright as I would have liked. A little more pumpkin flavor would have been great, though this may be hard to do with this style.

Overall Rating: ***

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Brooklyn “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Brooklyn’s “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale is in the pumpkin ale style and comes in at 5% ABV.

I poured most of a 12 oz bottle into a stemless wine glass.

Appearance: A conservative-at-the-beginning, liberal-at-the-end pour provides a light tan 1-finger head that dissipates to very thin lacing. The color is orange-amber and a bit cloudy. There is some noticeable carbonation, but these tiny bubbles are only visible closer to the surface of the glass.

Smell: A bit sour upfront, though mostly sweet and malty with strong caramelized pumpkin. There is a clear presence of standard pumpkin pie spice, with cinnamon and clove at the forefront. There is also something with the spicing that is a bit more… peppery, perhaps coriander.

Taste: This has some mentionable spice, but with pumpkin flavor holding it together. It doesn’t just have spice without the backbone that you may find with Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale or Michelob’s Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale. There is a nice, not-too-heavy hop presence towards the end and on the finish that keeps this beer from being flat. These hop notes hang on for a little bit. This is a nice addition to what would otherwise be more of a one-dimensional malty pumpkin beer.

Feel: The beer is thin, and doesn’t hang onto the tongue or mouth for a long time. The carbonation also has a seltzer-y quality. This adds a kind of effervescence, which may be off-putting if one is looking to drink more of a beer’s beer.

Drinkability: This is a relatively easy-drinking pumpkin ale. Nothing really smacks you in the face in terms of flavor or feel, which may be a downside if you just want one impressively flavorful or heavy beer. Nothing will hold you back from having a few of these.

Overall: This beer is in the league of Dock Street’s “Great Pumpkin” and Stegmaier’s Pumpkin Ale, but falling a bit short of both of them. Stegmaier drinks much smoother than Brooklyn without sacrificing flavor, and Dock Street has similar effervescence but a more unique flavor (with something like a hint of lime). I do find that Brooklyn is more round and complex than Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale, though for the price Saranac may sometimes be preferable to Brooklyn – Brooklyn goes for around 10 dollars a six-pack, while Saranac runs around 7 bucks.

Overall Rating: **1/2

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