Pumpkin Beer Season, Year Two!

Hi, all. It’s hot, but the pumpkin beers have started to roll in. Really, I noticed that some of the first pumpkin beers to hit market came in mid-July. People usually have a lot to say about “fall beers” coming that early. I am of two minds about it. In any case, this means I’ll go to work collecting and preparing to do a lot of reviewing this year. Last year I went through and did either full reviews or some more low key notes on 43 different pumpkin beers. Here’s the final result of 2011. The aim this year is to only do full reviews, which’ll require being ready to take pictures and review at some unexpected times. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to try a new one and review! I also want to focus more on beers that are new to me this year as well as on really good one’s from last year, but not worry so much about reviewing the so so beers I did last year. Though, if I can get a cheap single and avoid a commitment to a whole six-pack, even for the beers I tried last year that I’m not a huge fan of, I’ll probably still go ahead and do a review. A central aim is still to get better at reviewing and describing, and it might be cool to see how  my thoughts have changed, or how the beers may have changed.

As for my methods, I’ve had some time to think about them. I’ve also had a lot of helpful input from some friends and online communities (most notably, Reddit). The suggestions I received included: doing a blind reviewing process such that I didn’t know facts about the beers I reviewed (i.e., brewery name, style advertised, abv, etc.), using a numerical rating system like 1 to 100, trying more (usually specific) beers (since many have a favorite they champion). After some discussions about costs, practical concerns about implementation, and what the aim of the enterprise here is (at least, now), I came down on this stuff as follows.

First, this season I will try more beers, and will make it a point to ask and keep my eye out for singles to keep costs more manageable. I will give a more serious focus on Virginia pumpkin beers, and try a good bit more of the offerings that we have around town. Since I am also planning on doing only full reviews with the aim of writing better and more informative reviews, I am not sure how many more I’ll get to. I should be able to review  more, though.

Moreover, I will have more of an emphasis on comparing the beers I’m reviewing to other beers I’ve previously reviewed, and linking to the respective reviews about those. This will allow the site to be more of a resource for people who might try beer X because it was compared to something else they liked. I do want the site to be more of a resource and to function to encourage people to try more craft beer.

Second, I will not be able to facilitate doing a blind reviewing process. It would be too difficult to implement, given the very small scale of an operation I have here. I do a lot of the work on my own. I know when I buy the beers, typically know how they are packaged (be them in 22’s or 750’s or 12 oz’s or kegs at a bar, etc.), and could not ignore enough of these things to actually make a lot of it blind for me. This is especially true for beers at bars. I would have to know what I’m ordering to find out that I should order it. A process that allowed some beers to be blind, but left others to be not really be blind wouldn’t be very good. To do a consistent and genuinely blind process, I would need a lot of other people to pour, buy, and acquire the beers. They would probably need to get growlers from the tap beers for me to taste as well. This would be costly and require other folks to do a lot of work. Also, sometimes special beers aren’t even sold for growler fills. My girlfriend is incredibly helpful and quite the perceptive taster and organizer. Still, even the two of us can’t facilitate a legitimately blind process, given that we want to try a good number of pumpkin beers this year.

Third and finally, I will not use a numerical reviewing system. I will stick with the 5 star (*) system.  I discussed this issue some in my original 2011 post that kicked off the blog. There I explained the rating system, the background for the rating system, and the aim of the blog. The main thing I say there is this: “I stray from using numbers. Part of the motivation for this is that it seems to reflect a rigor or technicality in evaluation that would be misleading and even disingenuous to my project here. My aim is to relay these thoughts and impressions. Hopefully I will improve over time.” I think I have improved since last year, and look forward to getting better at reviewing and describing the beers this season. I also still think that the (admittedly) sort of impressionistic manner used to rate and compare beers is the best for the project here. So I will keep it. On the original 2011 post (that I also linked to earlier in this paragraph) I give a rough heuristic for what the ratings mean, and explain the background for the rating system. I do always welcome more thoughts on this and any other parts of the blog.

In any case, I welcome you all to the 2012 Thoughts on Pumpkin Beer season! Cheers!

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