Over the course of the last month or so, we picked up 9 different pumpkin beers from visiting Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. One was a 32 oz growler fill, which we bought yesterday evening in preparation for this tasting. We had wanted to include some others, but that wasn’t feasible at the time. We got a pretty good spread. All beers had actual pumpkin or squash in them, and all were brewed at breweries in Virginia. We invited 6 people over, who had no idea of the beers. We also wrapped the beers so as to make it as blind as feasible.
Now, of course, those with enough knowledge of VA pumpkin beer and the sizing of the bottles particular beers are sold in could glean some information. This is why the lady and I did not include our scores in this.
From left to right, we have:
(1) 3 Brothers “Fairgrounds Fall Ale” (Harrisonburg, VA) 5%,
(2) AleWerks Pumpkin Ale (Williamsburg, VA) 7.3%,
(3) Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Arrington, VA) 8.2%,
(4) Back Bay “Witch of Pungo” Pumpkin Ale (Virginia Beach, VA) 7%,
(5) Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” (Richmond, VA) 8.5%,
(6) Starr Hill “Boxcarr” Pumpkin Porter (Crozet, VA) 4.7%,
(7) St. George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer (Hampton, VA) 6%,
(8) Wild Wolf “Howling Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (Nellysford, VA) 7%, &
(9) Devil’s Backbone “Pumpkin Hunter” Pumpkin Ale (Roseland, VA) 5.1%.
Then the order for the tasting was picked. The order for tasting was (A) Devil’s Backbone, (B) 3 Brothers, (C) Starr Hill, (D) AleWerks, (E) Wild Wolf, (F) Hardywood Park, (G) St. George, (H) Back Bay, and (I) Blue Mountain Barrel House.
The Blind Tasting
Each of the 6 people who attended were asked to write comments on every beer, sufficient for each of them to be able to award a gold, silver, and bronze medal at the end. We provided them with a sheet with the letters ‘A’ – ‘I’, space to write about each beer, and space for their gold, silver, and bronze awards. And pens. We did not ask for numerical values for aroma, taste, feel, and so on. We simply asked people to write about the beers so that they could record an overall impression for their medal awards. The prompt for choosing medals was to suppose you are going to the store and you want to buy a pumpkin beer, you have these 9 options, and then you must pick your clear gold winner, your silver, and your bronze. On the back of the tasting sheet, for those interested at the end, there was a map with dots for the cities where we got beers from, information about the beers, but no revealing information about the order of the tasting.
People were given 2 oz pours of all the beers in order of A-I, served in wine glasses. Each beer took about 10 minutes to write about. At the end, everyone was asked to award their medals. I took down information from everyone. Then we revealed the beers A-I.
Since then I’ve calculated the overall winners, using a simple method. Gold medals were worth 3 points, silver medals 2, and bronze medals 1. I also included how many times a beer made it onto someone’s podium, as a tie breaker if beers ended up with the same point value. Here was the info for the 6 people, again, not including the scores of myself and the lady. The number to the left of the slash is the overall score for each beer, the number to the right of the slash indicates how many people’s podium the beer was on.
(A) Devil’s Backbone: one gold  + one bronze  = 4/2
(B) 3 Brothers: one gold  + two silvers  + one bronze  = 8/4
(C) Starr Hill: one gold  + one silver  = 5/2
(D) Alewerks: two golds  + one silver  + one bronze  = 9/4
(E) Wild Wolf: one silver  = 2/1
(F) Hardywood Park: 0/0
(G) St. George: 0/0
(H) Back Bay: one silver  + three bronze  = 5/4
(I) Blue Mountain Barrel House: one gold  = 3/1
Overall Gold Medal Winner:
Alewerks Pumpkin Ale, 7.3%
Overall Silver Medal Winner:
3 Brothers “Fairgrounds Fall Ale”, 5.1%
Overall Bronze Medal Winner:
Back Bay “Witch of Pungo” Pumpkin Ale, 7%
Virginia Beach, VA