Category Archives: Information Posts

Informational posts about organization, purpose, and content of blog.

Welcome Back, Year 4!

Hello all! Pumpkin beer started hitting shelves in my area on July 17th. This was the arrival of Southern Tier’s Pumking and Warlock, which were bottled on June 24th. Terrapin’s “Pumpkinfest” was also hitting market around that time. I’ve held off on writing a first post, because I wanted it to be at least August before I started the blog back. Now, here we are! Early August, and a lot more pumpkin beers are coming in now. There are lots of questions folks might ask about this “seasonal creep”, both from the consumer’s and the brewery’s perspective. I will leave those for my next post. For now, I will simply, as I have in years past, state the aims for this season. This is the 4th year of this blog, and I want to do things just a little differently than last year.

Last year I put more emphasis on smaller up-and-coming breweries, and wrote little pieces about the breweries and how they make their beer. I will continue on that train of thought this year, trying to feature as many new breweries as I can. I will revisit some of the old beers I’ve reviewed before, in part to see how (or if) the beers have changed from year to year. Beers that weren’t stand outs or good exemplars of their particular style won’t be revisited. As in previous years, I will be using the 5 star system. You can read more about the rating system and its motivation here.

* = poor

** = decent

*** = good

**** = great

***** = exceptional

This season I will try to put even more emphasis on smaller and up-and coming breweries. There are so many great craft breweries out there, with just great offerings. Brewers also take a lot of time and care to make serious beer, which often requires some serious time-intensive processes- especially if you have pumpkin flesh in the mash! And so, another facet to this year’s blog is that I will be featuring more of the time-intensive barrel-aged or blended pumpkin offerings that are on the market. I plan to write a bit more about barrel-aged beers in general. Finally, I plan to put a little more emphasis on the ingredients, exactly what they are, where they come from, and the typical flavor contributions they make to the beer. Many offerings have special or unique hop combinations, spices, or various other adjuncts. So it will be nice to hear more about where these things come from.

If you have any suggestiosn for beers you’d like to see, or kinds of things you’d like to see talked about this season, comment here or drop an email to thoughtsonpumpkinbeer@gmail.com. Happy almost pumpkin beer season!

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Pumpkin Beer Ratings and Rankings in 2013

This table has the ranking list, from my least favorite (in the first row) to my most favorite (in the last row) of the 84 beers I reviewed during the 2013 season! For all of the beers, I wrote full reviews. These 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 the first post of this 2013 season, where I explain the goals for this year. Click here for my first post that kicked of the 2011 season and the beginning of the blog, 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 2013

Kennebunkport Brewing Company Pumpkin Ale *
Indian Wells Spicy Pumpkin Ale *1/4
Eerie “Johnny Rails” Pumpkin Ale *3/4
Beer Works “Black O Lantern” Imperial Pumpkin Stout **
New Belgium “Pumpkick” Pumpkin Ale **
Redhook “Out of Your Gourd” Pumpkin Porter **
Three Notch’d “Three Chopt” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Penn Brewery “Pumpkin Roll” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Devil’s Backbone “Ichabod Crandall” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Flat 12 Bierwerks “Flat Jack Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Harpoon “UFO” Unfiltered Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Traveler “Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy **1/2
O’Connor “Punkelweisse” Pumpkin Dunkelweisse **1/2
Fire Island Pumpkin Barrel Ale **1/2
Dogfish Head “Punkin” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Elysian “Hansel and Gretel” Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner **1/2
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager **1/2
Horny Goat “HornyCopia” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Beer Works “Pumpkin Works” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Alley Kat “Pumpkin Pie” Spiced Ale **3/4
Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale **3/4
Thirsty Dog Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Howe Sound “Pumpkineater” Imperial Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Saucony Creek “Captain Pumpkin’s Maple Mistress” Imperial Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Stone/The Bruery/Elysian (2011) “La Citrueille Celeste de Citricado” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature Series “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***
Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus ***
Fordham Spiced Harvest Ale ***
Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. “Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale” ***
Big Muddy “Pumpkin Smasher” Pumpkin Ale ***
Mendocino Pumpkin Ale ***
Granville Island “The Pumpkining” Pumpkin Ale ***
Southern Tier “Warlock” Imperial Pumpkin Stout ***
Full Tilt “Patterson Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***
St George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer ***
Champion “Kicking and Screaming” Pumpkin IPA ***
Cambridge “The Great Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale ***
Epic/DC Brau “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter ***
21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter ***
Anderson Valley “Fall Hornin’” Pumpkin Ale ***
Champion “Spice Must Flow” Pumpkin Spice Ale ***1/4
Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Terrapin “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer ***1/4
Urban Chestnut “Count Orlok” Black Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Jolly Pumpkin “La Parcela No. 1″ Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Nøgne Ø Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Ithaca “Country Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Rogue Chatoe Rogue “Pumpkin Patch” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Grand River “Highballer” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Big Boss “Harvest Time” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
McAuslan St-Ambroise Citrouille “The Great Pumpkin Ale” ***1/2
Sam Adams “Fat Jack” Double Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Three Brothers “Five Pound Fall Ale” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Fat Heads “Spooky Tooth” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel ***1/2
Lickinghole Creek “Pumpkin Ain’t Easy” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Elysian “Night Owl” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Strangeways “Gourd of Thunder” Imperial Pumpkin Porter ***3/4
Thomas Creek Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Upslope Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Uinta “Oak Jacked” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Two Roads “Roadsmary’s Baby” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale ****
Crown Valley “Imperial Pumpkin Smash” Imperial Pumpkin Stout ****
Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****
Alaskan Pumpkin Porter ****
Horseheads Pumpkin Ale ****1/4
Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator” Imperial Pumpkin Stout ****1/4
Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****1/4
Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****1/2
Shipyard Bourbon Barrel Aged “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****1/2
AleWerks Pumpkin Ale ****1/2
Lakefront “25th Anniversary” Brandy Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Lager ****1/2
Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine ****1/2
Stevens Point “Whole Hog” Pumpkin Ale ****3/4
Cigar City “Good Gourd ” Pumpkin Ale ****3/4

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

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Welcome Back Pumpkin Beer, Year 3!

I purchased my first pumpkin beer of the season today, on the first of August. Breweries are getting them out early- some even came out in early July. Some rebel against this. What I’ve gleaned en route to an explanation of this phenomena of “rushing the season” is twofold. First, few will buy a seasonal beer when the season has ended, so breweries need to give as much shelf time as they can to avoid missing sales on a lot of beer. Second, many breweries, especially some of the ones producing more sought after pumpkin ales, are doing two different batches and so need time to produce their second batch before the season ends. This all makes good sense. I love pumpkin beer. Though, I myself will wait a couple of weeks before I get into tasting and reviewing. I usually like to begin this blog around the last week or so in August.

As per tradition, I’ll say a little bit about the aim of this 2013 season of reviewing. I’ll also touch on some questions about method and rationale.

New Aims of the 2013 Season

This season I probably am not going to try as many beers as I did last year. Last year I did full reviews of 62 pumpkin beers. This year I want to (i) have some of the one’s that I really like in order to review them again, and (ii) try as many new pumpkin beers as I can. I’d like to focus more on smaller and up-and-coming breweries. There are a lot of great breweries out there. So I’m going to try to get some of the less widely distributed craft beers on the blog this year. I want to extend the library of reviews, but also want to improve my tasting and reviewing. I’ve hit a point where I’ve tried many of the big breweries, so want to focus on and give more prominence to the smaller breweries.

Over the past couple years, I’ve had a good time rating and reviewing. But this season I want my reviews to tell more of a story, while also relaying the standard notes one makes when reviewing a beer. As before, I want this site to be a resource for folks who might try a beer because it was compared to something else they liked. I also want this site to function to encourage people to try more craft beer.

Method, Rationale

My method and rationale (with the exception of what was noted above about current aims) have not really changed since last year. I have previously discussed some questions and issues about my system for rating, and whether or not it is feasible to do a blind-review process. Where I come down is that my system is a non-numeric five star system: * = poor, ** = decent, *** = good, **** = great, **** = exceptional. Moreover, for genuine practical reasons I choose to not do blind-reviewing. (Few can adequately pull this off, without severely limiting the number of beers they review.)

For those interested in more details about the choices made about method, or for information about some of the background assumptions, see this post which kicked off the 2012 season. In that post, I discuss the issues surrounding the non-numerical rating system, and the review process. Also see this post, which kicked of the blog in its first season of 2011. In that post, I discuss some assumptions I make about the rating system, as well as my typical tastes for beer.

Anyway, moving back to the main aim of this post. I’d like to welcome you all to year 3 of the blog! I also welcome any recommendations or suggestions.

If you have a favorite local pumpkin beer, contact me and let me know about it! I’d love to try it. Cheers!

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Pumpkin Beer Ratings and Rankings in 2012

This table has the ranking list, from my least favorite (in the first row) to my most favorite (in the last row) of the 62 beers I reviewed during the 2012 season! For all of the beers, I wrote full reviews. These 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 the first post of this 2012 season, where I explain the goals for this year. Click here for my first post that kicked of the 2011 season and the beginning of the blog, 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 2012

Shipyard “Pumpkinhead” Pumpkin Ale *
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale *1/4
Southampton Pumpkin Ale *1/4
Ardmore Brewing (2010) Imperial Pumpkin Porter *1/2
Cisco “Pumple Drumkin” Spiced Ale *3/4
Wild Wolf “Howling Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale *3/4
Shock Top “Pumpkin Wheat” Belgian-style Wheat Ale *3/4
Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale *3/4
Uinta “Punk’n” Harvest Pumpkin Ale *3/4
Starr Hill “Boxcar” Pumpkin Porter **
Blue Point Pumpkin Ale **
Saranac Pumpkin Ale **
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager **
Evolution “Jacques au Lantern” Pumpkin Ale **
Harpoon “UFO” Unfiltered Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Pike “Harlot’s Harvest” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Wasatch Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale **1/4
New Holland “Ichabod” Pumpkin Ale **1/4
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Sweetwater Tavern (Sterling) “Ghost Town” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Brooklyn “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale **1/2
O’Connor “Punkelweise” Pumpkin Dunkelweisse **1/2
Blue Mountain Pumpkin Oatmeal Porter **1/2
Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale **1/2
Tommyknocker “Small Patch” Pumpkin Harvest Ale **1/2
Elysian “Dark O’ The Moon” Pumpkin Stout **1/2
Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Old Ale **1/2
Mad Fox “Punkinator” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Ardmore Brewing (2010) Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Karbach “Krunkin’ Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Elysian “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale **3/4
Long Trail Pumpkin Ale ***
Samuel Adams “Fat Jack” Double Pumpkin Ale ***
Terrapin “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer ***
RJ Rockers “Gruntled” Pumpkin Ale ***
Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Stout ***
Fegley’s Brew Works “Devious” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***
Dogfish Head “Punkin” Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Epic/DC Brau “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter ***1/4
Flying Dog Bourbon Barrel Aged “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/4
Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Porter ***1/2
Uinta “Oak Jacked” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***1/2
Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus ***3/4
Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Rogue Chatoe Rogue “Pumpkin Patch” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature Series “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Hoppin Frog “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Elysian “Night Owl” Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Bootlegger’s Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin Ale ***3/4
Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator” Imperial Pumpkin Stout ****
Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****
Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****
Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****
Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale ****1/4
Cigar City “Good Gourd” Pumpkin Ale ****3/4
Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale ****3/4

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

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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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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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Pumpkin Beer Season in 2011 is Upon Us!

I was quite happy to notice some pumpkin beer at the store today. We are not having anything approaching Fall weather here in Charlottesville. I usher in these brews nonetheless. Last pumpkin beer season, I tasted the following beers. (These are ordered roughly from those I liked least to those I liked most, with asterisks reflecting those that were new to me then.)

Last Year’s Beers

Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale (5.5%)
Uinta “Punk’n” Harvest Pumpkin Ale (4.0%)
*Shipyard “Pumpkinhead” Pumpkin Ale (5.1%)
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale (5.2%)
Blue Moon “Harvest Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (5.7%)
Brooklyn “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale (5.0%)
Saranac Pumpkin Ale (5.1%)
*Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (9.0%)
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (6.0%)
*New Holland “Ichabod” Pumpkin Ale (5.5%)
*Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8.0%)
Dogfishhead “Punkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (7.0%)
*Wolaver’s “Will Stevens’” Pumpkin Ale (5.4%)
*Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8.0%)
*Williamsburg Alewerks Imperial Pumpkin Ale (7.3%)
Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (9.0%)

As may be seen, I tasted a modest amount last year. This year I really plan to up the ante. Thus this blog.

A few preliminary remarks are in order before I begin to spew my disorganized and inarticulate thoughts about the beers this year.

Rating System

Let me discuss my rating system. I use a star rating system ranging from * to *****, with intermediate ratings increasing by 1/4 of a star. I tend to give the beers I like the least one star, but will still leave room for the possibility of grades as low as 1/4 of one star. These I hope to not taste. There is always hope. By way of something like a semantics for this system, I have the admittedly (but necessarily) rough schema below. This schema is not intended to be a group of direct translations of star ratings, but a helpful guide to see what it is for me to give these ratings.

* = poor

** = decent

*** = good

**** = great

***** = exceptional

Any rating falling in between one of these need not have a word of its own. That is, I don’t have some word for what a **1/4 rating is. Giving a **1/4 rating implies that I liked it more than ** beers, but less then *** beers. The schema above provides some context. Two star beers are decent beers, while three star beers are good beers. My use of this schema naturally brings up two issues.

Background for Rating System

First, one might wonder about more nuanced differences between the beers, and whether this schema allows me to capture these things.

This is a good issue to consider. Obviously the devil is in the details. For the individual reviews I will give, I will talk about the beers in some detail before giving an overall rating. This way, I allow for some more nuanced discussion of the various differences between these beers. (Hopefully I can achieve some reasonable detail in comparisons.) Again, the schema just provides some context for the otherwise empty syntax of the star system.

Second, one might wonder (setting aside the intermediate ratings) what it means to say that some beer is a “decent” beer. There are two things someone may have in mind in raising this issue. To start, there is the thought that (i) there may be no objectively decent (or good or great, etc.) beer, that different people have different pallates and so things are only  decent for an individual or group. There is also the thought that (ii) there is nothing to being a decent beer full stop (whether or not it is relative to a person or group), that there are only decent beers for particular purposes (i.e., having a dinner party, gettin crunk at the club, etc.).

These are both good issues to discuss. With respect to (i), the manner in which I will proceed allows that there may not be an objectively decent beer. I know that I am speaking to my tastes when I say that some beer is decent or great. Hopefully some will find that they have similar tastes, or can get something out of my ratings, given my tastes. (I finish this post by talking a bit about what beers I tend to like and dislike. This may be helpful.) With respect to (ii), I will proceed as though there is something to a rating of good or decent full stop. Of course if you are having a dinner party with elaborate entrees, you probably won’t want malt liquor with every course. Nevertheless, in terms of rating the beers, I think that there is something I am expressing when I say that a beer is decent or good. I think there is something to an overall impression. I am rating all of these beers as pumpkin beers. I think there is an overall impression that I can capture there.

Aim of the Blog

The main aim here is simple: to get across what I think and feel about these beers. Of course there are other aims: to have fun, to try lots of pumpkin beers, to kick it with some cool folks. Given the main aim, I have chosen to use mostly English and natural language in my ratings. I don’t use numbers, or fine-tuned calculations for the various components I discuss. I do, as explained above, have a rating system that is itself formal. (This serves the task of assisting with giving overall grades or impressions to beers that are comparative.) Nevertheless, 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.

My Typical Tastes

I like many different beers, but I tend to gravitate towards a couple of different styles. I really enjoy Saisons and Farmhouse Ales, probably more than other beers. I really like IPA’s, but don’t just look for lots of hops. In particular, I like IPA’s that have some botanical or floral elements. I also enjoy Belgian Tripels that are well-balanced enough to not smack you in the face with alcohol.

Those amount to my favorite beer types, though I like a lot more beers than just the ones that fall into those categories. I will drink just about any beer, and there are very few beers that I find undrinkable. For instance, I quite enjoy Pumpkin Ales.

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