Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Tasting Results – And the winner is . . .

The Great Pumpkin Tasting ended Friday night right about the time the Cardinals took the World Series from the Texas Rangers.  And, like this Game 7, there were no surprises.  Just like everyone knew the Cardinals had the momentum to make them the favorite to win it all, I had a pretty good idea which beer would come out on top in our blind taste test before we even started. 
After tasting 19 brands of pumpkin ale, one brand stood out so much that 6 of the 8 judges chose it as their favorite without knowing what it was.  3 of the judges were even confident enough to name the beer in question. 

Side Note:  I would challenge any life-time Bud drinker to do this when Bud was put up against just 5 other bland macro lagers.  His beer would be lost in that small pool of mediocrity.

Here’s how the test went down:

After lining up the 19 different bottles so the judges could see what they were up against, my brother Brian and I took the beers out onto the porch to keep them at a cool 45 degrees and out of sight of the judges.  We poured each into 8 small cups and allowed the judges to take their time smelling and sipping each and recording their observations.  They were asked to describe the beer as best they could and give it a rating between 0-5, 5 being the best.  The brands of pumpkin beers they tasted, in order, were:

1.      Smuttynose

2.     Uinta

3.     South Hampton

4.     Lakefront

5.     River Horse

6.     Wolaver’s

7.     Dog Fish Head

8.     Shipyard Smashed

9.     Post Road

10.  Blue Moon

11.   Sam Adams

12.   Shock Top

13.  Elysian

14.  Hoppin’ Frog

15.  Landmark

16.  Southern Tier

17.  Weyerbacher

18.  St. Ambroise

19.  Fisherman’s
Some of the descriptors the judges used were unique to say the least:

“Smell – Bile,  Taste – More bile”
 “Smell – None, Taste – Some sort of cleanser”
“Smell – Clorox, Taste – Gourd”
“Smell – Dirty Diaper, Taste – Smokey Memphis BBQ”  (I don’t know if this says something about the beer, the baby or the BBQ – maybe all 3)

Three Judges were able to pick the mass produced macro beer out of the bunch naming #12 as the Shock Top.

The overall winner was described as: “inviting”, “buttery”, “delicious”, “hazelnut” and “fantastic”.  The average rating for the top pumpkin ale was a whopping 4.7 out of 5.

The average rating for each brand is as follows:

            Brand                                     Rating

 1.       Smuttynose                         1.7                 
2.        Uinta Punk                           1.8
3.        South Hampton                  3.0
4.        Lakefront                              2.5
5.        River Horse                          2.7
6.        Wolaver’s                             2.5
7.        Dog Fish Head                     2.6
8.        Shipyard Smashed             3.4
9.        Post Road                             3.1                 
10.      Blue Moon                          1.9
11.      Sam Adams                         3.3
12.      Shock Top                           2.3
13.      Elysian                                  3.0
14.      Hoppin’ Frog                      4.0
15.      Landmark                            1.5
16.      Southern Tier                     4.7
17.      Weyerbacher                     3.6
18.      St. Ambroise                       2.8
19.      Fisherman’s                        2.8

The Southern Tier Imperial Pumpking brewed in Lakewood, New York has always been my favorite and I was pleased to find out that I am not alone.  To my taste buds, it has a sweet, nutmeg flavor that tastes so good on my tongue I’m hesitant to let it go down my throat.  As an Imperial Ale, it’s brewed to carry a pretty high alcohol content.  But the 8.6% ABV is more than masked by the sweetness and flavor. The Pumpking, which I recently reviewed, gives you a good “bang for your buck” at $7.99 per 22oz. bottle.

Another standout was Frog’s Hollow from Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio.  The judges described this Double Pumpkin Ale as “spicy”, “nutmeg” and “cinnamon” and gave it an average rating of 4.0. 

What are your favorite Pumpkin Ales?  Are there pumpkin ales we should be including in next year’s test?  We’d love to know.


  1. Saw your review on BA. I've tried most of what you have on display there and I agree that Pumking really is the king of Pumpkin ales, at least as far as my own taste buds have extended. See if you can get your hands on this one for next year:

    I've heard its a real treat!

  2. @Mike, Thanks for commenting. I have never tried a beer from Alaska before but I'll see if I can get my hands on it for next year. I see from the web site you posted that they distribute in NY. Hvae a great halloween!!

  3. @Mike, Thanks for commenting. I have never tried a beer from Alaska before but I'll see if I can get my hands on it for next year. I see from the web site you posted that they distribute in NY. Have a great halloween!!

  4. Some good beers in there. The Hoppin' Frog is my fav of those listed.

    I'd strongly recommend grabbing a bottle of Devious Imperial Pumpkin by Bethlehem Brew Works if you can still find it. It's on par with the Hoppin' Frog, perhaps better depending on personal preference.

    The Cigar City Good Gourd is also quite impressive. Not easy to find up here though. Enjoy!

  5. OK, in the picture #3 is that Nacho Cheese in the guys ear or something else?

  6. Brystmar. I will check out that Devious Imperial. I love Cigar City Bolita brown ale. Where do you get good craft beer in your area?

  7. Great line up. I initially tried Pumpking based on several bloggers' recommendations. It sure is a hit.

    My goal now is to try some ciders, while we still have fall-like weather. Do you have any recommendations that can be found in the tri-state area?

  8. Before reading the results I had a feeling Pumking would be the winner. Some you should include next year is Heavy Seas' The Great Pumpkin and their Greater Pumpkin as well. I would compare them to Pumking in greatness.

  9. @Lisa, Thanks for the comment! I have not tried any ciders yet this season. They do warm up the bones when the air gets cold though. I did a quick search and found this link about cider in the HUdson Valley: Good Luck!

    Anon, I've heard from others that Heavy Seas is very good. Do you know where I can find it?

  10. Where is Schlafly's pumpkin ale?!

  11. You really need to include the Schlafly Pumpkin Ale in this test next year....

  12. If you can get your hands on some Rumpkin from Avery next year, do it. The rumor is that they will bottle it again and it is amazing, although this year was a very limited release. Hopefully next year there will be more.

  13. @HGT and Anon, I have heard of Schafly but it was not readily available in the Bevy Centers I checked in the NY/NJ area. Hopefully I'll find it for next year. Thanks for commenting.

  14. @Stonecipher, Thanks for the recommendation. I love Avery's Brown Ale so I'm sure the pumpkin is outrageous.

  15. OK i just had some Southern Thier Pumking, it was great. I absolutely loved it.

    I had Smuttynose as well, it tastes more like an IPA with a hint of pumpkin. I also had Blue Moon pumpkin ale and it was disgusting.

  16. I'm glad you enjoyed Pumpking. I still have about half a case left over. So my holidays will be happy! Thanks for stopping in.