Beer Review: A bevy of pumpkin ales, part 1

I don’t typically like gourds in my beer. One exception: pumpkins. So, I thought we could sort through the cluttered pumpkin beer market. By “we”, I mean the Haybag (my wife) and me. And by “pumpkin ales”, I mean:

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier Pumking

As an initial disclosure, the Haybag and I like pumpkin pie in a glass pumpkin ales…but it’s gotta taste like beer, too.  Otherwise, it’s not like we’re drinking beer, and we might as well just chase a can of pie mix with some bourbon instead (hmmm, note to self…).

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Me: I remember liking this beer.  At first sip, I remember why: Spices galore, with a hefty, but pleasant, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg flavor. Oh yeah, and some pumpkin. But what the hell is that lurking flavor…like a zippy ginger?  Whatever memory my brain is trying to retrieve, it is not in the happy file cabinet. Egad!  It’s cardamom!  My brain flashes back to this dirty, gingery bastard:

We meet again, old foe.

Ahhh, the Mule. We engaged in a pitched battle one night. You were on special, and I was a student. We’ll call it a draw, even though I didn’t make it home until 10am the next morning. And now Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin is forever tainted by whatever neural alleyway those umpteen Mules reside in…probably in a cardboard box.

The Haybag: How’s that my problem? The pumpkin might take a backseat to the spices, but this is damn good. We’re getting it again.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Me: It pours deep amber and clear, with a small head.  It actually tastes like a beer, maybe because the base beer is a brown ale.  It has a nice malt character, and I can taste the brown sugar, nutmeg, and pumpkin.  There’s something ever so slightly off, however, that keeps it from being my favorite.  I can’t place it, but the Haybag thinks she knows, and she has been claiming this for years…

The Haybag: It’s OK.  But dammit, Sam (Calagione), your Punkin beer tastes like pumpkin-scented soap.  This doesn’t hold a pumpkin-scented candle to Pumking.

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Me: Unremarkable all-around. New Holland mailed this one in like Hugh Grant in a romantic mismatch comedy. Maybe a hint of cinnamon. Where the hell is the pumpkin?  Only redeeming quality: bad ass label. It’s unfortunate. I like some New Holland beers.

The Haybag: Bleck.  This sucks…

Me: …like a Hugh Grant romantic mismatch comedy.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

Me: This beer confused me more than that Dukes of Hazard season where Coy and Vance Duke suddenly show up while Bo and Luke Duke are apparently off racing NASCAR.

Straight off the bat, it poured a light copper/orange, much lighter than I expected. I could smell pumpkin and nutmeg…and significant hops (huh?). The taste was big, sweet, slightly pumpkiny, creamy, and hoppy, with a hint of nutmeg.  I applaud them for somehow managing to balance all of this reasonably well.  And at times it ended up tasting a bit like a pumpkin tripel, which is both fascinating and heretical.  But much like that ill-fated Dukes of Hazard season, this beer, although tolerable at times, was ultimately not good.

The Haybag: Sometimes it came off as a bad barleywine. Are we even reviewing this one?  Who are Coy and Vance Duke?

To be continued…Part 2 will include Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin, Saranac Pumpkin Ale, and Southern Tier Pumking.  And I promise to start posting actual pictures of the beer from now on, instead of greedily slamming it then lazily finding a picture of the label on the Intertubes later.