Beer Review: A bevy of pumpkin ales, part 2

For part 1, click here. In part 2, we continue slogging through the selection of seasonal pumpkin beer offerings, with:

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier Pumking

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Me: We happened across this beer on a post from Beer and Whiskey Brothers. After the rave review, we had to add it to the list.  We couldn’t find a bottle, so we headed to Bilbo Baggins in Old Town to get our draft on.


This beer is a contender. It’s a clovey bastard, with some cinnamon and nutmeg. The pumpkin is there, but it takes a backseat to the spices…in a good way, though. The flavors are reminiscent of hot, spiced apple cider, except it’s cold…and beer.   It is very drinkable. I would have thrown down a couple more, but my 3-year old daughter had different ideas about how to spend the rest of the afternoon.

The Haybag:  I like it.  It has some nice apple cider flavors to it.  Not as much pumpkin as I look for, though…even after it warms up.

Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin
(An imperial pumpkin ale aged in bourbon barrels)

Me: By the power of freaking Greyskull! Did they forget to drain the motherloving barrel? I could smell the bourbon while pouring the beer.

It pours a hazy amber, with a small and quickly receding head. It smells and tastes like bourbon, vanilla, and some pumpkin pie. Although, as you get to the bottom and the beer warms, the bourbon mellows to a more oaky flavor.

I like this crazy little bastard. But I am a sucker for the unholy union of beer and whiskey. Hell, I’ll drop a Jameson in a Guinness just for funsies.

The Haybag: First impression: Ack!  The taste, the smell, the aftertaste!  Too much.  15 minutes later: Hey. This tastes pretty good.  It has a nice oaky flavor.  Is there any left?

Me: Burp. Sorry. You said you didn’t like it.

Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Me: This one started out decent, with a pleasant cinnamon and pumpkin smell and taste; but then it went all haywire.  Kind of like the movie Enemy Mine, when in the middle of an otherwise OK flick you find out that Louis Gossett, Jr.’s, alien character is a self-fertilizing hermaphrodite…and pregnant…then dies during childbirth. Wha? OK, so maybe it’s not exactly like that.  But at end, the beer tasted like watered-down ginger ale…which is about as appealing as seeing Louis Gossett, Jr., give birth.

“What? It’s the circle of life, baby.”

The Haybag: Maybe you shouldn’t nurse your beer. Hey, I’m sick of mediocre pumpkin beers. When can we drink the Pumking?

Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Oops. Almost forgot to take the picture.

Me: I had this beer last season, and I was wildly enthusiastic about it.  Apparently, I was not alone. This year, the beer store imposed a two-bottle limit on Pumking.

Then the other day, a co-worker of mine commented that Pumking tasted like…well, I am hesitant to say…because he’s right and it’s weird.  We’ll just say that it’s kid tested, and mother approved.

Feck me. This is like when you realize midway through a Shakira video that she sounds like Kermit the Frog.  Or maybe it’s like when the Haybag told me that girls don’t actually have lingerie-clad pillow fights at sleepovers.  Afterwards, you just can’t go back and see it in the same light. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m too upset.

The Haybag: What are you talking about? This is hands down the best pumpkin pie taste. All hail the King.  Wait, you watch Shakira videos?


Here are the rankings.  Some were close calls.  And we didn’t drink them all in one sitting, so it was hard to think back and rank (as opposed to it being hard to walk had we had them all in one sitting).

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

*We didn’t review this.  But we drank it…unfortunately.


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.