Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Extavaganza

I will get through all these pumpkin beers before November is out!  I WILL!  Here is the next batch, some are available around here and a few are gleaned from my recent travels outside of Minnesota.  I'll also talk about some non-beer pumpkin drinks...

Harpoon Pumpkin UFOHarpoon is a brewery that opened in Boston back in 1986, and has been making craft beer ever since.  This is actually the first beer I've ever tried from them, since they have no distribution in Minnesota.  Per the website, this is a beer made with German Munich and Vienna malt, and the brewery makes a big deal about it being unfiltered.  Pumpkins and unnamed spices round out the recipe.
Aroma: Nutmeg, cinnamon and actual pumpkin abound in the aroma.  No hop scents.  I get a slightly fruity ester profile that accentuates the sweet malt.
Appearance: Copper in color with a slight haze (as promised).  A bit of sediment despite smooth pour.  There is very minimal head to this beer and what is present disappears quickly.
Flavor: Sweet maltiness with a medium body.  I get some nutmeg and possibly vanilla in the middle of the taste.  As it warms up I taste pumpkin flesh and a hint of ginger.  Balanced to the malty side and lacks the astringency I see in many pumpkin beers.
Overall: A very well balanced beer.  This comes off as malt balanced but not overly sweet, with some pumpkin pie spices present.  Some complexity here, and I get a true pumpkin aroma and flavor to the beer--one of only three I've found so far in my tastings.  Low carbonation hurts it a bit.  I would happily drink more of this if I could find it!  4 of 5 score.

Redhook Out Of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter:  This is a seasonal offering from Washington's Redhook Brewery.  Per the website: "Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter is dark chestnut brown in color and is made with pureed pumpkin. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are added to the whirlpool and maple syrup is added during fermentation. This full-bodied, rich roasty porter makes you want to eat turkey and watch football, or build a bonfire." 
Aroma: Nutmeg and cinnamon up front.  Some roast malt is present, but not extreme.  Some sugar and sweetness noted.  No esters or hop aromas.
Appearance: Opaque dark brown to nearly black in color.  Has a fine tan head that is easily roused.
Flavor: Roast malt and a hint of sweetness up front.  Fades to a ginger and nutmeg finish with a slight astringency.  Not a lot of malt in the flavor, and the body seems thin.  No real pumpkin flavor.
Overall: I like the concept of pumpkin porters, but this one falls short to me.  The spicing is not heavy handed, but the astringent finish and light body hurt this one for me.  I'd like a bit more residual sweetness and mouthfeel out a porter.  3 out of 5.

Terrapin Pumpkin Fest: This is a brewery out of Athens, Georgia that has been putting out flavorful craft beers since 2002.  I picked this up in Alabama at Wish You Were Beer.  Made with real pumpkin, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Aroma: Plump real pumpkin aroma!  Sweet malty notes, followed by nutmeg and cinnamon.  No hops noted.  A hint of ginger as it is swirled.
Appearance: Deep gold color with a slight protein haze.  Rocky off-white head with large bubbles at edge of glass.  Very persistent head.
Flavor: Sweet and malty at first, but ends off-dry and very drinkable.  Not a cloying sweetness at all.  Strong nutmeg/allspice and ginger flavors after the first malt hit.  Cinnamon flavor trails behind but distinct.  I do taste pumpkin flesh and ends with a subtle astringency that I've come to associate with real pumpkin.  Medium mouthfeel, almost creamy.
Overall: A very good Octoberfest beer, that is well balanced in its own right.  The malty sweetness plays well with the spicing and evens out any of that astringency from spice and pumpkin.  Very drinkable!  4/5.

Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider: This is one of the "Private Reserve" series of seasonal ciders from Vermont's Woodchuck Hard Cider.  Sj loves the Granny Smith variety and that is her go-to drink of choice with many foods.  Most of the other varieties we have had from this large cidermaker have not been as much to our liking.  Seeing this one on the shelf prompted us to grab a bottle and see how it stacked up to the pumpkin beers we have been working our way through.
Aroma: Sweet cider apples, but mostly smells like baked apple pie.  Strong cinnamon and maybe some allspice.  Grape bubblegum as it warms.
Appearance: Deep orange color (this cider uses caramel coloring for that effect).  Almost no head.  Pettilant, with very mild carbonation, noted with swirling.  Excellent clarity.
Flavor: Very sweet apple that reminds me of cinnamon apple pie.  Possibly a hint of ginger burn at the finish.  No pumpkin flavor noted.  Not incredibly complex.  Cloyingly sweet on the tongue and makes me want a sip of water afterward.
Overall:  Way, way, way too sweet to be drinkable.  Mellow warm pie spice but more like apple than pumpkin.  We didn't finish this...not worth the calories. 2.5/5.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin: I'll admit, I wouldn't be caught dead buying a six-pack of this.  My beer geek friends would disown me.  But the kind waiter at Old Chicago let me have a sample of it, so here it is on my list.  It is from a small sample glass and that may have affected aroma a bit.
Aroma: I get nutmeg followed by sweet caramel and then a hint of allspice.  Some corny aroma mixes with some fruity pear and apple esters.  No hop aroma.
Appearance: Deep gold in color with crystal clarity.  Fine white head, that seems to last.
Flavor: Fruity sweetness up front, followed by flavors of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg.  No real pumpkin noted.  The apple and corn flavors make this taste more like apple pie.  Creamy mouthfeel, but ends somewhat flat.
Overall: Not a lot of complexity, but has the proper mix of spices.  Not as bad as I thought it would be--I've had worse this season.  I'm dying a little inside by giving this a 3.5 out of 5.

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