Shipyard Pumpkinhead

It’s a funny thing.  Every year I try the Pumpkin Ale offering from Shipyard Brewing Co. out of Maine.  And every year I’m disappointed.  Must be a genetic defect on my part.

I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and my string of un-impressed tastings has reached 4 or 5 years in a row now.  Then I started reading some great reviews of it online and even my guy at the local distributor claimed that it was his favorite Pumpkin Ale.  By far.

So tonight I picked up a sixer of it to give it a second (5th? 6th?) chance. 

Bad move.

While it possesses one of the more interesting aromas (a lot of spice…not a lot of pumpkin) out of any of the Pumpkins on the market today, that is where it’s appeal ends.  For me, at least.  It’s thin.  It’s watery.  It’s got no aftertaste whatsoever.  I relate it to the Coors Light of Pumpkin Ales.  It’s THAT weak.  Not necessarily awful, just weak and disappointing.

My Rating: 3 out of 10.

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Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale

Had an ice-cold Pumpkin Ale from Smuttynose Brewing Co. out of New Hampshire last night.  I don’t recall if I’ve had it in past years so the only thing I can compare it to is the other pumpkins I’ve tried thus far here in 2008.  And I’m a big fan of the pumpkins, so I’ve had a few.

I liked this one a lot.  It started with a stronger pumpkin aroma mixed with some spices than some of the other varieties I’ve started with.  It was also a bit sweeter.  I saw one reviewer over on Beer Advocate call it “pumpkin candy”, and that isn’t far off.  The sweetness was offset a bit by a blast of hops there at the finish.  The result was a very drinkable beer that I could easily see having more than one of over the course of the evening.

While it would probably go well with any number of Autumn dishes (or even a bag of chips), it seems to me like this is an ale better suited to drinking on its own.  Very nice.

My Rating: 7 out of 10.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

I started to enjoy this Pumpkin Ale from Weyerbacher Brewery out of Pennsylvania more and more as I worked my way through it.  The initial taste left me a little flat.  Not enough pumpkin…too much pumpkin…not enough spice…too much spice.  It was all swirling around and I couldn’t get a handle on it.  Then I put it down for a couple of minutes and tried again.

Second time was the charm!  The aroma doesn’t knock you off your feet, but the taste is pure, mellow pumpkin.  A hint of spice, certainly a lot milder than many a pumpkin out there.  And you aren’t blindsided by the high ABV (8.0%), hence the Imperial moniker.  Had a very easy going finish as well.  Surprising for such a high alcohol brew.

I had the screen door open on a night when there was just a touch of Autumn crispness in the air.  It started to drizzle and a little breeze filled with sea air began to waft in.  This is when I really started to enjoy it.  Autumn is my favorite time of year, and beers like this one make it all that much more special.

My Rating: 7 out of 10.

Southern Tier

We sat down prior to a delicious meal of pasta and meatballs from Maroni’s this evening to try a couple of seasonal brews from Southern Tier Brewing Companyout of Lakewood New York. The two we tried were the PumKing (an Imperial Pumpkin Ale) and the Creme Brulee (an Imperial Milk Stout). They like the word “Imperial”. And it fits their brews to a T!  We enjoyed the big 22oz bottles, which I’m pretty sure is the only packaging available on these delicious brews.

PumKing – I love pumpkin beers. It’s probably has a lot to do with my love of Autumn just as much as anything. For years when it came to pumpkins, my only choice was Post Road’s Pumpkin Ale. And it was a great choice. A little different every year, it always tasted wonderful. Many years later now, I’ve tried just about every pumpkin beer I could get my grubby hands on. And with absolute glee, I have to say that PumKing is the best of the bunch! So much flavor, so much aroma, great color. It literally has everything going for it. While there are a whole slew of great food pairing ideas with this one, I prefer to enjoy it on its own. What a delicious brew!

My Rating – 10 out of 10.

Creme Brulee – As soon as you open the bottle on this one you can smell a strong toffee aroma that is bigger than the bottle itself.  Great aroma!  It pours nicely with a lush, thick head and it looks great in the glass.  The taste is both smooth, as an Imperial Milk Stout would suggest, and bold as it’s 10.0% ABV would dictate.  Wow!  It’s not a beer that usually fits within my comfort zone, to be honest.  As I’ve mentioned before I have a “thing” about stouts.  But it is unquestionably delicious even though I don’t think I could finish one all by myself.  It would be great with a rich dessert or as a dessert on its own.

My Rating – 7 out of 10.