Monday, October 13, 2014

Analysis: Three Pumpkin Beers IV

I used this Thanksgiving weekend as an excuse to continue my methodical pumpkin beer tasting. I completed a tasting in 2010, 2012, and 2013. Each of these previous tastings were based on three seasonal brews. As each year passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to find new subjects for my experiment; fortunately, new craft breweries are popping up all over BC, and each one of these new incubators wants to try to make a pumpkin beer. This year, we had several people contribute bottles, so it was actually a seven beer tasting. I kept the title of this entry the same as past entries though, for the sake of continuity. Here are the results:

1) Phillips Crooked(er) Tooth Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale
Pumpkin beers seem to fall into one of two categories: drinkable and light ales that are actually brewed with a great deal of roasted pumpkin, or dark and heavy ales that contain limited pumpkin but a great deal of spices associated with pumpkin and pumpkin pie. Phillips' Crooked Tooth and Crooked(er) Tooth are both on the light side and pumpkin-focused. Even this new release for 2014, which is higher alcohol at 7.3% ABV and rich due to its whiskey barrel finish, is smooth and fairly dry. This was the hit of the night. A

2) Canuck Empire Brewing Pumpkin Patch Ale
I hadn't heard of this Abbotsford brewery before trying this beer, and now I know why. With a putrid cabbage finish and an isopropyl mouthfeel, this seasonal release tastes like a product made by homebrewers who don't know what they are doing. The unanimous failure of the night, this beer was bitter and contained very little pumpkin flavor. Its colour was a light copper, but it was much more pleasant to look at than to consume. F

3) Spinnakers Spiced Pumpkin Ale
I've never been a fan of Spinnakers. However, this was a blind sampling, so you'd think my bias could not be applied. While my eyes could not identify which bomber was produced by Spinnakers, my tastebuds could! To quote some of the notes taken by tasters that night "smoky", "little pumpkin flavour", and "bourbony" were descriptors used more than once. The nose on this badboy was intense too. This is not an easy-drinking beer. Spinnakers Pumpkin Ale is one of those beers that should probably be called a harvest or spiced ale rather than a pumpkin ale. We all graded this one about the same as well. C+

4) Nelson Brewing Organic Pumpkin Ale
I knew that I had reviewed this last year, but we threw it into the blind taste test anyway. What were we going to do, not drink a rare and craft-brewed pumpkin beer?! This beer is actually just so-so, and its bouquet is better than its taste. To reiterate last year's review: "This beer poured a light copper colour and had a nice head. Similar to Fernie's Pumpkin Head, pumpkin was not the dominant flavour. This beer packs a spicy wallop, and two members of our group noted that it tastes a lot like chai tea. This beer was not sweet, so its heavy spice characteristics suit both dinner and dessert." B

5) Cannery Knucklehead Pumpkin Ale
Not a great sign right off the bat: a thin white crown and minimal lacing. Combine these warning signs with the cola colour and lack of squash nose/flavour and you have a drinkable harvest ale rather than a fragrant pumpkin beer. Almost all respondents made a point of noting the non-existent nose, and three of the seven tasters used the adjective "woody" when describing the finish. I thought this beer was pretty solid and that it would pair with food quite well, but it would be hard for me to drink a full pint of it. B-  

6) #9 of Elysian's 12 Beers of the Apocalypse: BLIGHT
This one woke everyone up. This is a beer that wants to be noticed. And not surprisingly, this beer was great because it was made by Seattle's finest brewery. It is like Elysian's Night Owl on steroids: it has the same squashy and fragrant profile but the alcohol is bumped to 7.4% ABV and the spices are infiltrated by potent Vietnamese cinnamon. Two tasters noted a "banana bread nose" and almost everyone found the cinnamon/brown sugar characteristics rounded and pleasant rather than overpowering. Personally, I found this beer a bit on the sweet side, but appreciated how all of the flavours were distinctive and harmonious. A-

7) Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale
I have purchased and enjoyed this beer from the very first year it was produced. While it was my favourite from this year's selection, several people from our group found this beer to lack both spice and pumpkin flavour. I actually like this beer because of this light profile. Unlike most of the ales listed here, I could drink a full pint of this. I find many pumpkin beers to be cloying, but Crooked Tooth's raw pumpkin and acidic nose, combined with its low carbonation and delicate spicing, makes it clean and smooth. Phillips rules! A

Keywords: "best pumpkin beers", "BC pumpkin beers", "Phillips Crookeder Tooth"

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