In 2011 we hosted the world’s (self-proclaimed) most amazing pumpkin beer tournament and blind tasting…
..only the most sophisticated palates participated. Because I will not be done analyzing the 66 2013 pumpkin beers in my apartment until closer to Christmas, I must rerun this post from my now-deleted old food blog. You are welcome.
VERBATIM, THE AMANDA OF ALMOST TWO YEARS AGO:
I’m one of those girls that likes to watch sports and drink alcohol, preferably at the same time.
When it comes to beer, I rarely discriminate. I’ll try any artisan beer. I’ll sip a Coors Light in a ball gown. I’ll guzzle a warm 40-oz if I need to dammit! Being a more frequent wine and spirits imbiber, I realized I never got into pumpkin beer come autumn. Tsk tsk.
The past two months my apartment became a glorified beer closet. It started with my boyfriend’s hankering for the Sam Adams Seasonal Pack, which we couldn’t find within a one-block radius so we settled on a 12-pack of Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale. It was tasty. The next day we found the Sam Seasonal Pack and the Harvest Pumpkin Ale was tasty too. Both yummy; there had to be even better out there in the great, wide, beer beyond…
And so it began. No pumpkin beer was safe; we bought every single one we could find in greater Los Angeles. If BevMo was out an order was placed. We even had a huge box of seasonal beers shipped from Jersey. Serious business. Seriously expensive business. This is dedication. I’m a chef; my counter space if valuable. It disappeared. After the pantry overfloweth I also lost my dining table and about 40% of my refrigerator.
The beer flavor spectrum was vast. Some light and crisp with a short finish; others deep, bold, even smoky. There were numerous ways to classify the beer so a basic grades spreadsheet was made. Why stop there? Why not a “Sunday Funday Pumpkin Beer Tournament” to crown an ultimate victor? Obstacle: A self-proclaimed “pumpkin beer” can be excellent yet have a mere trace of pumpkin flavor. A mediocre beer can be shockingly pumpkiny. Who wins? In the end, their excellencies “the beer committee” agreed; the beer that goes on in the competition is the beer you like better regardless of how much pumpkin hit your palette. We just aimed to isolate the best all around beer. No biases or preferences and the final rounds were blind tastings. To create a symmetrical playing field we selected four beers, based on numerical scores from our original spreadsheet, for a first round “bye”: Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale, Lakefront Pumpkin Lager, Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and Wasatch Pumpkin Ale.
To all the beers we missed or couldn’t get ahold of, my apologies. To the ones that didn’t make the tournament, better luck next year. So many were close but we had to start our “sweet 12” with the highest rankers.
A special dishonorable mention goes out to “America’s Original Pumpkin Ale” from Buffalo Bill’s Brewery. The “original” should retire. We found it to be thin as water, virtually pumpkin and spice-less, with an unpleasant sour finish.
Congratulations Lakefront! The right amount of pumpkin up front that doesn’t drop off like many of the others. The finish doesn’t change course. Very smooth, simply delicious.