Yotam Dror reviewed and rated handful of the many pumpkin brews available this season.
Ah, October: candy corn, Halloween, fall leaves, random orange-colored things. Let’s be honest. Because we’re in college, most weekends in October involve the same thing they do every other month: beer. But with pumpkin-infused brews, beer-lovers can enjoy one of the staples of the season, and college students can justify their indulgences with something a bit classier than Natty Ice.
I remember all-too-fondly my freshman-year days, when friends and I would speak lowly of typical college kids and proclaim that we, unlike others, drank beer for quality, not quantity. Those days passed, but thoughts of quality beer never left the back of my consciousness. While they often come at a higher price than their light-lager counterparts, quality brews offer a good reason to splurge once in a while.
After I returned from the Foodery at 10th and Pine streets, I sat in my living room with four newly acquired pumpkin ales: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Southampton Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Southern Tier Imperial Pumking. To keep my review as unbiased as possible, I gathered a bowl of peanuts and a cup of water to clear my palate between each beer.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Alcohol by volume: 7 percent
Price per bottle: $3.15
As the first beer touched my lips, I was confused. This beer does not taste like beer at all. Rather, it tastes the way one might assume pumpkin juice would taste.
With extremely low carbonation and high amounts of sugar, this beer was easy to drink and fairly tasty. Not bad. But, in comparison to the other beers reviewed, the flavor turns out to be fairly disappointing.
The beer wasn’t bad, but that is as far as its description goes: plain-and-simply not bad. For a sweet beverage with higher-than-average alcohol content, go for a Four Loko. For a good beer and a quick buzz, Dogfish Head is the best choice. But buying a good beer just for the sake of getting drunk doesn’t make much sense to me.
Southampton Pumpkin Ale
Alcohol by volume: 5.5 percent
Price per bottle: $2.75
Compared to Dogfish Head, this beer truly tasted like pumpkin. And, with the addition of vanilla, I could almost taste whipped cream on top of a slice of pumpkin pie. The vanilla in this beer was the game changer.
The Southampton Pumpkin Ale’s flavor was unlike any of the others – offering the sweetness of the Dogfish Head, but with enough strong spice flavors to feel, well, special. If you’re eating pumpkin pie, drink pumpkin-pie ale, too, while you’re at it.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Alcohol by volume: 8 percent
Price per bottle: $3.60
When professional beer reviewers (what a job, right?) discuss beers, they bring up the topic of “mouthfeel.” Until I tried this beer, I had no idea what mouthfeel meant, but it’s the first thing I noticed about Weyerbacher.
Unlike most beers, which normally have a cold bubbly feeling, this beer could be a smoothie. The liquid was thick, with almost no carbonation, and even with its 8 percent ABV, the bitter taste of alcohol is nearly nonexistent.
Although it was good, this beer had extremely strong cinnamon flavors, which overpowered the others, especially the pumpkin. Because of its strong cinnamon flavor, this beer could not be enjoyed with anything else. It would make food taste like cinnamon, and food would just make the beer taste gross.
Southern Tier imperial Pumking
Alcohol by volume: 9 percent
Price per bottle: $10.85
It is probably wrong to love a beer too much in one review, but call me wrong all you want. This is one of the best beers I have ever had.
For the first minute after my first sip of this beer, I could not describe it. It tasted nothing like the last three. My roommate, who joined me in tasting, turned to me and told me this was the evil “Pumking of Beers.” Strangely, that may be the best way to describe it.
This beer had strong nutty, bitter flavors, but somehow left a sweet cinnamon aftertaste. The aftertaste was almost as good as the beer itself. Unlike the Weyerbacher’s bold cinnamon flavor, which would ruin food, I would not dare to eat after drinking Pumking for fear the flavors would be lost.
However, there is a catch: Pumking is only sold in 22-ounce bottles for $10.85 a piece. This is not a beer to buy whenever you please, but something to save for a pseudo-special occasion.
Overall, it is difficult to choose the best beer of the group. Although Southern Tier had the best and most interesting taste, it falls in the category of Wonderful Alcoholic Dessert, rather than Beer. I could not see anyone drinking this beer at a bar or party. The Southern Tier would be better suited for a nice treat on a cold day when there’s nothing better to do. It is a beer I would have maybe once or twice per season, as its price makes it impractical, and its uniqueness might be lost if it were consumed too often.
Therefore, as an actual beer to enjoy and drink often, the No. 1 Pumpkin Beer Title instead goes to Southampton Pumpkin Ale. Its flavors are special and original, but this beer still tastes most similar to actual pumpkin, with the vanilla sweetness to keep your mind and palate hankering for a slice of pie.
Yotam Dror can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.