Welcome to round two of the search for the best pumpkin beer! Last week I sampled some ales and decided that Dogfish Head’s 2016 Punkin Ale was the best of that batch. This week it’s time to test a few imperial pumpkin ales and a pumpkin IPA. So who’s the winner in this second sampling? That would be…
Flying Dog’s The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Dark, weird, slippery… and DELICIOUS. Pictured at the top of this post, Flying Dog’s The Fear had an unexpected flavor profile. Not after you sniff it, not after you pour it, only as you take your first sip do you realize pumpkin beer needs molasses and ginger flavors sometimes. The Fear smells sweeter than it tastes, though the sweetness that does linger is well-appointed to cut through the thicker, creamy flavor. This beer also has a great mouthfeel, though it’s not heavy on the carbonation. You should not *anticipate* drinking multiples because it’s 9% ABV, but I can’t guarantee you won’t want to.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
I give this one props for the best bottle- it is reminiscent of a Halloween fairy tale. It pours pretty dark and this one has an 8% ABV. The Weyerbacher is a little sweeter than I would otherwise prefer, but the smell of the beer is amazing. They should make this a candle: the perfect combo of pumpkin spice with a stout twist. The primary flavors I noted were molasses and cinnamon, and I enjoyed the way this one felt on the tongue, too, being a bit more carbonated than Flying Dog’s offering.
The Gourd Standard: Pumpkin IPA from Flying Dog
Now, I am not the biggest fan of IPAs. But a Pumpkin IPA is a rare site, so I had to include it in my sampling. It smelled very much like pumpkin pie spices, very sweet with a slight hoppiness. I was happy to find that the sweetness was not overpowering in the drink itself, probably because of those hops. At 6.7% ABV, it was far less heavy than the imperial ales I was sampling in this batch. The Gourd Standard is a well balanced beer, though in this iteration I found the bitterness a little off-putting. And I didn’t get any actual pumpkin flavors in this one, which is too bad, because the Smuttynose I sampled last week made excellent use of a bitter flavor to give their pumpkin ale an earthy note.
Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Ale
Oh man. So… I thought I got a bad bottle when first sampling the Pumking Imperial Ale. So, I bought another, from a different store and a different STATE… and that’s when it hit me, this is the worst beer I’ve had in a while. I don’t understand why it comes so highly recommended! I recoil at the medicinal smell, almost sickeningly sweet. The mouthfeel is chalky, as though you just ate a whole roll of Necco wafers before taking a sip. The only pumpkin-esque thing about the flavor is the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg; otherwise it tastes like some ungodly mix of marshmallow and vanilla. At 8.6% ABV, the only good thing about this beer is that it will get you drunk quickly, so you forget you were drinking it at all.
And that concludes my pumpkin beer sampling! It was a revelation to find a few ales that I could drink *gasp* any time of year. I had a helper in sampling these beers who has a taste for more bitter beers than I, and really liked the IPA from this second batch, but you may prefer any number of the ones I discounted for entirely different reasons. This is a subjective process, so if you’ve got a different opinion let me know in the comments because I would love to hear it!
P.S. I do not recommend anyone drink this many pumpkin beers in the span of 10 days.