Please enjoy this post from my hubby Neil.
Every year around this time, Lindsay and I have a pumpkin and seasonal beer tasting party. The size and format of the party has changed just about every year with our first party was just the two of us and it was a healthy mix of pumpkin and seasonal beers. This year we had six adults taking part in the tasting, two observers and a slew of children playing together and having a good time. One thing that is consistent is that we’ve always had some form of rating system for the beers.
Sourcing the beers to taste is one of the fun (and sometimes tedious) parts of the process. This year, we started collecting beers to sample early on in the season and have been acquiring a beer here and there when something catches our eye. This year was probably the first year that the selection was entirely pumpkin as well. We managed to find a healthy mix of local beers, imports from the East Coast and even a cider.
With such a wide selection of beers and a large number of guests, we needed to find a way to adequately supply tasting glasses for everyone. Early on in the shopping process for the tasting, we had noticed Target had a beer tasting party collection designed by graphic designer and blogger Kate Peters of Wit & Delight. The suggested price of the products was a bit on the expensive side for disposable goods but as the party grew closer, Lindsay was able to find the beer tasting cups and cards and a few other party items for half off in stores. On each tasting card was four different spots to grade the beers you are tasting. The options were “Another” or “Never Again” with some of us adding a third option equated to “I’d drink it for free, but I wouldn’t pay for it.”
After some appetizers, we got the tasting under way. We poured four beers at a time and took the time to discuss what we thought of each beer as a group. The nice thing about pumpkin beers is that they come in an ever growing variety of styles. Love it or hate it, it wasn’t too long ago that it seemed that all of the pumpkin beers on the market were sweet, pumpkin pie spice bombs. It’s nice to see some more balance and moderation in flavor and styles.
As we made our way through the beers, we had a great time discussing what we thought of the beers and what specifically we liked and disliked about them (as well as giving those who like the least popular ones a hard time of course).
The results of the voting weren’t really all that surprising. The breweries at the top are known for making great tasting and creative beers. I know my personal favorite was the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Punkin managed to fall into the “pumpkin pie” style of beer with out being overwhelmingly sweet or spicy. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale has consistently been in our top picks for our favorite pumpkin beers since we started doing the tastings. I also enjoyed the New Belgium Pumpkick. The spices weren’t too heavy and the addition of the cranberries in the beer was a nice touch, giving it a slightly tart taste.
The East Coast wholly embraces Autumn’s seasonal beers and why shouldn’t it? Fall in New England is arguably the best season of the year. That being said since moving to the West Coast we have struggled to find many of our favorite pumpkin/Autumn beers. However there is one brewery that we’ve enjoyed and have found really embraces pumpkin beers on the west coast is Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Company.
Elysian brews up a number of different pumpkin beers every fall and even host a pumpkin beer festival. Their beers have done really well in both of the tastings we’ve had since moving to Portland with Night Owl coming in third this year and first last year.
Elysian’s pumpkin coffee stout Punkuccino (not officially part of the tasting) was Lindsay and my personal favorite this year. It’s made with Stumptown Coffee cold brew, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was incredibly smooth and was basically a pumpkin spice latte in beer form. (Lindsay jumping in here- seriously the best pumpkin beer ever and I’m bummed we couldn’t locate another bottle for our tasting).
Now on to the losers of this years tasting. The two huge disappointments in the lot were the Burnside Brewing The Dapper Skeleton and the Woodchuck Hard Cider Private Reserve Pumpkin Cider. The Dapper Skeleton just fell flat. The description was just so enticing with the chillies and cocoa nibs but in reality they didn’t add much to the beer. In the opinion of all but one of our tasters, the Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider was terrible. I don’t think a single person was able to even finish their two ounce pour. I know I took only one sip before dumping it.
Below is the tally of our votes:
This was our biggest pumpkin/seasonal beer tasting to date and we look forward to carrying on with it for many years to come. We’re also planning to host more seasonal and themed tasting parties as well as beer pairing dinners in the future.
What seasonal beer or drink do you look forward to most?