Today the Deltoid has decided to put three representatives of the trendy fall pumpkin beer style head to head to head. As the leaves start to turn yellow, orange, and brown, the flavor of pumpkin starts popping up in all things edible. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin spice latte. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin candy. Are there any pumpkin flavored edible panties for Christ’s sake? I don’t think so, because I just “googled” it and could not find any (my imaginary girlfriend will be so disappointed).
American pumpkin ales have actually been around for a very long time, going back to the Colonial times (perhaps earlier) when pumpkins, a native fruit, were readily accessible and yielded high fermentable sugar content. But they have become loud and pronounced during autumn as a staple of the craft beer movement. I could pass on them, to be honest. To me it’s a fad; a capitalization on all things pumpkin. But I just bought and consumed three so you, my beloved reader, can continue to be informed on all things beer. I grabbed two of the more popular flavors as well as one from one of my favorite brewers. I shall now compare and contrast Uinta’s “Punk’n Harvest”, Southern Tier’s “Pumking” and Dogfish Head’s “Punkin Ale”.
Uinta “Punk’n Harvest’”
This particular pumpkin ale is not among the more popular selections. But Uinta is such a stellar brewer that I simply had to get it. I figured if I would enjoy a pumpkin ale, theirs would be a likely candidate. My hypothesis yielded a dud.
Punk’n pours nicely. Brown/orange in color. Loose, bubbly head. Smells like a brown ale. The odor of pumpkins is barely evident. From there it doesn’t get better. The mouth-feel is watery with an average feel of carbonation. It’s not bad. It has a decent brown ale flavor with nuts and bread, and while there exists the flavor of pumpkins it is practically absent. It has no after flavor. It is a pleasant beer but it isn’t memorable with one exception: as the glass sat on my table the odor of sweet pumpkin spice got stronger. I don’t know how. But I admit I liked it.
This would make a decent beer to hold and drink at a party or with pizza, burgers, and hot dogs. Overall it is disappointing because Uinta is such a high quality brewer. They know how to make a unique and memorable beer. This is not characteristic of a Uinta beer. I guess no brewer can bat a thousand.
Southern Tier “Pumking”
This one has a great reputation and I can understand why, although I shan’t be trying this one again. It’s a bit too hardcore pumpkin for me. It screams at me like my high school soccer coach. “DELTOID! PAY ATTENTION, YOU SPINELESS SACK OF GOAT ENTRAILS!” It’s just abusive.
It pours a deep orange color like old gold. There is a very little head that hisses for a moment like a cat. Then the hissing dies… like the same cat (shouldn’t have hissed at me, cat). Right off the bat it has a strong odor: pumpkin, clove, cinnamon, brown sugar… and it did bring a smile to my face. It smells like a pumpkin spice Yankee candle so it doesn’t seem very natural, though.
There was much more pumpkin flavor here than with Uinta’s. It displays a syrupy, malty, slightly boozy medicinal taste. It almost tricked me into thinking it had a spicy cinnamon texture to it. It is really interesting. It goes down easily but is filling. At first it tastes like a creamy ale but then the pumpkin and spice flavors get strong and punch you in the tongue. Moments after going down the throat it leaves a metallic aftertaste that is unpleasant but parts its way for a spicy, sugary, pumpkin flavor. One bomber is enough for me. That pumpkin flavor just bothers my stomach. It was tough to finish for me.
Style: 8/10 (I give this high marks because I can tell this is a pumpkin ale-lover’s beer. It has a strong ABV, a wonderful odor, and a heavy taste of sweet pumpkin pie. It’s just not for me).
Dogfish Head “Punkin Ale”
After Southern Tier’s pumpkin flavor bukkake assault on my taste buds I hesitated to pop off the cap to this bottle. I feared I would be performing a spot-on Tracey Gold impersonation in the sink. But I was pleasantly surprised, and it is with pleasure that I must report I got it all down, and I liked it.
This brew pours with a fairly dark brown/orange color and has virtually no head at all. It has the least amount of head among all three. The odor was mild and faint but I could smell those delightful pumpkins.
This ale has just the right amount of pumpkin flavor to make it drinkable, enjoyable as a pumpkin ale, and leaving me wanting to continue. It leans toward the pale ale category. It leaves a wonderful hoppy aftertaste; not the citrus/pine hoppiness, but a fresh, bitter, pale ale flavor. It feels wet, is well carbonated and superbly balanced. The finish and aftertaste are what I like about this one. After just finishing the previous two and on a full stomach it says a lot that I like this one. I won’t buy this again, but I will be very pleased to drink the remainder of my 4-pack.
Henry Deltoid’s pumpkin ale conclusion: Uinta “Punk’n Harvest”: decent brown ale but pretty much flavorless; and for a pumpkin ale quite bland.
Southern Tier “Pumking”: for pumpkin lovers for sure. I had a tough time handling it but it’s not my style; sort of like this one broad I took home one night who gyrated and thrust so much that I feared when I pulled out, my Italian meat-rod would be upside down.
Dogfish Head “Punkin Ale”: THE WINNER. This beer session was just like the Three Bears story. The first one was not enough. The second one was too much. And this one was just right. I truly feel like Goldilocks. I think I’ll go put on a blonde wig now and do a “Buffalo Bill style” dance in front of a full-sized mirror while listening to “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus. Isn’t that what everyone else does when they’re loaded?