Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Second Annual Pumpkin Beer Tasting - Why Do We Continue To Do This To Ourselves?

Once again we embark on an epic drinking journey in an attempt to understand why the fuck people get so excited about pumpkin beer.

The second annual Portland Food Coma Pumpkin Beer Celebration has arrived. Personally, I hate pumpkin beer, which is why I think it’s fun to torture my friends and myself in an attempt to locate at least one selection that we would actually call drinkable. This time we’ve upped the count from six selections to ten, representing breweries and bad puns from around the country.

The tasting always takes place on a Sunday, to insure that everyone will be hungover - which makes the whole ordeal that much more brutal. Our panel of judges, in addition to myself, is as follows:

An seasoned home brewer with extensive background in professional kitchens, Brad has been part of Deathmatch and many other dinner events we’ve organized. He currently works full time for Rosemont Bakery in Portland

The beer buyer for Downeast Beverage in Portland, and also an experienced home brewer. Nolan is the only returning veteran from last years PumCaCa, and maintains that he is still approaching with an open mind.

Although not in the business currently, she is an experienced drinker that has, on occasion, drank me into a hurt locker.

The rundown begins with the one that started it all….

1. Shipyard Brewery - Pumpkin Head, Portland, ME

Joe: This smells like a pumpkin-scented candle from the Christmas Tree Shops, and the flavor is reminiscent of nutmeg and shit. I imagine that this might be what it would taste like if you went down on the headless horseman.

Nolan: Smells more like spices than pumpkin, the taste is light and foul. I can’t believe people actually like this stuff.

Molly: Sugar and spice and nothing nice.

Brad: It smells bad, tastes even worse, but at least you can take comfort in knowing that no pumpkins were harmed in the creation of this beer!

2. Shipyard Brewery - Smashed Pumpkin, Portland, ME

Joe: In some circles, having sex is referred to as “smashing.” That being said, I can’t think of anyone who would want to “smash” this pumpkin. The nose reminds me of a cigarette that has been snubbed out in a pumpkin, and the taste is like biting into a cinnamon stick with a rotten banana peel wrapped around it.

Brad: The foil is nice, and the bottle features a flattering portrait of Alan Puglsey, however the beer tastes like a chemical spill and is, in fact, making me sweat.

Nolan: Smells like the Ringwood Brewery packed a train with screaming, sweaty German tourists, drove them straight in to a brick wall, wrapped their bodies in horrible spices, and then bottled the result a month later.

Molly: Worse than licking a rotten pumpkin dipped in piss.

3. Brooklyn Brewery - Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Brooklyn, NY

Joe: Flavors of pumpkin pie, and actually not too sweet with a hint of bitterness. I could maybe drink one, but then again why would I want to?

Nolan: Not over-done, with a trace of bitterness that actually makes it drinkable. Something’s a little strange with the finish though…

Brad: Decent, slightly hoppy nose, and it has a good amount of cinnamon and a bit of malt.

Molly: Smells better than it tastes, which is a little metallic to me.

4. Smuttynose Brewing - Pumpkin Ale, Portsmouth, NH

Joe: This one scores points for not using any puns in the name, however I get no pumpkin flavor whatsoever. The beer itself is fine, but not my style.

Brad: Great Nose, smells like beer, tastes like beer with spice just on the finish. It’s nicely hopped, and not noticeably pumpkin flavored.

Nolan: The spice is very mild and I enjoy the beer itself.

Molly: Light spice without a lot of pumpkin flavor. I like it.

5. Southern Tier Brewing - Pumking, Lakewood, NY

Joe: I don’t think I can properly stress how awful this shit is, I can’t even swallow it. It’s like someone mixed vanilla extract with rubbing alcohol. I’m so angry right now.

Nolan: Weird, what the fuck! I can’t even wrap my mind around this; I would rather drink Night Train…

Brad: Strange nose of hazelnuts, the taste is sickly sweet – kind of like a Dunkin Donuts Latte with too much Splenda. It’s sad that someone was proud of this beer, did they taste it?

Molly: The king is dead.

At this point Brad states, “When I drink these beers I forget what pumpkins actually taste like.”

6. Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Easton, PA

Joe: Though the cardamom is interesting, it has an unpleasant medicinal taste in the finish. Honestly, it kind of makes me want to shit.

Nolan: Similar over-the-top style that many Weyerbacher beers share, though it’s slightly astringent and steeped in the dark side…

Brad: Sweet with a nice level of carbonation, and it has lots of spice in the nose. Thankfully, it’s not so big in the taste. Kind of boozy.

Molly: Herbal in a bad way (picture drawn in notes of someone smoking a joint)

7. Rock Art Brewery Extreme Series - Pumpkin Imperial Spruce Stout, Morrisville, VT

Joe: Pleasant and creamy with notes of pine in the finish. Once again, I can’t taste a lot of pumpkin but I think that’s a good thing.

Brad: No spice on the nose, lots of malt, and a nice mouth feel with notes of anise. This one could fool you if you refuse to drink pumpkin crap.

Nolan: Mild pumpkin aroma, and I’m getting a slightly numbing sensation from the finish. For the first time I’m finishing my glass!

Molly: I had no idea that spruce trees were so delicious.

8. Dogfish Head Brewery - Punkin Ale, Milton, DE

Joe: Pleasant and dry, with very subtle pumpkin flavors. This was my favorite last year and it looks to be no different this time around.

Nolan: Nice, roasty nose gives way to a mild, lightly spiced flavor. This is a brief gasp of fresh air before plunging ourselves back into the sticky abyss of rancid booze.

Brad: Holy shit it smells like beer! Though referred to as”brown ale” I would say it’s more of a copper. Nice malt with subtle spices.

Molly: Drinkable... oh my god.

9. Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet - Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Baltimore, MD

Joe: Honestly, people who drink “pumpkin head” should switch to this, as it’s packed with the pumpkin pie flavors they’re looking for. Not that bad, surprisingly.

Nolan: Less offensive than you’d think, the sweetness is actually kind of bearable.

Brad: Amber color with slight spices on the nose. Though a little sweet, I could drink this once a year.

Molly: It’s got a taste that I like in booze, but hate in beer.

10. Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet – Greater Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Baltimore, MD

Joe: Aged in bourbon barrels, it’s got butterscotch, almost Werther’s Originals flavor that I’m actually kind of enjoying. I expected to hate this one, but I have to admit I might drink it after dinner.

Brad: I get almost citrusy flavors out of it. Mellow and kind of delicious

Nolan: Not bad, do you think we’re enjoying it because it’s the last one and our palates are shit?

Molly: Sweet and boozy, much like myself. Can we be done now?

The Final Results


1. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
2. Rock Art Extreme Series Spruce Stout
3. Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin IPA
4. Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin IPA
5. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
6. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
7. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
8. Pumpkin Head
9. Smashed Pumpkin
10. Southern Tier Pumking


1. Rock Art Extreme Series Spruce Stout
2. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
3. Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin IPA
4. Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin IPA
5. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
6. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
7. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
8. Smashed Pumpkin
9. Pumpkin Head
10. Southern Tier Pumking


1. Rock Art Extreme Series Spruce Stout
2. Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin IPA
3. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
4. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
5. Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin IPA
6. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
7. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
8. Smashed Pumpkin
9. Pumpkin Head
10. Southern Tier Pumking


1. Rock Art Extreme Series Spruce Stout
2. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
3. Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin IPA
4. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
5. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
6. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
7. Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin IPA
8. Smashed Pumpkin
9. Pumpkin Head
10. Southern Tier Pumking

Thank god it’s over for another year…

Friday, October 8, 2010

We have a lot of catching up to do, you and I...

To make up for my lack of posting I’ve decided to include several pictures of this summer’s highlights, beginning with a video from a campaign fundraiser for my friend Alex Steed that my friend Drew and I cooked for out in Cornish, Maine at Krista’s Restaurant. It is one of the last pieces of video footage featuring the enormous sideburns that always reminded me of seventies porn bush adorning the sides of my face.

Champagne & Caviar Night

photos by Drew Seaman

Six of us get together with 12 bottles of Non-Vintage Champagne to see which one reigns supreme. To accompany this we purchase 7.5 oz of assorted caviar that we serve with proper garnish, and eventually begin smearing on Papa John’s Pizza later that evening, which was decadent and delicious…

Taco Night

I wasn’t letting the summer go by without a proper taco night, and though a little less epic than the last one, it was no less delicious. Carnitas tacos with all the fixings’, served alongside Goya Mexican rice, spicy black beans, and corn on the grill with crema and coteja cheese. To wash this down I got a bottle of Don Julio 1942, to this day the best tequila I’ve ever had.

Goodfellas Night

My friend Bill is as obsessed with Goodfellas as I am, so to celebrate his birthday we all dressed up appropriately, cooked food from the movie, played bocce, and drank heavily. To enhance the mood I located every single track featured in the movie, and played them in correct order. Yes, I’m a little bit of a psycho.

Camp Awesome

photos by Katie Schier and Jamie O'Sullivan

Personally, I hate camping and everything camping-related, But when I got drunk and agreed to join my friends at their annual Camp Awesome excursion, they weren’t about to let me back out. By drinking six bottles of Broadbent vinho verde and eating some pretty great food prepared by Joel and Eric, I was able to persevere and make it through one grueling night in the wilderness. I slept for 16 hours when I got back.

Re-discovering one of my favorite California wine makers

I used to drink Sean Thackrey wines when I lived in Chicago several years back, and had been very disappointed when I learned they were unavailable in Maine. I’ve since found a few bottles through a friend and they are just as great as I remembered them to be, and good enough to deserve mention as a highlight of my summer. Someone is actually making Rhone style wine from California that has great acidity and terroir, who knew?

Lastly, I will let you know that this Sunday will be the second annual Portland Food Coma Pumpkin Beer Tasting. As you know, I absolutely despise pumpkin beer, so the results of this torture will be posted next week.