Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Pumpkins and Pilsners

Mrs Velkyal seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone yesterday - thankfully we have Vonage and so pay a set monthly fee and can call locally and nationally, as well as to select foreign countries (including all the places my family live) for no additional charge.

During both calls, firstly to her family in South Carolina and then from her best friend, also in South Carolina, a variation on the "what is Al brewing?" question was asked. With Mrs V's family we were talking about mead, as I intend to make a maple and clover mead, using maple syrup and clover honey. With Mrs V's best friend the question was "is Al brewing a pumpkin ale?". To which the answer is no, and up until that point I didn't have any plans to do so, but I felt it necessary to do some research and headed off to the shops to buy some examples of this most American of beers, and so I swung by Beer Run and sampled the Southern Tier Pumking which they had on tap - hmm, not impressed. Too sweet and sickly for my tastes. Eventually though I headed home with all the pumpkin beers I could find, and so here we go on the Cyclops notes....

  • Sight - amber, 1 inch of white head
  • Smell - spicy, acetone, wet cardboard
  • Taste - watery, some spice, fruity
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
Goodness me this is boring stuff. Bland, undertoned and quite simply insipid. If anyone in the Charlottesville area actually likes this stuff, I have 5 more bottles that I am willing to give away for free. If this is the best large brewery in America, then God help us.

  • Sight - copper, thin white head
  • Smell - slight spice, mostly cloves
  • Taste - sweet, like a creme brulee
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I have a grudging respect for Michelob. This beer, in common with most of their wares, is nothing special but perfectly drinkable and inoffensive. This reminded me of my spiced winter ale, but a lot weaker and more watery.

  • Sight - light amber, almost no head to speak of
  • Smell - very spicy, lots of cinnamon and a slight cideriness
  • Taste - syrupy, caramel and spices
  • Sweet - 3.5/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
This was again very sweet, but not cloyingly though sufficiently sweet to be sickly if you drank more than a few ounces. Not what I would have expected from Dogfish Head.

The pumpkin ales then that I had yesterday would not inspire me to brew my own, though I wonder if the base beer, which would seem to be a generic amber ale, gets overwhelmed in the process? Would a pumpkin stout work better? Or even a pumpkin Belgian sour red? At the moment then I still have no plans to make a beer with pumpkins, I already have plenty of experiments to do.

On a side note, today sees the release of the Pilsner that I helped brew at Devils Backbone. If you are in the area, get along to the pub tonight and try it. You may well run into me filling every growler I have available!


  1. Oh dear. Well, I really appreciate you doing the leg work for us in this case. But we are about to pick up a six of Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (New Holland) from the Wine Guild this week, please wish us luck.

  2. Diane,

    I have to admit that this is an entirely new style of beer for me, having never even considered having one until yesterday. I may have to run down to Wine Warehouse at some point and pick up some more examples of the style and get a wider angle on them. One thing I would say though is that when Blue Mountain did a butternut bitter, it was fantastic!

  3. Pumpkin beer isn't something we get a lot of over in the UK but I did try in New York circa Halloween 2007. Wish I could remember the specific beer but it was sweet and odd, fruity without any of the citrus or berry aromas of hops, much more were misplaced peach and stewed fruit... Perhaps in that case a Belgian base might work better and bring those flavours out more successfully?

  4. Or perhaps secondary fermentation with brett?

  5. 1) There is a commercially available pumpkin stout. Fisherman's. Not great but decent. Check Beer Run.

    2) Your title has me imagining a pumpkin pilsner. Get to it.

    3) Michelob makes a few barely decent beers. To me, this is tacit admission from ABInBev that they admit the rest of their portfolio is shit.

    4) I had a fourth point, but after a growler of a Devil's Backbone beer, my memory is a bit weak

  6. Pumpkin pilsner? Um, no. Sorry, you know my views on pilsners (even not using Saaz is enough to make me raise an eyebrow!).

    Of Michelob's "barely decent beers" (do you, like me, habitually write barley for barely?) the AmberBock is probably the best that they do. I am not sure I would call the rest of ABInBev's portfolio shit, they do after all have the Leffe beers, which while not out of this world, are quite nice.

    Will check out the Fisherman's - hopefully as a single, getting sick of buying six packs when I only to try something.

    A growler of Devils Backbone beer will do that to you - what was it?


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