Tag Archives: Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale

Steer clear of these five pumpkin beers

Hipster? Hardly.

Beer snob? Not exactly.

Beer critic? Prefer leaving that to the pseudo intellectuals who feel better about themselves by using fancy adjectives to describe beer. Those people should switch to wine. That’s where they’ll find others to indulge the need to flex an extensive alcohol vocabulary.

Guess what I’m getting at is it doesn’t take cuffed skinny jeans, a PhD in barley and hops or expert taste buds to enjoy pumpkin beer.

This beer lover has enjoyed a pumpkin ale for some time, but became overwhelmed in recent years when fall beers were released and a rapidly increasing number of pumpkin selections hit distributors, taverns and six-pack shacks.

This search, which began in earnest in early September, held a simple objective – to find the best pumpkin beers available. No Google searches needed. No beer web sites researched. Basically, if a pumpkin beer was available at a bar or a six-pack shack, it was purchased. Suggestions were taken from friends and family, and one cousin went as far as sending a six pack of her two favorites my way. Photos were taken of each entrant and a brief description was provided of all 28 beers sampled.

For a quick recap, check them out here:

Part I: https://kovakscorner.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/search-for-the-perfect-pumpkin-beer/

Part II: https://kovakscorner.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/search-for-the-perfect-pumpkin-beer-part-2/

Part III: https://kovakscorner.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/search-for-the-perfect-pumpkin-beer-part-iii/

Unfortunately, such a search is not without its bumps. In other words, to find the good, you have to taste the bad.

And there are some bad pumpkin beers out there, including the following five – in no particular order –  that ranked the worst during this search. (Blogger’s note: O’Fallon’s ranks as my least favorite pumpkin beer. Bought a case about 5 years ago. What a waste of money.)

It's Saranac. What else can you say?

It’s Saranac. What else can you say?

Saranac Pumpkin Ale, Matt Brewing Company

Watery, bland and lacking aroma. Saranac usually delivers an adequate brew. They missed one this one.

Bleccchhhhh!

Bleccchhhhh!

The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Flying Dog

Never had a good beer from this brewery. This gives O’Fallon’s a run for its money.

This beer had all the makings of a good one, but the taste was off. Maybe Nakama had a bad keg.

This beer had all the makings of a good one, but the taste was off. Maybe Nakama had a bad keg.

Spooky Tooth Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Fat Head’s 

Word is this beer is probably with the masses. Pop country is popular with the masses, too. That is one of the only things worse than this beer.

This beer was a bummer.

This beer was a bummer.

Pumpkin Ale, Wild Boar

There’s a new definition of bland in the dictionary – this beer.

Never tried a gluten free beer until sampling this. I prefer my gluten.

Never tried a gluten free beer until sampling this. I prefer my gluten.

Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale 

No beer in this search tasted worse on first drink. It got better, but not enough.

Search for the perfect pumpkin beer, part 2

Here at Kovak’s Corner, a primary concern is evolving humankind, which is why the search for the perfect pumpkin beer is an ongoing quest.

The search will continue through Halloween, when the top five and bottom five choices will be revealed. As for the winner, well I’m purchasing a case of it. (So no matter what, I can’t lose!)

It’s proven a daunting task, one which has grown larger than expected. This is why it’s being broken up into at least two parts. To check out the first search, click https://kovakscorner.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/search-for-the-perfect-pumpkin-beer/. It was originally posted Sept. 5 and randomly added to as beers were sampled. Eleven beers are featured.

On to Part 2.

America’s Original Pumpkin Ale, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery – Came across this ale at my favorite Greensburg eatery – Parkwood Inn – and sampled it on the deck while partaking in a plate of hot sausage tortellini. It’s certainly solid – decent pumpkin flavor, nice mix of spices. It claims to be the original.

The OG of pumpkin beers.

The OG of pumpkin beers.

Pumpkin Ale, Wolaver’s – Another Parkwood purchase, this beer presented a first for me – gluten free. Full disclosure, the first taste sucked but subsequent drinks proved better. So, this beer grew on me. It’s made with Vermont pumpkins (the company hails from Vermont) , but the guess here is I won’t be supporting the Vermont economy again.

Never tried a gluten free beer until sampling this. I prefer my gluten.

Never tried a gluten free beer until sampling this. I prefer my gluten.

Smashed Pumpkin, Shipyard Brewing Company – Before embarking on this search, Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead ranked as my favorite in the genre, and it may still be, but I’m holding off on revisiting that selection until the end of this search. As for Smashed Pumpkin, it was referred to me by a relative, who happens to be a highly decorated person of the law. The relative went as far as sending three of these, along with three of the next beer on this list. Smashed Pumpkin is a definite contender. Bursting with pumpkin and cinnamon flavor, every sip is a calming and soothing mouthful of greatness. Oh, and it’s 9 percent alcohol, so it packs a little kick. Well done Shipyard, well done.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin is one of the best presents I've ever received.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin is one of the best presents I’ve ever received.

Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, Elysian – Another gifted pumpkin beer, the spices and pumpkin flavor perfectly complement the dark color and incredible texture. The beer doesn’t smell as pleasnt as others, but the taste makes it a legitimate contender. Brewed in Seattle, Night Owl has seven pounds of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds per barrel. Blended with spices, including ever-important all spice, it’s close to perfection.

Elysian Night Owl's flavor will have you howling, not hooting.

Elysian Night Owl’s flavor will have you howling, not hooting.

Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Brewing Co. – The distinct bottle, with the Headless Horseman adorning a jack o’lantern and hoisting a beer, is eye-catching, and led to a purchase several years ago. The taste, just the right blend of cinnamon and pumpkin, continues to bring me back. Full disclosure: This ranked as my favorite long before this search. It may still be. Tough to beat. Another positive, rather than brag about everything Shipyard puts into this special brew “natural flavors” is all it provides.

My original favorite pumpkin beer.

My original favorite pumpkin beer.

Pumple Drumkin, cisco brewers – There once was a pumpkin beer from Nantucket … Ok, ok, let’s not go there. But Nantucket is where this canned selection hails and, well, I just couldn’t resist. The main reason? I’m an unabashed supporter of “Wings” – the great 1990s NBC comedy starring Tim Daly and Steven Weber. I’ve been told on more than one occasion I resemble Brian Hackett, the happy-go-lucky pilot played by Weber. I’ve been called a lot worse. As for the beer, it’s a bit hoppy. Not that hops are bad, but it’s tough tasting the pumpkin. Overall, a very good beer.

Buy this beer and read the rhyme on the can.

Buy this beer and read the rhyme on the can.

Spooky Tooth Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Fat Head’s – Brewed in Ohio, I picked up this dark version of the seasonal treat at Nakama, a sushi/hibachi joint on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Figuring the beer had ties to my favorite sandwich place in Pittsburgh – Nakama’s Carson Street neighbor, Fat Head’s Saloon – and the place of the city’s second-best french fries (The O still rules this genre), it seemed logical to give it a try. The friendly bartender rimmed the glass in cinnamon and sugar (not my favorite thing), which really gave this beer a strong cinnamon smell. As far as aroma goes, Sppoky Tooth is wonderful. It’s texture is rich and dark. The spices, from nutmeg to clove are evident. It has all the ingredients for a perfect pumpkin beer, but something was missing – namely a good taste. Maybe it was the rimmed glass, but this beer was a bummer.

This beer had all the makings of a good one, but the taste was off. Maybe Nakama had a bad keg.

This beer had all the makings of a good one, but the taste was off. Maybe Nakama had a bad keg.

Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher – Brewed in Easton, home of former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes, this pumpkin ale packs a punch. Maybe it’s the cardamom, which is a subplot to a fantastic episode of Cheers. It’s the bloody mary contest, and Cheers gets ahold of cardamom until Woody sneezes it away because of an allergy. Back to point, this darker outing boasts a wonderful blend of spices and just the right amount of pumpkin flavor. Like a piece of pumpkin pie.

Heavy on spices and darker than the average pumpkin ale, Weyerbacher found a winning formula.

Heavy on spices and darker than the average pumpkin ale, Weyerbacher found a winning formula.