Fall took its sweet ass time showing up this year so it’s only fitting that Beerstitution Volume 25 and its write up are late too. This round’s Basic Bitch Beer invitation received such enthusiastic support as “My favorite theme – EVER!” and “do we have to?” But still, nine brave beerstitutioners took on the challenge, tempering their disdain with an assortment of meats, cheeses and feisty cats. Although the call was for all ales autumnal, most people took my not-so-subtle hints and jumped on the festive gourd bandwagon.
While some Serious Beer Drinkers might scoff at pumpkin ales, they’re part of beer’s long history of fermenting whatever’s around out of necessity depression desperation inspiration. Established Brits could turn their fancy ass wheat and barley into the good stuff, but colonialists had to make do. Nowadays pumpkins are far from our only modern mash option, but there’s a growing appreciation for these festive drinks.
The term pumpkin is broad enough that plenty of beers fall under the ol’ orange umbrella. Some brewers stay true to pompian ale’s roots, turning hundreds of pounds of pumpkin into alcoholic, vegetal slurries. Plenty use a hint of pumpkin to add a dash of seasonal marketing body to their otherwise established offerings. Others go full-PSL, channeling Starbucks so hard they probably add Ugg boots. Since it’s a bit of an agricultural product, recipes vary greatly from year to year turning fall fan favourites into failures.
Unibroue: Megadeth – À Tout Le Monde – Phil T
We started off the evening with something simple, light and surprising. While these misgivings could have come from the beer itself, we were more confused that Megadeth has a French song and that Dave Mustaine would associate himself with such a delicate beer.
Phil kindly paired his wares with the associated musical interlude. No bonus points were had.
BRST° Rating: 2.83/5
Saranac Brewery: Pumpkin Ale – Anna
Anna set the scene with a tale of crisp air, changing leaves, striking panoramas and the discovery of this post-hike quencher. Offered in a charming mini growler as well as your standard bottle, this beer leans towards the smoother and sweeter side of things. This isn’t The Great Pumpkin of beers, but it’s a solid brown ale topped with your standard pumpkin pie spices.
BRST° Rating: 3.33/5
Great Lakes Brewery: Pumpkin Ale – Kristen
After having hyped this beer up for the better part of a year — or if I’m honest with myself, three years — 2016’s batch seemed a bit off. Lackluster and metallic, this year’s offering didn’t seem nearly as rich or full as I remembered. For the uninitiated, this pumpkin beer skewed light, leaning towards the spiced side of things, with definite notes of clove.
BRST° Rating: 3.00/5
Dieu du Ciel!: La Route des Epices – Geneva
Even though Geneva wasn’t sure her beer fit the theme, this brew exemplified a different part of the fall season. After going the typical cinnamon, ginger and clove route with previous tastings, the black peppercorns served as a surprising palate cleanser. Caramel beers often skew cloying, but the sharp bite of Piper nigrum brought it back from the brink to become a very drinkable beer.
In an unexpected pairing, Geneva realized that spiced cayenne apple jelly can really enhance the notes in these pumpkin beers. A fine discovery indeed!
BRST° Rating: 3.33/5
L’esprit de clocher: La Mauvais Sort – Val
If anyone tells you that you can’t judge a beer by its cover, they’re lying. Val brought her bottle because “the front was a bit scary and it was kind of orange…” which are apparently fantastic indicators when it comes to harvest beers. This warming marzen really exemplified the style, balancing out caramelized and roasted malt with the faintest hint of hops.
BRST° Rating: 3.22/5
Beaus’ Brewing: Return of the Mumme – Scully
Scully excitedly opened the Mumme but this beer was more trick than treat. While plenty of us were hoping for a new spin on the PSL, this just leaned… odd. The underlying notes of tea, caraway and thyme were a bit too dissonant to score well. (Although admittedly, weeks later when I was drinking this out of desperation, the taste wasn’t half bad.)
BRST° Rating: 2.61/5
Brasseurs du Monde: Pale Ale Citrouille – Corey
Given that Corey might have been the most pumpkin-averse attendee, I wasn’t exactly sure if he’d actually do the deed. Presented as the one pumpkin beer he did like, this bottle wooed hophead and maltmaestro (sure, I’ll coin that term) alike. Offering enough bitterness to appease the IPA-inclined, enough sweetness to appease the IPA-phobe and enough clove to still count as autumnal, this beer rose up everyone’s rankings like The Great Pumpkin itself.
BRST° Rating: 4.06/5
County Road Brewing: County Road #7 – Dan
After lambasting people for not staying on theme and then apologizing for having done so himself, Dan brought a pungent brew that scored top marks with your average Beerstitutioner. Even though protective amnesia shelters me from any memory of this beer, Dan assures it was very resin-y and earthy with notes of Delight. Although this beer was quite polarizing, the growler’s simplistic non-design was well-received by all.
BRST° Rating: 2.94/5
Garrison Brewing: Double Jack “Imperial Pumpkin” – Nick B
Sporting an ultra-festive label and a relatively high ABV to bring that spirit out, we finished off the night with this warmer. Leaning towards the liquid pie side of things, this unctuous, dark brew was heavy on cinnamon without slipping into the obscene. Admittedly after drinking nine spiced beers, it was harder to discern other notes.
BRST° Rating: 3.1/5
This Round’s Winners
- Fan Favourite(s): Brasseurs du Monde: Pale Ale Citrouille and County Road Brewing: County Road #7
- Sessionable: Brasseurs du Monde: Pale Ale Citrouille
- Surprise (and not in the good way this time): Beaus’ Brewing: Return of the Mumme
- Best Label: Beaus’ Brewing: Return of the Mumme
- Winning Blind Tasters: Phil, Val, Dan and Kristen
In addition to discovering the pairing powers of peppers and pale ales, some new terminology was added to the ol’ Beerstitution Glossary.
- Backtasting: retroactively rescoring a beer upon sampling another that fucks up your internal scale.
- Circle Jerk Voting: a method where all tasters cast their scores simultaneously.