Photo Credits Zack Bowen/Knack Factory

 I really came into this expecting to like more than a couple of these but yeah, they are by and large some of the worst beers ever made. My bad.”

– Andrew Barron

This is how it finally ends..

What began as curiosity as to why anyone would ever want to allow any of these pumpkin-flavored nightmares to cross their lips, we started with a mere 6 bottles in 2009, has become a full-on tour of duty for those fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be involved.

Though I personally believe that Harpoon Brewing was ahead of the curve with their “Winter Warmer” beer back in the late 90’s, I think it can be officially credited to our very own Shipyard Brewing for putting this wildly offensive trend into full gear with the release of Pumpkinhead. Not unlike Zima or Tequiza, it immediately became a big hit with twenty-something girls looking to consume the most alcohol possible without actually tasting it, but, unlike the others, it didn’t stop there. No, it started a revolution – a movement that has taken us to new heights of disgusting as we were able to scare up just under 40 offerings from breweries around the country for this, the last supper.PumCaCa-2015-007 1Yes, there are other flavored beers, we actually tried to incorporate blueberry into the tasting for PumCaCa III, but even though they are equally disgusting they are far less representative of a drinking culture that has become the unofficial sponsor of irritating white people’s night out.

Initially I had the brilliant idea of conducting this last tasting in a pumpkin patch in early November, after it had become gloomy and desolate. I wanted to stage a photo of each taster lying dead in the mud, basically anything that symbolized that this ludicrous tradition is over. No more. No. More.

Thankfully, a few days before the tasting, Mark Stevens contacted me with a reminder that “The sun sets at 4:28 that day, you have us showing up at 5:30 – is that right?”

Currently lacking the funds to set up stadium-style outdoor lighting, a new plan was needed quickly. Fortunately, Arlin Smith was gracious enough to offer up his restaurant, The Honey Paw in Portland, as a venue since they were closed on Tuesdays anyway. Crisis averted.

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My stomach is already beginning to turn as tasters begin to arrive with their finds – Nolan and I had hit every liquor store between Portland and Gorham to buy one of everything they had – and at the final lineup we are at 36. This does include a few repeats, some different vintages of the same, some in bottle and then in can, etc.

Shahin was kind of enough to bring boozy pumpkin eggnog. So there’s that.

Ok – let’s meet this year’s tasters:

Joe Ricchio:

I started this awful little thing of ours. I’ve been in the business of slinging booze for 20 years. Also, this is my site. So there you have it.

Jon Dietz:

Another longtime veteran of the wholesale wine business, Dietz has been on board since PumCaca III.

Shahin Khojastehzad:

One of the most easily recognizable faces in the Portland beer world, Shahin holds down the fort at Novare Res and has been a part of the tasting since PumCaCa IV.

Mark Stevens:

Co-Owner of Maine Beer Tours, he has always been a trooper when it comes to gathering up the swill bottles that most of us wouldn’t be comfortable being seen purchasing in public. He has been a member since PumCaCa V.

Nolan Stewart:

Owner of Coastal Roots Bitters, former longtime beer buyer for Downeast Beverage, and home brewer, Nolan hosted the very first tasting at his house and has been a part of PumCaCa I, II, III, and IV (parental duties prevented him from being exposed to V).

Jim Devon:

If PumCaCa had a mascot, it would be Jim. Well, I guess we DO have a mascot, and it’s Jim. This will be his second, after PumCaCa V.

Arlin Smith:

Co-owner of Hugo’s/Eventide/The Honey Paw restaurants in Portland, he was gracious enough to host the last supper – and supply homemade Twisted Tea as a palate cleanser. This will be his second, after PumCaCa V. Rather than notes, he prefers to make a blanket statement at the end.

Andrew Barron:

Longtime bartending staple from such Portland institutions as The White Heart, Local 188, and LFK – Barron has since become a man of the cloth, instructing Maine’s youth on what not to do while whittling away the remainder of his waking hours playing fantasy sports. PumCaCa virgin.

Joe Hardy:

After running the FOH at Outliers Eatery in Portland for several years, Joe has most recently found himself as part of the crew at Terlingua. I was eager to see him pop his PumCaCa cherry.

We were also briefly joined and assisted by Joe Watts and Erika Colby – both very well respected palates in regards to all things beer. If you remember last year, Joe thought he liked pumpkin beer…

Well, let’s get on with it. For each beer I have given the company a chance to defend it with copy from their own websites before we honestly assess and assign a score from 1 to 100 (100 being the best beer you’ve ever had, regardless of pumpkins).

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PUMCACA VI: The Last Supper

1.

Mashing Pumpkins, Marshall Wharf Brewing, Belfast, ME

Format: Draught

What the brewery says:

Our pumpkin ESB – not sweet or spiced.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: I’d say they nailed it with the description – zero spice, drinkable enough, a good start before the nasties. 63/100

Dietz: Deep, gold amber hue, malty nose. Pleasantly bitter, clean, and devoid of pumpkin horror. 88/100

Shahin: Biscuits and toffee on the nose, yeast from the U.K. It’s a clean, proper ESB. 85/100

Mark: Reminiscent of most ESB’s with a touch of earthy pumpkin in the finish. 80/100

Nolan: Well balanced, no detectable spices but maybe a bit of color from the pumpkin? I feel like I’m being lulled into a false sense of security and/or safety right now.. 78/100

Jim: Smells like an English Ale, tastes like an English Ale. Earthy, with no spice. 85/10

Barron: Fairly bready with notes of brown sugar. 75/100

Joe H: Malty, with no “pumpkin flavor.” 50/100

2.

Woodchuck Private Reserve, Pumpkin Cider, Middleberry, VT

What the cidery says:

“Every once in a while you know you stumble upon something glorious. That something just so happens to be our Private Reserve Pumpkin. We have combined our signature taste with a refreshing pumpkin finish. Limited to just two and half hours on the production line this is a true connoisseur’s cider.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: If you constructed an outhouse entirely from Tootsie Rolls, you’d get a good sense for the aroma of this cider. Holy Christ this is wretched. 2/100

Dietz: Oh god, it’s like melted parmesan shake cheese. Metallic, tons of diacetyl, sweet, crappy. 4/100

Shahin: Green apple Zima vomit nose, tastes like old candy from The Dream Machine. 25/100

Mark: The smell is flat-out offensive, like a vomit-covered Tootsie Roll. Sour, but I don’t think it was on purpose. 5/100

Nolan: If an apple flavored Jolly Rancher got fucked by a woodchuck, this would be representative of the mutated offspring. 8/100

Jim: Smells like Starburst-flavored cheese, tastes like sour walnuts and has no carbonation. 12/100

Barron: I mean, it actually smells like a bathroom, and tastes like a pumpkin spiced urinal cake. 10/100

Joe H: Smells like a Jolly Rancher apple candy stuck to the floor of a bathroom. Processed fruit taste. 5/100

3.

Leinenkugel Brewing Co, Harvest Patch Shandy, Chippewa Falls, WI

What the brewery says:

Bring out the best of the season with Leinenkugel’s® Harvest Patch® Shandy. It’s our traditional Weiss beer that we blend with natural pumpkin spice flavor to give you notes of nutmeg, allspice and clove for a taste that pairs perfectly with a fall day.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like I imagine Clifford the Big Red Dog does, and tastes like swishing with a 7-11 cappuccino mixed with cheap vanilla extract. 12/100

Dietz: Who wants Cin-a-bons! Very light on the palate aside from the shitty cinnamon flavors with hints of Right Guard deodorant. How exactly DO you make a beer taste like deodorant and diet ginger ale? 21/100

Shahin: Cinnamon hot dogs, Belgian frinkendel sausage, is that enough? 25/100

Mark: Smells like an old cinnamon air-freshener, tastes like vanilla frosting and not in a pleasant way.

Nolan: Weird savory smell, with a bit of what I think may be fruit? Holy shit we’re rolling now! The label bears a few people happily riding bikes, and after one sip I’m fantasizing about them being careened into by a runaway 16-wheeler. 2/100 (the “2” is only because it does have some alcohol in it)

Jim: Smells like fireball candy, tastes overwhelmingly of cloves and allspice. Sickly sweet, like eating straight from a tin of pie spice. 38/100

Barron: After being bludgeoned through my nostrils by the intense aroma of cinnamon bun, it has shockingly little flavor, like frosting from the supermarket. 15/100

Joe H: It’s got a spicy aroma! It tastes absolutely horrible! 30/100

PumCaCa-2015-031 14 & 5.

Allagash Brewing, Ghoulschip 2014 & 2015 Vintage, Portland, ME

What the brewery says:

“Every October, as Halloween draws near, we brew Ghoulschip with 350 pounds of fresh, local pumpkins, sweet molasses, and raw pumpkin seeds. It then spends Halloween night in our Coolship among the specters, as it collects the local wild yeast from the cool evening air. The beer then ferments in a stainless tank on our house yeast before heading into oak barrels, where it will age for up to three years.”

Spontaneously soured by the local microflora in the barrels, the finished product is a blend of one, two, and three year old beer. Ghoulschip is a light golden color, with aromas of cinnamon and pumpkin spice and a subtle earthiness. Upon first sip, caramelized malt and a mild acidity present themselves. The finish is dry and tart. Boo!

Judge’s Corner:

2014

Joe: Nose is funky and bretty, like sweet tarts. The acidity has really mellowed out and it’s fairly rich. 89/100

Dietz: Medium yellow-gold, not much head, bretty nose. Tart and delicious, maybe not the best sour beer in the world but better than 99% of anything else incorporating pumpkin. 89/100

Shahin: Barnyard on the nose, lightly funky flavors of mineral and sweet citrus. 95/100

Nolan: So lovely, a nice, generous oaky nose – clean acidity balanced by funky caramel. 90/100

Mark: Sour, tart, and delicious. Thank you. 90/100

Barron: Really tangy, strong yeast – unfortunately it kinda tastes like that Woodchuck shit because I forgot to rinse my glass. 90/100

2015

Joe: Pull-the-enamel-off-of-your-teeth-dry, with a very funky nose. Actually a touch astringent, needs time?69/100

Dietz: Slightly darker than the 2014, a bit more balanced on the nose. Foamy in the gob, a little stringy, it’s got the pediococcas. 87/100

Shahin: Mushroom and earth in the nose, pedio-forward. 90/100

Nolan: This is a different beast from 2014 – much more acidic and funky, with the oak more present in the finish. 80/100

Mark: The smell seems a bit off, much higher carbonation level than the 2014 but still tart and delicious 85/100

Jim: Smells like a used diaper after a baby has eaten sweet potatoes, very sour tangerine flavors. 54/100

Barron: I don’t love it as much as the 2014, it’s super dry with note of dried pineapple. 70/100

Joe H: A bit less acidity but still very tart, lighter flavor than the 2014 but I like it very much. 90/100

6 & 7.

Shocktop Brewing, Pumpkin Wheat, St. Louis, MO

What the brewery says:

“Our Pumpkin Wheat seasonal offering combines the smooth taste of Shock Top with the flavors of Fall. We start with a traditional Belgian-style wheat ale and then brew with ripe pumpkins and a variety of autumnal spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, for a refreshingly smooth beer that fully captures all the flavors of fall. LIVE LIFE UNFILTERED!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells exactly like the candle aisle at Christmas Tree Shops while it is undergoing a massive cleanup effort after several infants vomited in it. If there were such a thing as a “bile shooter,” that would describe the flavor quite well. 6/100

Dietz: Graham crackers and something vegetal, so little actual flavor. 23/100

Shahin: Smells like burnt cardboard cleanup on aisle 2, tastes like nutmeg, skunk, and construction paper. 24/100

Nolan: Someone farted on my Yankee Candle! All cinnamon and bile. 5/100

Jim: Smells like the floor after a particularly rowdy keg party, taste like rotten roast beef. 15/100

Joe H: Like wet, musty newspaper. 0/100

Can 

Joe: Smells like cheap chardonnay that has been aged and left open for awhile, tastes like one of the cans of beer that Casper finished in the AM in Kids, maybe with a cigarette butt floating around in it. 6/100

Dietz: This is WAY better than the bottle IF you like whale semen, Old Milwaukee, and a coffee cake floater. 28/100

Nolan: Tastes like the last sip of an Old English 40 that has had a cinnamon stick floating in it for a while. 5/100

Mark: Why do people buy this shit? I think it’s actually worse in the can! 8/100

Jim: I’m not sure if I can bear to drink this…. 14/100

Joe H: This smells like old lady perfume, completely undrinkable. 0/100

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Shipyard Brewing, Pumpkinhead, Portland, ME

What the brewery Says:

“Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor. A seasonal favorite! Try Pumpkinhead with a shot of spiced rum or in a pint glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like Dentyne gum, it has ALWAYS smelled like Dentyne gum, and tastes like eating out of a terrarium filled with dead hamsters. 21/100

Dietz: Boom! They really nailed the artificial cinnamon extract level this year. Terrible, but maybe more drinkable than last year’s! 18/100

Shahin: Like eating a cooked baby carrot that has been glazed with holiday spice-flavored lube and spent time in someone’s asshole. 20/100

Nolan: This shit is always weirdly earthy. Kind of like being force fed cinnamon while being tied to a car and dragged for miles. 2/100

Jim: It’s as if they hate people’s tongues, 4/100

Barron: Like Coors Lite with a Torani flavor shot thrown in. Reserving judgment but this beer is a rare example of man’s hubris. 13/100

Joe H: Wet soil, unholy aroma, tastes like Dentyne that has been sitting around since the 70’s. Why would anyone buy this? 5/100

9, 10, and 11 are different vintages of:

Dogfish Head Brewing, Punkin Ale – Milton, DE

What the brewery says:

“A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.

Punkin Ale is named after the seriously off-centered southern Delaware extravaganza Punkin Chunkin (check out some of these Discovery Channel videos of Punkin Chunkin, you gotta see it to believe it!). In fact, Punkin Ale made its debut as it claimed first prize in the 1994 Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest. Yes, that was a full 6 months before we even opened our doors for business!

Punkin Chunkin has grown in size and scale, with pumpkins now being hurled more than 4,000 feet through the air! If you come down to see if for yourself, drop by and visit us.

Since its debut, we’ve brewed Punkin Ale each and every fall. It is released right around Sept. 1 each year. When you find it, grab some extra because it’s usually gone by Thanksgiving.

Every Beer Has A Story… here’s Punkin Ale”

Judge’s Corner:

2008

Joe: Smells like a tootsie roll, tastes like flat root beer. 43/100

Dietz: Caramel malt notes, a bit of root beer. Definitely some oxidation, a little flat with some YooHoo on the backside. I’m not sure that it’s really potable anymore, but I feel like it may have been at one point. 47/100

Shahin: Port wine, paper bag, brown sugar, simple syrup. 56.2/100

Mark: Interesting sour funk smell, actually held up pretty well. Pumpkin is there, spice is subtle. 70/100

Nolan: Inoffensive, a little long in the tooth, but still pleasing. 50/100

Jim: Smells like spice cake, tastes like bland cheesecake. Not too too bad. 51/100

Barron: Buttery, chocolate, raisins, hops. 80/100

Joe H: Bready aroma, decent flavor, like actual pumpkin pie. 65/100

2014

Joe: I guess I could if I HAD too. 34/100

Dietz: Lighter and more beer-like. Also, I’m starting to feel my acid reflux kick in. Why did I agree to do this, again? 52/100

Shahin: Cotton candy, brown sugar, caramel, amber ale with a kiss of spice. 70/100

Jim: Like a watery version of the previous one. 48/100

Barron: Still buttery, a bit more hops, boring nose. I will say that, in this tasting, “boring” is actually not too bad. 60/100

2015

Joe: Like flat, off pumpkin. 29/100

Dietz: Smells like the inside of a Jack-o-Lantern. Vegetal and slightly rotten, very foamy. I don’t prefer it. 33/100

Shahin: Fleshy, fresh pumpkin. Coppery, slightly hoppy. 69/100

Mark: Dry, medicinal smell. Not nearly as good as the other two. 45/100

Nolan: Not quite right. Also, I think I’m going numb. 40/100

Jim: Has a grain-like flavor, smells like a pumpkin sock (?) 39/100

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Southern Tier Brewing, Imperial Pumking, Lakewood, NY

What the brewery says:

“All Hallows Eve is a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent. It is thought that we harness this magic to brew our powerful pumpkin ale. Not so, but it is with great respect to the magic of their trade that our brewers produce this fine beer. Take a whiff of this complex ale and your journey has just begun. At first sip, a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds, yet another victim enraptured by the Pumking!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This tastes like eating a toilet seat that has been in use by the Imperial Pumking for several years. 2/10

Dietz: That nose is so. Fucking. Awful. It’s like vanilla spice air freshener, the plug-in kind, jammed into my glass. The overt alcohol whips the flavors alluded to by the bouquet into a frenzy that is just plain gross. Who would intentionally purchase this a second time? 9/100

Shahin: Smells like the Glade air-freshener at a shitty bodega, and tastes like the fluoride they made you use in 3rd grade. 10/100

Mark: Smell is off-putting, and makes me want to cry. Fake hazelnuts soaked in whipped cream vodka. Ok, I may be crying right now. 5/100

Nolan: Why does this always smell like artificial hazelnut? This shit must have been aged in the stump where the headless horseman’s head once was. Aggressively offensive. 1/100

Jim: Fuck my life, like Nilla wafers soaked in toe cheese. Tastes like gangrene smells. 8/100

Barron: Really boozy, smells like vanilla-flavored Pledge. Like Frangelico and Pumpkinhead had a disgusting baby. Fuck. 8/100

13

Rogue Brewing, Pumpkin Patch Ale, Willamette Valley, OR

What the brewery says:

“GYO is a Rogue Ale term for Grow Your Own. We made this beer with our own hops, barley and pumpkins.

15 INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dream Pumpkins; Carawheat, Weyermann Carafe & Rogue Dare™ Malts; Rogue Farms Independent™ Hops; Ginger; Cloves; Vanilla Bean; Cinnamon; Cardamom; Nutmeg; Free Range Coastal Water & Pacman Yeast.

From Patch to Batch. Dedicated to Farmers and Fermenters.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like a pumpkin spice chai latte, tastes like absolutely nothing. 24/100 (Though I’m told Emily Kingsbury gives it 100/100)

Dietz: Just bitter. They extracted everything that is unpleasant about pie spice and tainted an otherwise forgettable base beer. I suppose that’s one way to do it, if that’s what your into. God I want this out of my mouth. 40/100

Shahin: Dead Guy Lite with spice, perfect for basic bitches who be frequenting the Dunkin Donuts. 30/100 (Emily Kingsbury has been known to give this one 100/100 though!)

Mark: Rumor has it that this is Emily Kingsbury’s favorite beer? This must be what Dead Guy ale tastes like if it were made of actual dead guys. 20/100

Barron: I don’t really taste anything so I’ll just have to take Emily Kingsbury’s word for it! 30/100

Joe H: Aromas of cinnamon, flavors of water. 23/100

14.

Newport Storm Brewing, R.hode I.sland P.umpkin, Newport, RI

What the brewery says:

“Boasting 3 pounds of pumpkin per keg, coupled with lactose milk sugar, a touch of chocolate malt for a ruby/orange color, caramel and cara malts for sweetness and copious quantities of pale malt, the only ingredient left for this liquid pumpkin pie libation was spices. Staying true to RI, we sourced those spices locally from Spice Mill, located in Wakefield, RI. The mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves will ‘warm you up with a cold one,’ all fall and winter long!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Everything about this reminds me of grape-flavored Big League Chew that has been chewed for an lengthy period of time by someone with life-threatening halitosis. If caught in this storm, I would pray for death. 11/100

Dietz: Dark amber, sweet candy nose, like cotton candy. Something makes me gag when I huff it. Tastes like McDonald’s iced tea with Little Debbie cinnamon donuts crumbled into it. 17/100

Shahin: Grape gum and beaver glands, loaded with sour butter and diacetyl. 22/100

Jim: Smells like rotten concord grapes, and tastes sour in a very bad way. 21/100

Barron: This actually smells more like bad wine than beer. 25/100

Joe H: Like old, hot Budweiser. 2/100

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Magic Hat Brewing, Willhelm Scream, Burlington, VT

What the brewery says:

“WILHELM SCREAM THE CALL FOR FALL. The distant drums of change are thumping, signaling the coming of chilling frosts, falling leaves and ghoulish screams. In a patch ripe with orange glow, Wilhelm Scream awakens and unleashes his season-stirring call for fall. His revelers listen for his echo across the ripened dancing days and prepare their seasonal celebration of harvest and ale. WILHELM SCREAM IS RIPE WITH FALL FLAVORS OF PUMPKIN, CINNAMON, NUTMEG AND CARAMEL MALTS. MEDIUM-BODIED AND THE COLOR OF ORANGE SETTING SUNS, IT FINISHES SIMILAR TO THE WAY WE FINISH SUMMER: WITH JUST A HINT OF BITTERNESS.”

Judge’s Corner:

Dietz: More caramel and Tootsie Roll. The aroma of this is like nature telling you not to put it in your gob. I did anyway. I regret doing so. 31/100

Shahin: Like burnt caramel and charred nutshells, very astringent. 32/100

Mark: Medicinal Tootsie Roll that is made of plastic, is what I’m reminded of. Why the hell are Tootsie Rolls always a thing?! 8/100

Nolan: Smells and tastes like dirt. Shut the fuck up, Willhelm. 23/100

Jim: Smells like both tissues and the crème-filled caramels from Grandma’s house – tastes like a Greek bathhouse. 14/100

Barron: I’ve been so terribly offended thus far that I’m kind of into this marginally crappy beer. 45/100

PumCaCa-2015-104 116.

Flying Dog Brewery, The Gourd Standard, Frederick, MD

What the brewery says:

“Rather than using bold, citrus-forward Pacific Northwest hops, our brewers chose German Noble hops for their subtle, yet complex, earthiness and spiciness. Pairs well with nutty and semi-sweet cheeses like Gouda and Gruyere, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, pork with sweet glazes…and Mom’s pumpkin pie.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells a bit citrusy, tastes completely wretched. This should seriously come with a complimentary tongue scraper. Don’t even get me started on the jokes.. “My friend used to be addicted to soap but he’s clean now?” I want you dead so many times over. 4/100

Dietz: It’s got hops! It’s IPA but made with disgusting pumpkin spice! The finish is soapy and the jokes on the label are infuriating. 29/100

Mark: Though the hops on the nose made me hopeful, the taste is dreadful. I’m feeling like I should maybe abandon hope at this point. 8/100

Joe H: I’m really surprised how just how bad this really is – tastes like nail polish remover. 9/100

17.

Weyerbacher Brewing, Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Easton, PA

What the brewery says:

“We set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins!

This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren! We have added lots of pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove, giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor. This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Perfect finisher on a cool autumn night or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like a Ricola lozenge, where’s my didgeridoo? What? They aren’t playing didgeridoos? I always thought they were playing didgeridoos. The finish on this is like Fernet Branca, fucking gross. 7/100

Dietz: I’ll be honest, I get a bit scared every time I see Imperial in the name of one of these, and with good reason. The nose is rank, like a urinal cake. Fuck that’s terrible, and the finish is epic – if you love pumpkin spice-flavored Manhattans. 16/100

Mark: Same potent medicinal spice smell, same potent spicy shit taste. It’s so bad, just so, so bad. 8/100

Nolan: This like positioning yourself at the base of an ice luge and taking a shot of fernet, then baby shit, then cinnamon, then beer. 10/100

Jim: No, nope. Nuh-uh. Smells like clam juice and pumpkin. 2/100

Barron: Thought it may not be that bad from the nose but holy crap the finish is terrible, tastes like a cheap quad. 30/100

Joe H: This tastes like an old used dishrag that has dried in the hot sun. 7/100

PumCaCa-2015-232 118.

Traveler Beer Co, Jack-O Traveler Seasonal Pumpkin Shandy, Burlington, VT

What the brewery says:

“Driven by an obsessive love of high jinks, the Jack-O Traveler spent his days cooking up mischief for everyone who crossed his path. One of his favorite pranks involved tricking unsuspecting bar patrons into buying him beers and then skipping out just when it was his turn to buy a round.

So clever was Jack, he even scammed the devil himself into granting him a reprieve from hell. Unfortunately for our Traveler, when his shenanigans finally caught up with him and he died, the man upstairs wanted nothing to do with Jack either.

It’s said that after Jack was barred from heaven, the devil gave him a burning coal, which he promptly put into a carved pumpkin to light his way. Legend has it that he wanders the earth to this day, searching for innocent bystanders to hoodwink into buying him his favorite beer, a pumpkin Shandy.

 Representing the darker side of Shandy, Jack-O Traveler is an alluring beer illuminated by the tastes of fall. He strikes the perfect balance between bright refreshment and seasonal spice. Jack is an American craft wheat beer brewed with fresh pumpkin, for a delicious, dark hued, Shandy-inspired beer.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: This smells like lemon Pledge, tastes like Zima. 4/100

Dietz: It’s got atomic fireball nasals, and the base is somewhere between Bud Lite Lime and Zima. Nothing but shite through and through. 4/100

Shahin: Reminds me of a strip club bathroom in the Autumn months, like spiced DayQuil with Sprite Sizzurp. 13/100

Mark: It’s bad, but different. I could actually choke it down. 10/100

Nolan: Smells like a car dealership, tastes like plastic on furniture. 5/100

Jim: This is like sucking on someone’s toes that have been coated in Palmolive. 6/100

LATE ADDITION BY TRUE PUMPKIN WARRIOR, JOE HARDY, WHO BRAVED THE TRAVELER ON DRAUGHT AT A RUBY TUESDAY’S IN WRENTHAM, MA

Smell: Reminds me of when I was 10 and opened a package of cinnamon Teddy Grahams : Somewhat pleasant but has a unique cardboard smell to it that I didn’t know faux beer could have. Flavor : Wow sweet on the start, apple & cherry jolly rancher flavor followed up by a hint on the after taste of cinnamon toast crunch. Downed it quick and it left me with a somewhat sticky and mealy feeling in my mouth. Final: All flavors I like but not combined; The sample was more than enough to know I would never drink this again. Not a shandy, Not Jolly. 20. I shouldn’t talk too loud because the dude next to me ( At the Ruby Tuesday in Wrenthem Mass ) is on his third 28oz massive icey mug of it and absolutely loves it. (SEE BELOW)

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19.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, La Parcella No. 1 Pumpkin Ale, Dexter, MI

What the brewery says:

“Packed with real pumpkins, hints of spice and a gentle kiss of cacao to lighten the soul. An everyday easy way to fill your squashy quotient. Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Tastes like every other Jolly Pumpkin beer, that is to say good, but no detectable pumpkin. 80/100

Dietz: Apples on the nose, sour. Drinkable. 82/100

Shahin: Nice amount of brett, tastes like tropical fruit with toffee. 95/100

Nolan: A breath of fresh air! I love that you can only pick out a hint of spice between the body and the sourness of the beer. 80/100

Barron: No pumpkin flavor but a VERY welcome respite! 90/100

20.

Shipyard Brewing, Smashed Pumpkin, Portland, ME

What the brewery says:

“Pugsley’s Signature Series is named after Shipyard Brewing Company’s master brewer, Alan Pugsley. A big bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aroma of pumpkin and nutmeg. Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of Saphir and Hallertau Hops to balance the sweetness of the fruit. To fully experience all the flavors, this beer is best enjoyed at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: If you planted cinnamon sticks in the ground, watered them for a year, and then dug them up and ate them – that’s what this tastes like. 2/100

Dietz: Loads of dark morning urine on the nose, with a hue to match. If you hate yourself enough to drink this, you should seek help immediately. Eyes are watering, and my mouth is simply NOT ok with what I just put in it. 5/100

Shahin: Tastes like spice and blood. 5/100

Jim: Smells like the Christmas Tree Shops, tastes like an air freshener. 7/100

Barron: Tastes like Pumpkinhead, but the higher booze content makes it really hard to get down. This is the worst yet. 5/100

Joe H: Like broken cinnamon sticks marinating in cat urine. 8/100

PumCaCa-2015-132 121.

Shipyard Brewing Co, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Smashed Pumpkin, Portland, ME

What the brewery says:

“Our award-winning, limited release Bourbon Barrel Aged ales are carefully cellar-aged in small batches in decanted bourbon barrels at our brewery in Portland, Maine. Aged over 100 days. Unlimited shelf life. Recommended serving temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit in brandy-style stemware.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Like a milkshake made with bourbon, marshmallows, and chicken fat – this is cloying and terrible 6/100

Dietz: The wood notes really elevate the essential core of the normal version. Boozy, fake butter, feces – simply horrifying. Who would ever actively seek out such an atrocity? 3/100

Shahin: Bourbon with a pickle back. Loonz for idiots, #whalezfordouches. 3/100

Jim: Like pepper spray in my nose and what the fuck? EGGS!!! 2/100

Barron: Doesn’t smell as bad as the regular SP but wow it’s intense with flavors of bread and butter pickles – if they were made into an awful, boozy liqueur. 8/100

Joe H: Words cannot describe. The worst of them all. -1/100

22.

Smuttynose Brewing Co, Pumpkin Ale, Portsmouth, NH

What the brewery says:

 “Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is our homage to the craft and heritage of America’s brewers. Recipes calling for the use of pumpkins in beer date back to early colonial times, when brewers sought to extend their supply of costly imported malt with locally grown ingredients, such as squash and “pompions.”

In that spirit, we brew our ale with the addition of pumpkin to the mash, along with traditional spices to create a delicious American original.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Astringent – maybe we need a break? I can’t taste anything. 40/100

Dietz: Back to at least fake cinnamon dominated smellies. Foamy, bitter, a touch floral, still artificial and crappy tasting. Why?? 31/100

Shahin: Hoppy and biscuit-y with a spice finish. 65/100

Mark: Mild smell and taste, not necessarily the worst.. 25/100

Nolan: Not bad, tastes more like beer. 40/100

PumCaCa-2015-122 123.

Sea Dog Brewing, Pumpkin Ale, Portland, ME

What the brewery says:

 “A crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg make this fall brew a flavor sensation!”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Like eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch off of a public bathroom floor. 12/100

Dietz: Blind, I’d have trouble distinguishing this from Pumpkinhead. The Dentyne is strong with this one. It’s not about the shit-stained balls, it’s about the 18/100 points.

Shahin: Dirty candy, spoiled fruit, whichever. 22/100

Nolan: I think “Brown Paw” may have been a more appropriate name… 8/100

Barron: c’mon.

Joe H: Potting soil? Huh? 5/100

24.

Waterfront Brewing (Shipyard, apparently), Spiced Pumpkin Ale, Portland, ME

What the brewery says:

There doesn’t seem to be one.

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Like chewing Big Red while drinking Red Dog. 19/100

Dietz: That actually IS Pumpkinhead. Moving on, I’ll take an Icehouse please!

Shahin: Cinnamon pennies. 15/100

Jim: Heineken N’ Cloves. 28/100

Barron: WATER is definitely the operative word here. 25/100

PumCaCa-2015-206 125.

Two Roads Brewing, Roadsmary’s Baby, Stratford CT

What the brewery says:

 “Roadsmary’s Baby is a traditional pumpkin ale with a Two Roads spin, it’s aged in rum barrels for added complexity and depth of flavor. The result is a smooth drinking ale with notes of pumpkin, spices, vanilla, oak and a touch of rum.”

Judge’s Corner:

Dietz: Lots of nutmeg, a bit hollow and pissy. 26/100

Shahin: Rosemary’s miscarriage – tastes like Chinese five-spice and death. 16/100

Mark: I had high hopes for this one but – it tastes like eating cinnamon soap. Why?? 8/100

Jim: Rotten apricots? 28/100

Joe H: Tastes like piss that has been strained through a dryer sheet – soapy and bad. 2/100

26.

Blue Moon Brewing Company, Harvest Pumpkin Ale , Golden, CO

What the brewery says:

“In 1995, we crafted our first autumn seasonal—Pumpkin Ale. At the time, Oktoberfest beers were in high demand. For our version, we wanted to create a beer that was a little different than what was already out there and complemented the season by highlighting the flavors we’ve all grown to love during this time. It was so popular that it became the first nationally available pumpkin ale. Harvest Pumpkin Ale, as it’s called now, is crafted with pumpkin and spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice for a taste you’ll want to fall right into.

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Prompts me to coin the phrase “Cumpkin.” 5/10

Dietz: There are even worse aromas than past years emanating from this – it’s like a stepped on a banana AFTER stepping in cat shit and then peed on the bottom of my shoe to rinse it off and that’s what ended up in the glass. 11/100

Shahin: Smells like burnt matches in the bathroom, tastes like slimy okra. 13/100

Mark: Like drinking very bad beer from a rotting pumpkin, and I agree with Joe with regards to the whole cum thing. 5/100

Jim: It’s like caramel corn mixed with rotten turkey meat. 22/100

Nolan: So savory, like bologna wrapped around an exhaust pipe. Smells like a water treatment facility. 2/100

Barron: Bleachy. 30/100

Joe H: Simply undrinkable. 20/100

PumCaCa-2015-144 127.

Samuel Adams Brewing, Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Boston, MA

What the brewery says:

“Real pumpkin & warming spices like ginger, cinnamon & nutmeg give this brew a smooth, hearty, and inviting character perfect for the crisper days of fall. Special ingredients include real pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Like drinking vintage Tab soda from 1988. 12/100

Dietz: Overtones of both a medicine cabinet and the potpourri that’s been sitting on the back of a toilet for 6 years. Incredible plasticity in the flavor. This sucks. Did they squeeze it out of a sanitary napkin? 6/100

Shahin: Black olives. I’m sweating… 16/100

Mark: This smells like my buddy’s dorm room rug that I pissed on while blacked out one night, which I also slept on. Actually it smells more like my pants did than the rug itself. Embarrassingly bad. 8/100

Nolan: Like wet cardboard, flaccid and undrinkable in it’s acidity. I want this to be over VERY badly.

Jim: Smells like a basement, tastes like lemons and cheese. 27/100

Barron: Tastes like Pepto Bismol, texture is both chalky and oily somehow. 15/100

PumCaCa-2015-020 1

28.

Samuel Adams Brewing, Fat Jack limited release craft beer, Boston, MA

What the brewery says:

“This rich and luscious brew indulges in flavor with over 28 lbs. of pumpkin per barrel, for a full bodied sweetness and deep russet color. Classic pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice ignite a warmth and spark that’s deepened by an undercurrent of roasty smoked malts. The result is a delectable brew full of enveloping layers of flavor and spice.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Smells like a bag of Raisinets and dead rodents, tastes like a leper gingerbread man. 2/100

Dietz: That is fucking heinous. Immediate ejection. So gross and foamy, I’d rather go get a 4-gauge Prince Albert than taste this again. 2/100

Shahin: Dothraki choad, toffee, vomit. 14/100

Mark: I was looking forward to this one – my mistake. Like a gingerbread man covered in diesel fuel. 3/100

Nolan: I actually worked at a gas station, briefly – Mark is pretty spot on. 10/100

Barron: Wow, this may be the worst one. 5/100

29.

Uinta Brewing, Oak-Jacked Imperial Pumpkin, Salt Lake City, UT

What the brewery says:

“Aged in oak barrels. Label art by local Utah artist Trent Call.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: One Pie sweetness, Uinta #scatnplay #pajamajammyjam

Dietz: Disgustingly sweet, stupidly high in alcohol. I hate it. 8/100

Shahin: Sulphur and vanilla, MolASSES. 27/100

Mark: High-octane graham crackers. 20/100

Nolan: Jacked, boozy – although I don’t hate it as much as the others. 20/100

Barron: So sweet, tastes like dark simple syrup. 30/100

Joe H: Boozy graham crackers again. I don’t even know anymore.

30.

Saranac Brewery, Our Pumpkin Ale, Utica, NY

What the brewery says:

“A hearty ale brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and ginger with a full body and amber color.”

Judge’s Corner:

Joe: Oh good, more cigarette buts-in-cans flavor. 11/100

Dietz: Light and shitty, almost refreshing after the last one. I also agree it’s like a girly beer that you take a haul off in the morning and realize there is a cigarette but floating in it. 29/100

Shahin: Pork ribs, cinnamon, and fabric softener. 17/100

Mark: Vanilla for days – too many days. 8/100

Nolan: Coors Lite than has been open for a day and then filtered through an air freshener. 10/100

Jim: Rotten lemon. Rotten rhubarb. 37/100

PumCaCa-2015-240 131.

Long Trail Brewing Co, Imperial Pumpkin, Bridgewater Corners, VT

What the brewery says:

“This limited release, seasonal treat is small batch brewed with pumpkins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves with increased malts and a touch of bitterness for the perfect balance.”

Judge’s Corner:

Shahin: Like sweaty college kids at a Green Mountain Coffee shop that is constructed with graham crackers. 19/100

Mark: More spice, more hate. 8/100

Barron: It’s still gross, but if I had to drink a six-pack at gunpoint I’d choose this. 40/100

32.

Southern Tier Brewing, Warlock Imperial Stout, Lakewood, NY

What the brewery says:

“Warlock is brewed to enchant your palate on its own and also to counterpoint our Imperial Ale, Pumking. Make your own black magic by carefully pouring this imperial stout into a goblet. Dark and mysterious, the Blackwater Series is serious about high gravity. Reanimate your senses with Warlock’s huge roasted malt character, moderate carbonation and spicy pumpkin pie aroma. FOOD PAIRINGS include spicy BBQ, smoked or roasted foods, or maybe you can try it as a float with a scoop of ORGANIC vanilla ice cream, or paired with a slice of carrot cake!”

Judge’s Co – ok you get the point now.

Joe: This is like rifling through a box of Fannie Farmer chocolates and discovering each one has been bitten in half by an inebriated clown. It also reminds me of vanilla ET breakfast cereal. 6/100

Dietz: Dark, toasty graham crackers. If you jammed a broken cigarette up your nostrils you could prolly jam down a couple of these before throwing up all over yourself and pissing in the closet. 18/100

Shahin: Subway Tootsie Rolls, magically nasty. 19/100

Mark: So much vanilla. So. Much. Vanilla. Like eating a vanilla candle. I mean, I love vanilla but I don’t want to eat my way through a Yankee Candle store. 20/100

Jim: VAAAAAANNNNNNIIILLLLLLAAAAAA. 65/100

Nolan: I can almost get a bit of hazelnut through the full-on assault of burnt chemicals. 10/100

Barron: Does Axe Body Spray make a graham cracker fragrance? So bad. 15/100

Joe H: Like stale Hyrdox cookies 48/100

PumCaCa-2015-134 133.

Ballast Point Brewing, Pumpkin Down, San Diego, CA

What the brewery says:

“A pumpkin ale that bucks the trend.

Some might think we’re out of our gourd for making a pumpkin ale, but our Pumpkin Down is not like the others. The caramel and toffee maltiness of our Piper Down Scottish ale is the perfect backdrop for a boatload of roasted pumpkin. Just before bottling, we add a subtle amount of spice to complement, but not overwhelm, the earthy flavor. It was a smash at the brewery, and we think you’ll agree. Pairs with Truffle risotto with butternut squash, Sage gnocchi, Jalapeño cornbread.”

Joe: Smells like a trash can after you open the lid and assume that there must be a dirty diaper at the bottom, tastes like a Power Bar. 2/100

Shahin: Like a malty battery. 28/100

Mark: Lots of earthy pumpkin. Not terrible. Not good. 25/100

Jim: Like a dog’s ass, with bizarre spicy notes. 48/100

Barron: Wow, this is by far the worst Ballast Point beer I’ve ever tasted. 35/100

Joe H: Spice is very slight, unpleasantly bitter. 44/100

34.

Harpoon Brewery, UFO Pumpkin, Boston, MA

What the brewery says:

“It’s a simple story; we brew this beer because we like pumpkin (pumpkin pie, really) and thought an unfiltered pumpkin ale would be great, especially during the New England fall. Turns out it is. Imagine a pumpkin vine wound its way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer. Add Northwestern hops and a blend of spices, and you’ve got UFO Pumpkin. The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. And like all of our UFO beers, UFO Pumpkin is UnFiltered.”

Joe: Like a stagnant pond on a humid summer day. 4/100

Dietz: Goddamn, urinal cake all up in this bitch. Sweet tarts and, fuck, why?? 3/100

Shahin: Bile, apothecary, organic cinnamon tampon. 13/100

Mark: My senses must be destroyed; I don’t think it’s terrible. 15/100

Nolan: Fruity, medicinal dirt. I just don’t know what to say anymore… 10/100

Jim: Oysters crackers and sour cream, with pumpkin. Not too bad! 5/100

Joe H: Smells like a women’s perfume counter, tastes like watery tangerines

PumCaCa-2015-031 1

35.

Redhook Brewing, Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, Portsmouth, NH

What the brewery says:

“Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter is dark chestnut brown in color and is made with pureed pumpkin. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are added to the whirlpool and maple syrup is added during fermentation. This full-bodied, rich roasty porter makes you want to eat turkey and watch football, or build a bonfire.”

Joe: It’s like a blend of one half chocolate milk, one half liquid smoke. 15/100

Dietz: Strong oxidized notes, even more in the pie hole. Soy sauce, umami! 31/100

Shahin: Nutmeg and soy sauce 12/100

Nolan: Molasses, spice, I don’t know I just hate everything at this point. 20/100

Barron: Wanted to like it but yeah – total garbage. 25/100

36.

Uinta Brewing, Punk’N, Salt Lake City, UT

What the brewery says:

“This sessionable pumpkin ale is brewed with fresh pumpkin and seasonal spices.

Malt and hops accented with roasted pumpkin and spices of the season. A subtle hint of vanilla and honey. Punk’n is a wonderful compliment to foods with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove flavors. Try it with roasted turkey, squash or pumpkin ravioli, peach cobbler, or pumpkin cheesecake.”

Joe: It tastes like it’s over. Forever. 100/100

Dietz: Sweet, honey-graham nose. I was able to swallow it. 49/100

Shahin: DMS, creamed corn. 18/100

Mark: Apparently my senses are still intact enough to realize that this is awful. Real bad. I should give it a higher score because it’s the last one but 10/100

Nolan: Gaaaaah! Not too bad, I can’t taste anything anymore. 20/100

Jim: Reminds me of goat caramel and old peas. 25/100

Barron: top 5 least shitty, tastes like actual squash, but still bad. 50/100

Joe H: Grassy, wheaty, fair. 45/100

And there you have it. No more PumCaCa. You’re welcome. I will leave you with a quote from the end of this tasting:

“Almost every “beer” seemed to have been born from the same mother (most likely there was a toilet involved). I am so consistently amazed that there is a market at all, let alone the massive one there is, for this sweet, chemically, faked-spiced Band-Aid-tasting garbage.

It’s funny that, after tasting over the years, many of the bad ones have gotten even worse, almost as if the breweries were stomping each batch with water (or rubbing alcohol) to stretch out supply.

There were a few standouts, the Allagash Ghoulschip and surprisingly the 2008 Dogfish Punkin. It’s always nice for the palate to get a break from the madness. This is how I would like to remember PumCaCa, as a bunch of friends getting together to pick apart a ridiculous trend in the business we have all chosen. No matter how painful, it was fun.

Thanks for including me, much love,

– Arlin Smith

 “Woot! Never. Again. Ricchio.”

 – Jon Dietz

PumCaCa-2015-244 1

If you are interested in prior tastings:

#1 – Nolan’s house

#2 – Nolan’s house

#3 – Dietz’s House

#4 – Novare Res

#5 – Mark’s Trailer

 

One Comment on “PumCaCa VI: The Last Supper

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