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In this week's edition of Tabletop Wrestling, Dan Person and Mike Seely tackle the contentious topic of pumpkin ales.
Dan Person says pumpkins by the pint can be a good thing:
I must admit, my first experience with a pumpkin beer was not a pleasant one.
But there was a reason for that: I bought the six pack off the discount beer rack in Missoula, Montana's Orange Street Food Farm (as name-checked here by The Decemberists) sometime in December (or was it January?) in search of a cheap drunk. And it wasn't just that this beer had exhausted its shelf life and festive purpose; by all indication, even on All Hallows' Eve, the spiced pumpkin swill would have been harder to choke down than last year's candied corn.
So let it be known: Bad pumpkin beers exist. But I'm here to say that they don't have to suck.
Case in point: the Elysian Brewing Company's Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. Given that Elysian hosts a pumpkin ale festival, it should come as no surprise that these brewers know what they're doing with this particularly perilous genre. And the fact that they can do a pretty great beet bock -- yes, beet bock -- makes me think that a pumpkin beer would be a walk in the patch for them.
And indeed, they nail it. Smooth, not too spicy, and done with the right ingredients, the Night Owl isn't just a good pumpkin beer, it's just a good beer.
And even if a pumpkin beer is botched, I'll note another advantage these ales have over many other beers that look past hops and barley for their flavor profile: spice. When a chocolate stout or apricot beer go overboard or otherwise miss their mark, we risk overly sweet beer that not only is unappetizing, but can give any drinker nightmares of a nasty hangover. Pumpkin ales, by contrast, run the risk of being over spiced -- be it with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger or allspice (all ingredients in the Night Owl). While this obviously isn't ideal, I'd much rather be hit over the head with a complex flavor like nutmeg than a straight shot of sugar.
The takeaway, then, is do your homework. Festive beers are dangerous territory, but rest assured that your perfect pumpkin beer is out there. Dan Person
Mike Seely says pumpkin-pinched pints are for pussies:
Beer is an acquired taste. Hence, when someone takes her first drop of liquor at age 14 (let's be honest), if it's beer, it's gross. Which is why a lot of people cut their teeth on Boone's, fruity cocktails or wine coolers--and often puke it up at night's end.
But once one acquires a taste for beer, and realizes there's more to the realm than cardboard briefcases of Bud (or worse), it can be a joy to quaff. And to flavor such joy with blueberry or pumpkin or whatever is akin to spreading a thick layer of mustard on a first-rate porterhouse.
You don't fuck with perfection, and flavoring beer is fucking with perfection. It might not taste bad, but it's an adulteration nevertheless. It's a "holiday" gimmick, sure, but for a primer on how to properly execute a holiday gimmick, look to winter beers. Rather than dilute the seasonal variety with fruits or spices, the potency gets ratcheted up. That's how it should be done. If you want flavored alcohol, Strawberry Hill's still right around the corner. Mike Seely