Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Beers — Shipyard Brewing vs. New Belgium Brewing

Kennebunkport Brewing Company
(Shipyard Brewing)
Pumpkin Ale
ABV 4.7%

New Belgium Brewing
ABV 6%

For this battle we again pulled something from the shelves of Trader Joes. Included in their crazy selection of pumpkin-flavored items this year was this Pumpkin Ale from Kennebunkport Brewing Company. A little internet sleuthing revealed that KBC beer is brewed for Trader Joe's by Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine. The Pumpkick is from the good people at New Belgium Brewing in Colorado which gives us a Colorado vs. Maine pumpkin showdown.

Beers were tasted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (KBC Pumpkin Ale) was a clear golden yellow. The aroma was very sweet with lots of pumpkin pie spices and some grain. Flavorwise it was very malt forward with sweet honey notes followed with all the pie spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves) and a bit of citrus. The finish was all pie spices and sweetness with just a touch of acidic citrus.

Beer #2 (Pumpkick) was a clear brownish orange. It had a slightly vegetal aroma that also featured a sweet, roasty, toasty maltiness. There was very little carbonation and perhaps partly due to that the flavors were muted and a bit dull, featuring roasted malts and light pie spices. The finish was a strange combination of spices that didn't seem to mesh well.

We both assumed that the Pumpkick would dominate this battle. As you can see, we were wrong. It's an ambitious beer — the bottle reveals that they added cranberry juice and lemongrass along with the expected pie spices in the brewing. While we appreciate the creativity, the experiment did not work for us. The strange finish was likely a result of the lemongrass trying to find a way to live in harmony with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The sweet roasted malt backbone reminded us both of Fat Tire, making us wonder if Fat Tire or something similar was used as the base beer. All in all it just seemed messy.
The KBC Pumpkin ale was nothing to write home about but we both picked it anyway. It's a real typical mass-produced pumpkin beer with a light body and a heavy dose of pie spice — a good novelty beer but nothing real complex or exciting. We wouldn't buy either of these beers again, but don't let that steer you away from pumpkin beers in general. As we've experienced in past battles, pumpkin beers can be most excellent. Seek them out and drink them. It's a worthy pursuit.      

Unanimous decision: KBC Pumpkin Ale