Here’s our take on fall and Oktoberfest style beers. Criteria is based solely on opinion and knowledge based on reading loads of books like Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer and any beer related article we can find. If you want a professional opinion look somewhere else. If you want the layman’s opinion and where you should spend your hard earned money then hopefully we can guide you in the right direction. Cheers!
1. Brooklyn Oktoberfest – Brian Welzbacher
I picked this amber colored beauty up in Texas and was glad this was my first Brooklyn experience. I’ve read so much about Garrett Oliver and his craftsmanship for great lagers coming out of NY and finally got my hands on one. It poured a deep amber color with a very small head that soon disappeared. Initial aroma was heavy with malt and earthy hops. Flavor was a juicy biscuit malt, small bitter finish with a bit of nuttiness to it. Very smooth over all as a 5.5% beer. While the beer was refreshing I probably would not seek this one out again. I look forward to finding more Brooklyn beers though and hopefully much sooner.
2. Shipyard Pumpkin Ale – Ethan Buckman
Sometimes, you get a beer that blows you away with how good it is. Sometimes you get a beer that’s so bad you think it must have slipped through some type of quality control check. And sometimes you get a beer that’s so assertively, aggressively bland that you wonder what human being could have thought it was something worth putting out. The Shipyard pumpkin beer would be the latter.
Pouring a pale straw color with a nice rocky head, the look was certainly the best part of the beer. The aroma was grainy with such a small hint of spice I may not have noticed it unless I knew it was supposed to be a “pumpkin” beer. The flavor matched, with a bready character being the only dominant flavor note. If it had been a blind tasting I might have asked myself “what kind of yeast did they use to get that barely perceptible spice character?”. There was no hop character, no pumpkin flavor of any kind. Just some mild bread and malt notes backed up by the tiniest, tiniest bits of clove and cinnamon.The body fit the theme, being neither thin nor full, but just “medium”.
Technically speaking, the beer was just fine. There were no off flavors, no evidence of brewing flaws. Which made the whole thing that much more disappointing. This beer suffers from a timidity in flavor that would leave a dedicated Inbev drinker wanting for more.
In short, there’s nothing wrong with this beer. You won’t feel the need to dump it out. But the overwhelming sense of “eh” will leave you sorely disappointed, thinking of what could have been.
3. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – Brian Welzbacher
Do you remember the first time you had a pumpkin beer? Do you remember your first love? Schlafly’s pumpkin ale has been creating memories for me and my friends ever since I turned 21. I’ve yet to find anything comparable to this pumpkin spiced treat and look forward to it’s release (no matter how early in August it is).
This is an 8% beer brewed with pumpkin squash and a blend of secret spices you’ll find in a classic pumpkin pie. It’s not overwhelming with sweetness and the alcohol keeps it balanced making it a great dessert beer in my opinion. Just pouring into a snifter you’ll immediately smell fresh pumpkin pie spice waft out and entice you to drink. It has an off white head with some lace and a nice copper color. Toasty, malty flavors of baked pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and hint of vanilla. This is certainly one to stash away for the coming holidays.
I typically treat this as a sipping beer and one to savor as I drink. The clove and cinnamon work nicely up front but don’t linger too long. Very easy drinking for the 8% ABV so go easy but please seek this one out. I’m sure you’ll find a six pack near my deathbed down the road.
4. Marshall Oktoberfest – Brian Welzbacher
October truly is the usher of fall and seasonal beers for me when I embrace the fall weather and look for something to satisfy my craving for a balanced, malty meal in a bottle. Since Marshall released their Oktoberfest I make sure to have a six pack on hand whenever an impromptu back yard party around the fire pit comes up. Marshall continues their pure German craft with this copper colored complex lager that rivals many Oktoberfest lagers in the market. Super drinkable with small lingering of noble German hops and medium body. Little lace left behind because I drank it too quickly. Notes of toasted caramel and great carbonation keeps my going and reaching for another. So toss back a few and throw the baseball around with friends while you can because this seasonal won’t last long. Prost!
5. Left Hand Oktoberfest – Brian Welzbacher & Eric Marshall
I had a little help with this next one at McNellies the other night. Not quite sure what to get I suggested Left Hand’s Oktoberfest as I have been taken by it’s ease of drink-ability, light body and nice caramel flavor. “I haven’t had this in a long time. It’s an all around great beer, uses a different yeast than the Marshall Oktoberfest which gives it more sulfur flavor but not in a bad way,” stated Eric. My impressions was different after first having this beer from a bottle versus the tap. It certainly beats out a majority of craft brew attempts I’ve had in OK like Shiner and even Sam Adams. Leaves a thin lace and has a small hop finish to it with a classic Marzen lager flavor.
6. Wachusett Pumpkan – D’Wain Carthen
A good pumpkin beer is often hard to find. You typically find people on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to this particular style of beer. You either love them or hate them. Tasting pumpkin beers like any other style of beer is dependent upon what you have tried and what you like. Personally, I like a pumpkin beer that has the characteristics of pumpkin pie. Lots of spice and lots of pumpkin. To date there have only been a few that I really like, and there is only one that I truly love.
I recently acquired Wachusett Pumpkan from a fellow trader in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it did not deliver on what I like in a good pumpkin beer. The can was really cool. As far as I can remember, it is the only pumpkin/harvest beer that I have ever had out of a can, so that is a plus in it’s column. What the beer really lacked was spice and flavor. It is 5.2% ABV and overall just not a strong beer. It tasted better as I ate some food, but I think that is because it added some spice and flavor to the palate. If you happen to get a can of Wachusett Pumpkan give a try. It may end up being something you like, but it is not for me.
7. Brooklyn Post Road – Brian & Amy Welzbacher
I’m fortunate to be married to someone who can appreciate good beer and actually share these huge 750 ml bombers I continue to acquire. On a recent Texas trip with my wife we picked up Post Road from the Brooklyn Brewery. It’s described as a beer that reflects how people brewed with vegetables before hops became readily available. With a pumpkin on the label and being brewed with spices I was hyped and ready. I forgot this is a traditional beer and had a shock to the palate. It drank like with minimal pumpkin flavor and hardly any spice. Light bodied with a quick effervescence on the tongue and hoppy/bitter finish that didn’t linger. I let it warm and found a bit more pumpkin flavor. Overall we weren’t impressed but it was a nicely brewed beer overall. It certainly plays more on the traditional pumpkin ales of the 18th century then the pumpkin pie and high alcohol beers we are used to today. This one only clocked in at 5% ABV. I’d suggest many others we have locally before pursuing this one.
8. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin – D’Wain Carthen
Friday, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few brews with friends. Some buddies and I get together and record music as time allows. When we do we have mini bottle shares during the process. There is not anything too fancy being shared; just casual craft beer. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin/harvest beers (my favorite season), so one friend brought some Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale for us to try.
All due respect to Jim Koch and everything he has built with Samuel Adams, but this misses the mark for me. I think the group liked it, but it was not a favorite of mine. Again, it lacked flavor. Imagine sitting down at Thanksgiving and taking that long awaited first bite of pumpkin pie and it tastes like only a dab of cinnamon and maybe a pinch of cloves might have been added to the mix…and your life is ruined right then and there at Thanksgiving. Sounds horrible, right? I want cinnamon and spices to smack my taste buds around. Right now, Schlafly Pumpkin is in the top slot for me. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin unfortunately gets nowhere close to what I look for in a pumpkin/harvest beer.
9. Red Hook’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter – D’Wain Carthen
I had the opportunity to try Red Hook’s Out of Your gourd Pumpkin Porter on Saturday. First of all, I had no clue that this beer even existed. I do not typically check for Red Hook when searching for brews. I think just about everyone has had the Red Hook ESB, but I have not ventured beyond that beer nor have I had it more than a few times. That is not because I think anything bad about their beer, but I just have not taken the time to look further. Thankfully, I was at an event on Saturday and someone was kind enough to bring some of this delicious brew for the group to try (Thanks, Chris!).
Out of Your Gourd has great carbonation and mouth feel and yes…finally…great flavor. I had enjoyed Founders Breakfast Stout, St. Bretta from Crooked Stave, Surly Overrated, Uinta Birthday Suit Sour Brown, and of course the delicious Pirate Bomb from Prairie Artisan Ales. Despite all of the big brews, OOYG still delivered on the flavor. I only had a small pour of this and would gladly take a pint. Red Hook has definitely gained a fan in me. I would put this brew in my 2 slot right now. I have a handful of pumpkin brews on the way this week including Pumpkinator from Saint Arnold’s, Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Uinta, and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (aged in Bourbon Barrels). I am eagerly awaiting these brews and hopefully getting my taste buds smashed.
10. Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf – Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Purchased in a variety pack from the fast growing Urban Chestnut Brewery in St. Louis the Reverence series pays homage to classic brewed European beers. This beer, translated as “tail of a squirrel”, has a low hop presence and heavy malt that is surprisingly balanced and does not drink like a lager. It pours a gold to orange color with an off white head and lacing that follows to the end. Amy thought it very smooth and medium bodied but leaves without saying goodbye. It’s very drinkable with a sweet malt up front but nothing really stands out to remember it by.
I’m a huge fan of Urban Chestnut but with me it is hit and miss on their beer selection. Ideally I will stick with their STLIPA found at Busch Stadium or Wing Nut. However, the next beer by UCBC is something I’ve never had anything remotely close to.
11. Urban Chestnut Count Orlok Black Pumpkin Ale – Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Wow. I love black ales, Schwarzbiers and pumpkin ales but all of them mixed was unique. Count Orlok, or Nosferatu was the German version of Dracula. This beer pours dark like his heart with a brunette body and tan head. It diminishes quickly with no lacing and the aroma is heavy of pumpkin spices. Almost overkill on the taste as well with cinnamon and vanilla and very little if no roast in the back end. Low hop presence and slight aftertaste of spices and roast malt. Light to medium bodied beer with good effervescence throughout and flavor that lingers long. While we both enjoyed it, we felt the spices over shadowed the beer as a whole. Being part of a specialty 8 pack I most likely won’t have this again but could see it being enjoyed with vanilla bean ice cream.
12. Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator – D’Wain Carthen
I’ve been doing a few beer trades as of late and experiencing a great number of beers that I never tasted before. All have been good thus far. I can honestly say that one of the most exciting things is tracking that beer mail and seeing it has been delivered. Well today, I received a box from my good buddy in El Paso. The drive home was furious (sorry if I cut you off on the Broken Arrow Expressway). I made it home safe and sound and so did the brews. In this box I received Not 1. Not 2. But 3 Pumpkinators from Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, TX. It released the same week that Pirate Bomb did. Apparently my buddy had quite the trek around the city gathering up these 3 bottles, just as many of us did gathering up as much Pirate Bomb as we could.
Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator is an Imperial Pumpkin Stout weighing in at 10% ABV. OK….srsly you guys. Let me just tell you guys, this beer is PACKED with flavor. I thought perhaps the pumpkin and spice would be over-powered by roasty/coffee flavor, but it definitely was not. The roastiness works really well with the pumpkin spice and balances out the sweetness very well.
Pumpkinator is absolutely outstanding. It gives all the flavor that you need and much much more. As it got warmer the flavor got even better, as it should. I am very excited that I have 2 more bottles. The two I have left will probably be drank at Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas respectively. This is a once per year release and once it is gone…it’s gone. Get some friends in Houston or find out the release date each year and make your way down to H-Town. This beer is absolutely worth it.