Autumn often leaves us beer drinkers in a never-ending search for the best pumpkin beer to enjoy for the season. Will it be Uinta's Punk'n? Or Southern Tier's Pumking? Or Cape Ann's Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout? It's always a battlefield. Throughout the season, one of the things you'll commonly see (and probably disagree with to some degree) are lists of the top ten pumpkin beers. Some can be enlightening and reveal even more pumpkin beers you need to go out and try, while other basically confirm what you already know to be true. Well, as a beer aficionado, I, too, have succumbed to the endless search for a truly great pumpkin beer. While I find Pumking to be the best (and that's just my opinion), I am always looking for the next best thing.
So I have gone through quite a good few pumpkin beers: DFH's Punkin Ale, Uinta's Punk'n, Pumking, Riverhorse's Imperial Pumpkin, Shipyard's Pumpkinhead... Ah, there was one that was kind of interesting. Pumpkinhead is good, but it is still mostly a pumpkin spice beer with not much of a body to boot. And yet it finds its way onto almost every pumpkin beer list. So I was glad to see Shipyard also has another pumpkin offering: Smashed Pumpkin from their Puglsey's Signature Series. It comes in single bomber bottles, but with a hefty 9% ABV, I'm not complaining. So let's give this beer a whirl, shall we?
I'm going to first comment on the bottle. It's a very nice bottle, or rather it has a very attention-grabbing label. The label is bright orange with a black panel in the center, there's gold writing across the top, and the label wraps all the way around the bottle. Also, the top is capped with gold foil.
Anyway, the beer itself looks rather nice. It pours a orange-amber color which looks immediately like a good pumpkin beer. There is plenty of carbonation, but not a ton of head; probably a finger's worth at best, and it dissipates to nothing rather quickly.
I sense the traditional pumpkin spices - nutmeg and cinnamon - and also some other nice things. A sweetish honey scent graces my nose, along with some actual pumpkin malt. I like that I can detect the pumpkin in this beer, although the overall aroma is rather weak and leaves it hard to pick up on certain notes.
The first thing I noted were the spices, but the flavor is bolder than that. Biscuit and light notes of vanilla round out this beer, as well as a deeper malt: pumpkin. The pumpkin flavor is definitely present in this beer, which is perfect! There are far too many pumpkin beers out there that just feel like spiced ales, so kudos to Shipyard for one-upping their own basic seasonal release. There are also notes of caramel in Smashed Pumpkin. The flavor closes out with the spicy notes, which is cool. It kind of feels like the beer's flavor is a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Heh.
Smashed Pumpkin has a medium body which is brought to life by the pumpkin and bready malts. The astringency of the higher ABV is basically not present, leading to a smooth drinking experience.
It goes down smooth and leaves behind cinnamon and caramel notes, as well as some of the biscuit malt. The aftertaste kind of feels like I just had a slice of pumpkin pie.
Total Score: 74/100
While this was significantly better than Pumpkinhead, and it does probably make it into my top 10 pumpkin beers (at least of this year), Smashed Pumpkin only goes so far. It looks nice, tastes great, and finishes smooth. However, the nose was a little disappointing. But still, this is a very solid pumpkin offering from Maine's biggest brewery (well, Allagash may be just as big, but Shipyard is definitely up there). Pick yourself up a bottle and enjoy!
Also, I query you, the readers: what are some of your favorite pumpkin beers of the 2013 season? Drop a comment below.
Until next time, cheers!