Taste-Testing Two Pumpkin Beers: One's a Treat, The Other Must Be A Trick

We've already mentioned a handful of them, but today being Halloween, perhaps reading about one particularly excellent pumpkin beer will inspire some of you homebrewers not to waste the chunks of gourd left behind from carving your jack-o-lantern.

On the other hand, the scary results of a pumpkin experiment gone awry might serve as a caution against creating a Frankenstein's monster in a bottle.

First, the treat: Originally created as No. 9 in the Divine Reserve series of limited-release specialty beers, Saint Arnold has recreated its imperial pumpkin stout as an annual fall seasonal, packaged in 22-ounce bomber bottles. But while it's not part of the DR series, it is just as eagerly sought after -- and every bit as difficult to find. Fortunately I was able to obtain a couple of bottles after putting out the call on Twitter. Within minutes, I had several leads, including World Market in Arlington, the Kroger on Northwest Highway at Plano Road and, via direct message so as to not let the word get out, a Plano store I was asked to keep hush-hush. Fortunately, I didn't have to drive quite that far, thanks to Nathan Lee Brown at the Preston-Forest Whole Foods.

Pumpkinator poured cola-black, dark ruby when held up to the light, with a surprisingly thin, short-lived tan head. The typical pumpkin-pie spices were very pronounced on the nose, particularly cinnamon and clove, with the subtler nutmeg and allspice in the background. The taste is unbelievably good, sweet but not overly so, with the roasted-malt stout complementing the spices quite well. The medium body wasn't nearly as thick as I expected for an impy stout, which may be a good thing as it didn't leave behind a mouth coating of sticky pumpkin pie but rather leaving behind an impression of spice rather than the typical bitter finish of a stout. Overall, an outstanding beer. If I can exercise the patience, I believe I'll save the other to go with Thanksgiving dessert -- though capped with a scoop of whipped cream, it could qualify as dessert on its own.

Unfortunately, La Citrueille Céleste de Citracado, a collaboration between The Bruery, Elysian Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing Co., is not so successful. In fact, it's a train wreck, evidence of the old adage that too many chefs spoils the soup.

From the press release, it sounds as if the brewers' goal was to do something very different from the traditional pumpkin beer by avoiding the typical pumpkin-pie spices with the yams and Stone Farms pumpkins. Different -- I'll give them that. Rather than dessert spices, they threw in birch bark, lemon verbena and toasted fenugreek, whatever the fuck verbena and fenugreek are. The result is a very herbal smelling and tasting beer with some rye spiciness. Sharing a bottle sent to me by Stone after our Oktoberbest Final Pour, Paul Hightower and Brian Brown were as much at a loss as I was to describe it. Brown noticed a very vegetal scent, something like the slime that develops on greens that have been left in the fridge too long. Hightower found hints of evergreen and chamomile and described the smell as "something you'd tear out of your garden and throw away." The collaboration is set to be distributed in Texas, though I haven't seen it in stores yet. I wouldn't go out of my way to find it -- if you're looking for a new Stone product, spend your money on the excellent Double Bastard instead.

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Jesse Hughey
Contact: Jesse Hughey