by Rebecca Zborowski
I feel I should start this post by clarifying that nobody loves fall and all of the food and festivities surrounding it more than I do. I wanted to like pumpkin beer – no, I wanted to love it and look forward to it all year long. But after sampling three wildly different brews, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it. For an autumnal drink, it’s better to stick with spiked ciders or harvest/Oktoberfest ales than the artificial, overpriced disappointment that is pumpkin beer.
I was positively chipper as I prepared to dive into this pint, a pumpkin beer virgin. I’m sorry to say, however, my first PB experience was quite vile. This particular brew is harsh – kind of like an acid rush when you sip it. The smell that greets you is that of spicy Bud Light, just as unappealing as it sounds. Frog’s Hollow is brewed with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove, yet only clove seemed to be sucker-punching my tongue. It was like a clove cigarette in liquid form, with the same strange feeling in your throat afterward. The flavors here were just so unrefined – there were no sweet, buttery or smooth elements. Actually, there were no identifying notes of pumpkin whatsover. Best way to describe this atrocity is that it tasted like Blue Moon left out in the hot sun for days.
I had the highest hopes and expectations for this one, as I’ve long enjoyed Blue Moon. It wasn’t a disaster like Hoppin’ Frog, but I wasn’t won over either. This ale definitely had the most complex group of flavors of the beers I tried, and the most pleasing taste. I just didn’t get a lot of pumpkin from it; it more or less tasted like original Blue Moon lightly punched up with spice notes. It was perfectly drinkable, and I wouldn’t be opposed to kicking back with it on a fall evening, but regular Blue Moon is still the superior choice.
This one was devoid of the spicy overtones the previous two had, taking flavor inspiration instead from buttery pumpkin pie. My first reaction was that there was a subtle hint of an approximation of pumpkin – smooth, but timid. It didn’t leave much of an impression. On my second sip, I wondered what was worse in a specialty beer: watered-down blandness or outright offensiveness? It was only after I sampled this one, following a gulp of the Blue Moon, that it became evident Wild Onion’s version actually did have the best taste of pumpkin; it was the only beer out of the three in which pumpkin was the dominant flavor. It also left the best aftertaste, sort of sweet, almost like pumpkin pie. This brew may have won the taste, test but I still wouldn’t recommend it for serious beer drinkers. However, for a themed Halloween party, this cheap ($9.49 for a 6er!), inoffensive beer might be an asset to have stocked in the fridge for a last-minute bash.