We the people like to complain about every damn thing in the world, and for some strange reason, we've settled on pumpkin beer as one of the things to complain about the most. The stuff sells outrageously well, and in so doing serves as a gateway beer guiding people out of the macro cooler, even if just for a couple months before they return to their repulsive Bud Light comfort zone.
This makes a lot of unbalanced people very angry.
I think pumpkin beer's popularity is great. I've long maintained that Guinness is enormously important and probably underrated, because although hardcore beer geeks are tired of it, a single pint of Guinness on St. Patrick's Day is the only good beer a lot of drinkers encounter all year. I think the same logic applies here. My wife drinks a lot of fancy beer these days, because that's the one thing I'm good for around the house; if we'd never met, we'd both live much poorer lives, me because she pays for everything, and her because she might still be drinking Corona 11 months a year and Shipyard Pumpkinhead the 12th. That's not as good as drinking the gourmet shit year-round, but it's better than the endless bummer of an eternal Corona binge.
Pumpkin beer is good for beer culture, which is what makes it all the more baffling that my social-media feeds are crudded up earlier and earlier every year with people whining about seasonal creep regarding pumpkin beer. Some varieties start hitting the shelves in August these days, which means anyone looking to be the first to bitch about them needs to fire up his (probably his) Twitter indignation while the mid-summer bottle-rocket fumes are still in the air. It's ridiculous, and one of the most pathetic examples of the way too many us (me included, I'm sure) feel the need to define ourselves based not on what we like and value, but instead on what we're sick of, too cool for, or fake-outraged about.
So hurray for pumpkin beer: I'm glad it exists, and it's a shame that I can't stand the shit. A few years ago, I did a blind tasting of maybe a dozen or so brands, and I can't remember which was my least unfavorite, but I know ShockTop ranked really high; in fact, I recommended it to my editor a couple weeks ago when he frantically texted me out of nowhere on a Friday night. I think the Blue Moon one might have fared well, too. That's how bad I think the category is: I recommended a Budweiser product to the man who pays me to write about beer, and then compounded the error by praising a Coors beer.
Clearly I'm not qualified to evaluate pumpkin beers at length, but I will tell you about Southern Tier Pumking, because it's reputedly one of the finest of its kind, and my wife and I split a bottle of it Sunday afternoon. It costs $8 for a 22-ouncer, it gets high marks on the beer-review sites, and it's 8.6 percent alcohol by volume, so even a skeptic had reason to think it might be pretty good.
Nope, didn't like it. It smells super spicy, mostly of nutmeg and cinnamon, but there's also a small hint of cloves that lends a slightly Belgian aspect that nudges it toward credibility in my book. I think I smelled some apples, too. But it tasted dusty and dry and muddled, like store-brand allspice that's been sitting in the cabinet for way too long. My wife loved it, though, and I'll get at least one more bottle before the season's over, which I expect to be sometime in early October, just in time for us to starting bitching about how it's too soon for winter beers.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
The Concourse is Deadspin's home for culture/food/whatever coverage. Follow us on Twitter:@DSconcourse.