Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale

I've seen this beer around for years now, and never had the gumption to give it a try.  For one, a pumpkin spiced beer ain't my bag baby.  Two.  It's a Shipyard product.  I'd had given Shipyard a go at a Beer Fest, and was summarily unimpressed.  So much, to the point I'd never go out of my way to purchase their product.  It was that bad, and I couldn't see where they would charge such a high price for such a spectacularly awful beer.

Last night, I was at my local Mellow Mushroom Pizzeria, enjoying a Mighty Meaty with my wife, and I decided to try out a seasonal ale.  I only started tasting seasonal pumpkin flavored ales last year.  I'm not one for anything with pumpkin flavor, it just doesn't sound appealing to me.  I believe I tried a Dogfishhead Pumpkin Ale last year.  It wasn't that strong in the pumpkin flavor, so it was a good door to open and try out the style without scaring me off.

Having trepidation about ordering a Shipyard product over a beloved local beer (Cigar City Maduro Brown).  I rationalized away the Shipyard choice by remembering all the cases and sixes of the stuff I'd seen clogging up the local bottle shops the last two weeks, and the smiling clerks, trying to foist this crap on me by saying it's one of the biggest sellers this time of year, and just positively flies off the shelves.  Oops, I kinda tipped my hand there didn't I?  I digress though.  So I weigh out what has been told to me, and figure it's only one draft.

The waitress brings me my draft.  Zero head.  Can't blame most pourers though, they're trained to serve Bud/Miller/Coors in other establishments to folks who see beer foam as being cheated out of an ounce or two of beer.  The color looked good.  I couldn't tell that well though.  The lighting was off in the venue, but the beer itself seemed to have a bit of a reddish tint to it.  The beer was served in a Sierra Nevada Glissade pint glass, which allowed me to get a whole noseful of aroma.  Which, I have to admit.  It wasn't bad.  A wholesome scent of Pumpkin Pie spices.  Nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon et-al.  They were all there.

The first sip was another story entirely.  Unlike my recent Miller adventure, where the foul smell of the beer foreshadowed the bad flavor to follow, the Shipyard brew made a liar out of my nose.  It smelled good and inviting, but the underlying beer, was no where close in taste to what I thought I was going to get.  It wasn't.........bad.  It just wasn't good.  There was a taste of the spices that could be smelled, however, it seemed, if possible, that there were two separate things going on.  It's like two separate liquids were poured into my mouth at the same time.  One being carbonated water, the other being something with a hint of Pumpkin Pie.  It was a weird experience.  It's almost like there was a dividing line that could actually be discerned between the added flavor and the base beer.  Not a carefully crafted beer with exotic spices allowed to meld into the character of the beer.  No not at all.

I started to plough the pint in order to get rid of it, and move on to something more enjoyable, but something happened.  My pizza arrived.  With the pretzel dough crust, tomato sauce, cheeses, and rich meats, the pizza provided a perfect dance partner for the subpar base beer.  It actually erased the flavor of the base beer, and what was left was the mixture of holiday spices.  Which alone, blended beautifully with whatever was going on in my mouth from the pizza and its ingredients.  And sadly enough, I'd gone through it fast enough, but now I was enjoying the hell out of it with the pizza, and I wanted more!  By the time the waitress got around to getting back to us, we were finishing up with eating, and one of our sons had called needing a ride somewhere, so we had to leave.  I was not going to be able to get another pint of anything with this meal.

Granted the experience changed vastly when paired with food.  It still didn't make up for the fact that it seems to be a badly made beer, and is not enjoyable when consumed alone.  A beer should be able to show it's strengths when it stands alone, and sadly, this beer has no strength whatsoever.

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