Week Three: Parallel 49 vs. Nelson Brewing
This October Bad Rider’s beer section is pitting gourd against gourd in a battle to determine which B.C. beer is king of the pumpkin patch. Welcome to Pumpkindrome.
The challengers: Parallel 49’s Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs. Nelson Brewing Co.’s Organic Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)
They both have pumpkin in their names, but today’s Pumpkindrome challengers couldn’t be less alike if I’d tried, instead of leaving this bracket to random chance. And, more than any match up so far, this week’s decision is coming down to personal preference and slightly twisty logic.
Parallel 49’s Lost Souls is on the low end of sweet, with a smooth, mostly chocolate taste — milk-chocolate, not dark. The chocolate’s balanced out with the sort of malty notes you’d expect from a beer of this style, and overall it’s a very cohesive drink. With a short of espresso dropped into your pint, you could drink this at brunch with absolutely no shame.
Nelson’s organic pumpkin brew is much more in the traditional line of things. The pumpkin is quite good here, very fresh and just a little vegetal. It feels like it could have been picked from the patch this morning. The spice blend on the other hand…
Do you remember those little red cinnamon hearts from Valentine’s Days past? This beer doesn’t seem to have the spice balance of the other comers so far. It’s all cinnamon, and when combined with the beer’s moderate sweetness you end up with a finish that’s uncomfortably bulk bin candy.
But, you ask, what about the pumpkin in Parallel 49’s beer?
That’s where the issue comes in, dear drinkers. I couldn’t taste any. If I’m being generous, I thought there were some hints of cinnamon rounding out the chocolate. You could see this more in the line of a chocolate spice bread — delicious, but unlikely to make pumpkin much of a star.
So while I think it’s well composed, very drinkable, and less discernibly flawed, I don’t think I can give Lost Souls the win. If I’d made it my only pumpkin purchase of the year, I’d be pretty disappointed, good as it is.
Nelson’s uneven, but you can’t deny it’s pumpkin. It moves on to round two.
[A note — last year Nelson brewed my favourite pumpkin ale, and I don’t remember this cinnamon issue at all. It could be uneven brewing, or my palate’s developed in the last 12 months, but I think I’ll be revisiting this bottle next fall out of curiosity.]