Pumpkin Head vs. Crooked Tooth

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Week One: Fernie versus Phillips

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, Week One.

The Challengers: Fernie Brewing Co. Pumpkin Head Brown Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL) versus Phillips Brewing Co. Crooked Tooth (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)

We begin our epic showdown with a battle of light and dark, sweet and more-sweet, pumpkin and …wait, where’s the pumpkin?

If Pumpkindrome were a battle of smell, Fernie would have the match after one whiff of the pint glass. With a moist pumpkin and spice aroma, Pumpkin Head smells like a slice of pie that’s been lingering on in the fridge a couple days past Canadian Thanksgiving. Crooked tooth, meanwhile, offers a light nutmeggy scent, but none of the pumpkin funk.

But, when it comes to flavour, Fernie’s offering can’t make up to its pre-sip hype.

Where I was hoping for notes of cinnamon, allspice and sweet, cooked pumpkin, all this dark beer had to offer me was sugar. To its credit, it was a rich, brown-sugar, fall-style sweetness — seasonally appropriate, at least. And as far as brown ales go, if you like your brew mid- to very-sweet, you’ll find nothing to complain about here.

You just won’t find any pumpkin.

Phillips, on the flip side, offered me a taste quite like what I would have expected from Fernie, based on smell. Crooked tooth is a pure slice of pumpkin pie, with a slightly sweet pumpkin custard flavour and mellow spicing.

While the Phillips website claims ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in the brew, it’s the latter I noticed most, which actually seemed to work quite well. While your standard pumpkin spice fare can get abrasive and heavy from cloves and cinnamon, a light touch of nutmeg adds some depth to the sweetness without overwhelming the pumpkin.

This time around, it’s no trouble to pick a winner. After all, if your pumpkin beer doesn’t taste of pumpkins, what’s the point?

Phillips moves to round 2.