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: Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin’ Jack India Pumpkin Ale (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs Red Racer’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)
One of the more frustrating aspects of Pumpkindrome is that I feel like I’m penalizing innovation. On the weekend, it was Parallel 49’s chocolate and pumpkin porter failing to make the cut. This week, I’m having similar struggles with Tree Brewing’s marriage of IPA and pumpkin.
Here’s the problem, I think: pumpkin is not a particularly bold flavour. Add something strong, like IPA-appropriate concentrations of hops or chocolate, and you mask it. If you’re not amping up the spices to compensate, it doesn’t take much to lose any sense of your original purpose.
Jumping Jack is a darn bold IPA, too. While I’ve somewhat come around on my no-way-IPA stance lately, thanks to some delicious brews (most notably Gigantic Brewing’s offering out of Portland), this is not my kind of IPA. Forget nuance, this is all hops — and hops in a concentration that makes me think soap, not beer. If there’s any pumpkin here, I can’t find it. Probably because I’m too busy wincing.
Red Racer’s take on pumpkin beer, meanwhile, is as textbook as you could find, from its pumpkin pie smell to its spice blend. Here, as with other contenders, it’s mainly a cinnamon effort, though there’s a sense of ginger and nutmeg in the blend as well. I’d call it mid-sweet, but it’s really pushing that definition. And while the pumpkin isn’t as well-developed as I’d like, it’s definitely there.
It’s a perfectly good beer. Does exactly what it says on the label. And yet, I feel a bit bad that once again, I can’t give the risk-taker a bump. I’d love to taste a beer that marries IPA’s assertive hops with the pumpkin’s interesting, savoury freshness. Tree’s ain’t it.
Red Racer’s onto round two.