Steamworks vs. Shock Top

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The final week of round one — Shock Top vs. Steamworks

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.

For the final week of Round One, our challengers are: Steamworks Pumpkin (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL)  vs. Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat (5.2 per cent ABV, 12-pack or seasonal mingler)


Well, this is embarrassing.

If the bracket had ended up differently, this wouldn’t be happening. Were our one big-box, conglomerate owned, only-in-there-as-a-control beer up against Parallel 49 or Nelson or Howe Sound or even Fernie, I wouldn’t have to do this. (Were it up against Prohibition, maybe. Not every craft beer is blameless.)

In case you haven’t guessed, Riders, what I’m saying is Shock Top Pumpkin is headed to round two.

Here’s why:

The thing to understand is this was Steamworks’ round to lose. Shock Top is high sweet, not much spice, but a pronounced and fairly realistic pumpkin taste. It’s not a bad beer, but every flavoured Shock Top offering makes me feel like I’m drinking alcopop and this is no exception. The sweetness is more pronounced, with a refined-white-sugar flavour. The mouthfeel is thinner. The flavours are more laboratory-crafted.

All Steamworks had to do to triumph was give me some pumpkin and spice flavours, any of them, and I’d take its natural sweetness and smoother feel any day of the week.

Instead, what I got is a beer that I would never have expected from that brewery.

Typically, Steamworks beers are idiosyncratic. Lots of bold notes. Sometimes (oftentimes) too many bold notes for my tastes. If anything, I would have expected something too assertive. But this beer suffers from the same problem as many of the challengers — neither spice not pumpkin makes the appearance one expects.

There is something there, a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg on the back of the sip. But it’s not enough to impress, and certainly not enough for round two.

Anyway, if you need me I’m gonna crawl into a hole now and hide my snobby, snobby shame.