Red Racer vs. Shock Top

Redemption round (for me, I mean) — Red Racer vs. Shock Top

Redemption round (for me, I mean) — Red Racer vs. Shock Top

It’s the semifinals of Bad Rider’s pumpkin battle, and it’s time to explain the rules for our next section.

Since I never did track down the right number of beers for an even bracket (Kamloops was experiencing some weird beer stockage issues for much of early October, but that’s another, much whinier post), we’re headed into round two with five beers on the block.

Thus, I’ve decided my favourite of the competition thus far gets a bye.

So congratulations Phillip’s Crooked Tooth! You move to round three. Phillips was our first week winner and impressed me with its balanced mix of spices and pumpkin. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a tough one to beat when we reach final three.

As to the rest of our brews, best wishes and spices.

The Challengers: Shock Top Pumpkin and Red Racer’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale 
(Click through to see the original matchups that brought these two to our semifinals.)

I’ll be honest, this was over in a sip.

As I mentioned last time, Shock Top is not my bag. Too thin, too chemical, way too sweet, it’s here in Round Two by the virtue of another beer’s failure.

If you’re in the mood for a pumpkin beer and you have the choice between these two contenders? For the love of Good and beer, pick Red Racer.

The craft option is only medium-sweet with a darker, more caramel edge to its sugar. It’s mild on the spices, as is Shock Top, and the pumpkin is a little one-dimensional compared to some beers in its class, but it’s a thoroughly solid pumpkin offering. I’d recommend it on mouthfeel alone, over Shock Top.

Will it stand up to our other two finalists? That’s a question that’ll have to wait for the finals.

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.