I get pretty excited about the start of pumpkin beer season. There is nothing (well, maybe cider and falling leaves and caramel apples) that smells and tastes like distilled fall. I’m pretty picky, however, about my pumpkin beer. I like it not very sweet, with a spicy front and mellow finish. What could be more fun on a fall night than a trip down to a new bar to try new kinds of pumpkin beer? Last Saturday The Institute (just two blocks north of Spring Garden on 12th St.) offered flights of pumpkin beer – 4oz., 4 beers, $12. So of course, I tired four. The reviews, from left of the photo to right:
Dogfish Head Punkin: Obviously a classic. This is the first pumpkin beer I reach for at the end of September. Unfortunately, while delicious, I can only drink one. If it were less sweet (with the same bite) I wouldn’t stop.
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager A truly bizarre pumpkin brew. Sweet up front, then spicy, with a sharp, almost sour aftertaste of fresh, uncooked pumpkin.
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin: My favorite of the four. Well-balanced flavor, light on the sweet and heavy on the spice. Stock the bonfire and bring a six-pack.
Autumn Maple by The Bruery: Sweeeeet. Maple-y. Delicious and complex. But again, just one will do you.
Though I didn’t order it this night, in years past I’ve also enjoyed the Dock Street “The Great Pumpkin.”
A few words about The Institute, which hosted the event. Though I really like the space, and love how they festively decorated the outside of the bar with pumpkins and hay bales, I have to say this bar has a bit of an identity crisis. With three plasmas on the local (whichever team is playing) Philly game, it’s a sports bar. But the classic styling, tin ceiling, and corner bar scream classy dive. The food? Dominican. Go figure. The crowd?A little more polo-shirted than my type, though certainly jovial. The bartending, however, was a modest disaster. The barkeep didn’t know what a flight was, or that they were even running a special event. The absence of table service requires that you stand behind the people sitting at the bar and holler, which is just rude. And slow. And more than a little discriminatory to shorties like me. And they ran out of the promised slice of free pumpkin pie. Oh well. At least they ordered up some good kegs of interesting beer.