Wine vs. Beer: Pumpkin Brews Drive a Wine Lover Away from Craft Beer

Michael Gorton Jr. is a funeral director who writes about his “love affair” with wine at his aptly named blog, Undertaking Wine.  Love affair or not, Michael decided to play the field and have a summer romance with craft beer.  Unfortunately, this summer of love came to an abrupt end when he saw something at his local bottle shop that drove him right back into wine’s vinous embrace: A display of pumpkin beers.

To quote Michael:

I loath pumpkin beer.  There is just not one I have tried that I like and I really cannot see spending money on such ales.  But it’s not just Pumpkin beers, it’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin, cookies, pumpkin candles — just about anything that has the combination of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter.

While Michael will still drink an occasional stout or porter, it sounds like those pumpkin brews flipped his skeeve switch for good and he’ll mostly be steering clear of the beer aisle moving forward.  

Michael’s flight from the craft beer world makes me wonder – are true wine geeks cut out for the world of craft beer?  Or is there a purity of tradition that attracts folks like Michael to wine that makes it difficult for them to appreciate the crazy stuff craft brewers get up to?  I honestly don’t have an answer here, as I have no interest in wine.

But I suspect that if you’re serious about wine, then you probably enjoy exploring the nuances found within a tight set of vinting parameters as opposed to the unbridled creativity found in craft beer. You want an interesting expression of the chardonnay style, not a vanilla bean coffee merlot or a bourbon barrel aged Shiraz (both of which I just made up and sound fabulous to me).  Color however you like as long as it’s inside the lines, sort of like the wine version of the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law from the fifteenth century.

I think the Reinheitsgebot is awful, an outdated set of handcuffs fashioned to keep brewers from driving up the prices of wheat and rye by making it illegal to brew with anything but barley (which bakers didn’t need for bread), hops and water.  While it helped keep beer’s bloodlines pure, it’s boring as hell.

America is a land of mutts, and this is reflected in our approach to craft beer.  Our brewers mash up styles and experiment with ingredients with a rock ‘n roll, mad scientist ethos. This is one of the things I love about craft beer (besides, you know, the beer).  Some of the beers produced here are amazing, and some of them are repellent (looking at you, sours), but all of the crazier ones embrace a spirit of creativity and a desire to explore the limits that I think is one of the best modern day embodiments of the American spirit you can find.  If you don’t enjoy a certain type of beer (like pumpkin) there are several others you’re bound to love.

But then again, I’m a beer geek, not a wine nerd.  The idea that any one variety of beer (or cheese, or wine, or chocolate, or gummy bears) would have me writing off an entire category of foodstuffs is crazy talk.  I’ll write off a brewery that doesn’t brew to my tastes, but only after trying several of their beers…and invariably changing my mind after I finally have something I like from them, usually after writing a post about how much they suck – I know the nuances of crow like Ralphie knew the nuances of soap in A Christmas Story.

And for the record, Michael, they make pumpkin wine  and, if we’re keeping score, it’s sparkling to boot!   I hope you don’t see a display of these at Wine World.  But if you do, hit up Don and he’ll introduce you to the world of whiskey – ain’t no pumpkins in that!

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle

Author:Jim Galligan

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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42 Comments on “Wine vs. Beer: Pumpkin Brews Drive a Wine Lover Away from Craft Beer”

  1. September 17, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I hate pumpkin beer as well.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      But you’re not giving up on beer because of it, right?

      I had an awful mead (a putrid coffee mess) that made me cringe to think of it days later. But I’ll still give mead a go, even though that one was so bad.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      Right. It’s not my thing either. Nor are any of the fruti-beers. (Coffee in beer…okay). I like the taste resulting from the combining of hops, barley, water, and yeast. But, I also agree with you, Jim, “The idea that any one variety of beer (or cheese, or wine, or chocolate, or gummy bears) would have me writing off an entire category of foodstuffs is crazy talk.”

      I think Mr Gorton may have found himself liking beer too much (thereby ruining his blog’s name) and needed an excuse to going back to wining.

      Confession: I like vanilla ice cream and don’t want to try other flavors (only other brands and flavors of vanilla). But, I’m not going to try to convince others that they shouldn’t try tobacco-sherry ripple.

      • September 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

        More Chunky Monkey for me, Norm!

  2. September 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Seems kinda silly, those w/ pumpkin are clearly marked so he could just avoid them. (I don’t like Noble Rot, but I still try other DFH beers.) But, ultimately, its his choice and his loss.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Agreed – to each their own, but it seems weird that seeing a display of pumpkin beers would make you decide that this beverage is best left alone…

  3. September 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Hmmmm, pumpkin whiskey?

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      Small Patch, no less!

      • John
        September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

        Your fired

  4. September 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    So I outlined a few possible Jew Years Resolutions last night (as I enjoyed a Stone Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers – something I’m sure the heir to the Gorton’s Fisherman Fortune would find particularly reprehensible) and one was to start blogging again. Not as if I haven’t wanted to, don’t have enough potentially interesting ideas or entertaining concepts. I do, but I’m lazy. It’s easier for me to pop into a blog or two (such as yours) and throw down a comment than it is to log onto my site (assuming I remember the password) and write from scratch. Again. Lazy.

    Then came the fateful decision to read this article. As usual, very well written, tight, snappy arguments. Relevant, insightful observations. Smartly layered snark. All in all, another great piece. I can’t put that type of post together. Not these days. Not while I’m lazy.

    Cheers!

    BTW, Fegley’s Devious Pumpkin on tap for the nightcap after a Lost Abbey Witches Wit.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Maybe you could start a blog where you review other blogs, Mr. Monger.

      Also, blogging is an addiction, and if you’ve managed to kick it, I say stay strong!

    • September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Gorton’d probably barf over my choice last night as well–Flying Dog’s Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout (w/ real Rapphannock River oysters in the brew.) Durn good stuff but I don’t foresee anybody putting out an oyster wine any time soon. (LOL)

  5. September 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Hmmm … I was a wine geek before a craft beer nerd. I think if you’re into experiencing wine, craft beer isn’t that big of a jump. You’ve already got the tasting principles down. Likely more so than someone not into wine. Not only that, but once I realized I should experience the varied world of beer like I experienced wine, a wonderful new landscape of tasting opened up before me. I was like a kid in a beer candy store.

    Today, I drink far less wine than I did. Craft Beer is my beverage of choice. But I haven’t written it off. I still love experiencing a well made bottle of wine. I can’t imagine eschewing every bottle of wine because I had an uninspired pinot. How odd.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Yeah, it’s like there’s a chunk of the story missing, like “I saw the pumpkin beers, and realized that I don’t want to waste my time with a lowbrow and impure beverage that would put veggies in the kettle.”

      I’d think him a snob, but that’s okay – it’s a free world. The way it’s laid out now is a little hard to wrap my head around, like seeing a poster for ParaNorman and deciding you never want to watch a movie ever again.

      • September 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

        Or perhaps, “Hey, I tried this craft beer thing, and it’s not pulling with my wine audience. Going back to what pegs the meter.”

        • September 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

          Except he wasn’t blogging when he wandered off – he was burned out on wine. Maybe he saw the pumpkin beers and decided it was time to go home…

        • September 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

          Ahhh … he was cleansing his tired wine wine palate with craft beer and got homesick. Got it.

  6. September 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Pumpkin beers were the last straw? That would be like someone delving into the world of wine being turned off by tasting a Greek wine. I see it as a lame excuse for him to go back to drinking wine because he thought beer was low-brow.

    By the way Jim, I think you’re completely wrong about the Reinheitsgebot. There are so many different combinations of yeast, malt, hops, and proportions thereof, that you’ll never run out of new and different beers to try. Just by changing the yeast strain alone will change the flavor of beers using the exact same ingredients otherwise. Besides, the rest of the world doesn’t to comply with the Reinheitsgebot, so what’s your beef?

    • September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      I think the Reinheitsgebot is outdated is all, like Catholics eating fish of Fridays (although this inspired the creation of the Filet O’Fish, so it’s not all bad).

      I don’t have a beef with it as much as I think it’s useless in this day and age. Think of all the cool beers that we wouldn’t have if we stuck with it – rye IPA’s, fruit beers, oatmeal stouts, Dogfish Head…everything. There’s no reason to limit the creativity of brewers.

      That said, I do think the Reinheitsgebot helped define and preserve what beer is, and I’m thankful for that.

      • chibigodzilla
        September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

        Yeah, but Reinheitsgebot isn’t used anymore, not even by the Germans. The current law is the Vorläufiges Biergesetz enacted in 1993 which really only limits lagers and honestly I don’t see many craft brewers doing anything interesting with lagers. Spices and fruit are still verboten, but your rye-IPA and oatmeal stout are perfectly legal.

        There was also the Biersteuergesetz of 1952, but that also only applied to lagers, near as I can tell Reinheitsgebot hasn’t been in effect since WWII, if not WWI.

  7. September 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Interesting that seasonal beers with Pumpkin drove Mr. Gorton Jr. back to wine. I’m not a fan of pumpkin beers either, but I still find myself trying them every year. Unlike Michael, I don’t abhor everything pumpkin. I preferred Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins over Zwan, but I didn’t abandon alt-rock because of his new band. Most of the wine folks that I’ve talked to say that the current trend of extra-hoppy beers made them abandon exploring craft beer and go back to the world of wine. The best thing about wine is that the barrels are sometimes used to age some amazing whiskey and beer. Thank you wine.

    • September 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      I agree with your friends. I had trouble getting into fancy beer because I didn’t love IPA’s. then I had a Chimay, which led to Belgian Quads and barrel-aged stouts, and I was off to the races. Now I like a good hop monster, as long as I have a malt bomb to fall back on as well.

  8. September 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Not a fan of pumpkin beer here either – though I think a pumpkin sour might actually work in a perverse way. Have to admit though that quitting on beer because of pumpkin beers shows a distinct lack of imagination, could he not have tried an Octoberfest lager instead, or a nice malty brown ale? Admittedly it kind of sounds similar to the situation I addressed in a previous post on Fuggled:

    http://www.fuggled.net/2012/09/beer-is-not-wine-deal-with-it.html

    • September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      If you click over to his site, you’ll see that he likes Oktoberfests. I think he was taking a break from wine and exploring craft beer, but those pumpkin brews sent him a packin’!

      • September 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

        I had a quick look at his site, but it seems rather reactionary to spit the dummy at the SIGHT of pumpkin ales rather than simply try something else.

  9. Austin
    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    This guy obviously just doesn’t like pumpkins, period. This has nothing to do with the merits of craft beer versus wine. I’m surprised he is so narrow minded to let his distaste for pumpkins drive him away from craft beer altogether.

  10. September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Just wanted to say great photo, and I enjoy the blog! Incidentally, I love pumpkin beers when they come out every year. It’s a nice change of pace and a fun 2-3 week adventure for me, at which point I usually burn out on them and go back to regular old craft beer! Variety is the spice of life!

  11. September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Maybe he was just at a loss for something to write about. (That does happen on occasion, doesn’t it JIm? ;^) )

    • September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Not yet, Wayne…not quite yet…

  12. September 17, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Pumpkin beer has actually grown on me. I’ve had many bad ones so pretty much ignored this seasonal release…..that is until I came upon Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale which was quite good. Another one I enjoyed recently is the latest release of Southern Tier Pumking. So, after many bad starts, I’ve found two that I can drink with a smile.

  13. Brendan
    September 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    I’m not a huge fan of pumpkins, except as projectiles, but giving up craft beer because of this? Good, more beer for me.

    I heard that all craft beer is secretly made with pumpkin. Stouts and porters are just dark because the black color hides the orange.

  14. September 18, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Guess it’s time for me to chime in :)

    Never knew my little ditty about about Pumpkin Beers would become a post on another blog.

    First off, Pumpkin Ales are not driving me away from craft beer. In fact I had Sixpoint Brownstone last night while watching MNF. I will be picking up some Oktoberfest beer soon and will fill my growler with a new favorite of mine from my local Nano Brewery, Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, Oktoberweisse — A beautiful Oktoberfest Hefe.

    As you quoted me, I loathe everything pumpkin. But in the next paragraph I mention: “I don’t mind harvest ales. I like Oktoberfest beer. But please oh please don’t brew with pumpkin extract, canned pumpkin or add pumpkins to your boil. The just will not do it for me.”

    We are both geeks in our own world. And here is where we can bring our two worlds together. Just as I can teach one about wine, you can teach me about beer.

    I will admit, I grew up around some not so plesant beers. It was not until about two summers ago that I really started to explore the world of craft beer and I fell in love with it. I have been to Nano Keg festivals and am a member of a local beer club. LIFE – Long Islanders for Fermentation Enjoyment. I joined because I wanted to educate myself on craft beers.

    I choose to blog about wine and enjoy wine more because I was around it more. I spent summers on Long Island as a child. I would see vines every summer and enjoy wine tasting as I grew up. I tasted and tasted and sampled and enjoyed and disliked many a wine. But my palate is honed. In fact, I will say time and time again, I dislike Cabernet Sauvignon, the “King” of all red wine.

    I have helped harvest grapes for wine on multiple occasions, been a cellar hand for a day. I have helped press and make Rose wines and I have enjoyed every aspect of the wine making process.

    This summer I got so into craft beer that I helped harvest Mt. Hood hops grown less than 5 miles from my home. In fact it was a family day until my two year old son had enough…

    There is a saying in the wine world. You cant make a good wine without great beer. And I see it. In fact, by drinking mostly beer over the summer, my palate has improved and the beer made it more honest and accurate! (That’s my opinion, I don’t think this is scientifically true.)

    Just two peeps above suggested a pumpkin beers they like. No one else did. Here is your chance… recommend your favorites. I will try them and let you know if in fact I like them.

    Lastly, in my heart of hearts, I do believe that beer geeks and wine geeks can get along.

    • Matt
      September 18, 2012 at 7:22 am #

      Perhaps a beer that can unify the blogger disdain: a pumkin sour. (Which sounds amazing to me!)

    • September 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      So far, the only one I drink every year is DFH Punkin’. I like it because its dry, which most pumpkin beers ain’t. Seein’ as how you don’t like pumpkin anything, I don’t hold out much hope that you’ll like it any better though. But if your gonna try it, I suggest you try it at room temp–makes a lot of difference in the taste–or as a mulled ale. (Jim tipped me to drinking it warm and he was oh so right!)

      Also, most good wines aren’t especially sweet, so someone accustomed to tasting good wine will probably be turned off by sweet beers, as most pumpkin beers are, as well. My experience says that sweet beverages are not refreshing, but tart, sour or dry beverages are.

      A test, how do you feel about high abv Belgian style beers w/ all their residual sugars? I generally steer clear of them because of that sweetness. (Now whiskey and brandy on the other hand benefit from some sweetness, but that’s another thing altogether.)

      • Matt
        September 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        There’s research that argues sweet wines are actually more complex, and sweet wine drinkers more refined in taste. Here’s a summary article: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a20101018/layout/print.html, and here’s a host page for one of the researchers: http://www.tastescience.com/aboutus.html. This is research is based in part on the “supertasters” stuff….

        I love high abv Belgian style beers, but have poured out a highly acclaimed quad because it tasted to me like cough syrup.

        Also, I see Elysian has a Dark Sour Pumpkin out there. Back to the store!

        • Matt
          September 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

          Actually, if anyone is still reading at this point, here’s a more accurate explanation of the sweet vs. dry wine drinkers’ tastes: http://www.timhanni.com/ConsumerStudySummary.pdf It also has some notes as this relates to beer drinking behavior.

        • September 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

          I always knew I had unrefined tastes. Does that mean I can get by on the cheap? (LOL)

  15. September 19, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    In somewhat of a defense of Gorton, I find that the fall beer selection this year is inundated with pumpkin ales. I hate pumpkin beers so I find this very aggravating. What happened to the harvests and the festival beers you previously polled about? I have been to several beer bars on my travels up and down the east coast and find only pumpkin. Sad.

    • September 19, 2012 at 7:52 am #

      Ha ha! As a guy who prefers stouts to hoppy beers, I say welcome to my world! IPA’s sell, so they’re everywhere. Looks to be the same with pumpkin brews.

      • September 21, 2012 at 5:46 am #

        Yes, we’ve had this discussion before. Like you, I prefer the feeling of chewing my beer than sucking on a lemon.

  16. Brian
    September 19, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    There is definitely a difference in the beer scene versus the wine scene. Breweries are allowed to push the limits (in the USA) without being held to some prototypical standard that Robert Parker and the rest of the “experts” agree on, as they do for wine. Also you can buy different beers to try just for the heck of it without going broke, whereas with wine a lot of people tend to find something they like and stick with it partly because wine can be so expensive and you don’t want to take a chance on a 25 dollar bottle that you never heard of or tried.

  17. October 6, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    I’ve never tried pumpkin beer but would definitely be up for at least one glass. Thanks for the mention.

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