So, the final beer in our six-parter best-of list for 2013 is a pumpkin beer from east London. Not something that I ever thought I would write, but there you go – once again it proves how creatively planned, perfectly executed beers even in styles we don’t like can still surprise us…
Stingy Jack (7.2%)
Beavertown Brewery, Hackney Wick, London
(keg, bottle, October)
Back on Monday, whilst praising the superb chilli-laced Harbour Aji Limon IPA, I listed my two least-favourite styles of beer (honey and chilli, respectively). If I had to round off the podium of shame by selecting another adjunct, I think it would probably be anything involving the pumpkin. Autumnal ales that appear, without fail, around the time the clocks go back have never really cut it in my book; they are uniformly sweet and scented, like drinking a Yankee Candle (mind you, having said that, it is usually the other bits and pieces that are added at the same time as the pumpkin that bring these flavours out).
So, imagine my surprise when a punt on a pumpkin turned up one of my beers of the year. That particular beverage was Beavertown Stingy Jack, a 7.2% spiced pumpkin ale from the überhip East London brewery that has recently decanted to Hackney Wick from their original home of Dukes Brew & Que. Looking back, I think my immediate love for this beer was down to a single decision taken somewhere down the line that resulted in a completely different flavour to the finished beer. Whilst the pumpkins were being roasted to be added to the brew, they were also glazed with maple syrup – giving, in my book, a completely original dimension.*
*There may be other maple pumpkin beers out there, but not being a fan, it’s not something I actively seek out, at all
Now, surely maple syrup would make the beer even sweeter, and thus shove Stingy Jack into that bracket of overly spiced muddles I really don’t go for? Well, not at all – the cinnamon and nutmeg trace was muted, and the syrup gave the beer an overall effect of a liquid pumpkin treacle tart. It might sound strange, and even unappealing, but it made all the difference. The faint edge of alcohol balanced everything out, and finished the beer off beautifully. Yet again this year, a chance sampling of a beer I thought I wouldn’t like revealed something that changed my opinion of an entire style, proving again just how good beer can be when you experiment (both as brewers, and customers).
So, that’s it for our traditional six-pick best of for 2013. As ever, on Monday I’ll be writing about the beers that so nearly made it into the top dozen, as there were plenty more great new beers on the scene that the ones highlighted so far. Following that, at the end of next week it’s the big one – the BeerCast’s Brewery of the Year. Who will knock off last year’s winner, Fyne Ales?