"Don't bother with pumpkin beers," warned a Facebook friend when I mentioned I was aiming to develop my beer-tasting savvy.
Bah! I said to myself. Why not? Who wants to read only good reviews?
So I wasn't expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The pumpkin libation I sampled, Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, was bubbly and crisp, with no hint of bitterness. The foam head is thick and golden. The beer is the color of burnished copper: Think old bowls and pots from Paris's E. Dehillerin.
There is a mere hint of pumpkin and a fair amount of spice (ginger?) here, with the tiniest trace of - what? - apple? This malty beer tastes of autumn.
The beer has body. My husband liked that.
"I'm waiting for it to warm up because I like beers that taste good at room temperature," he said. "Let's see how it tastes when it warms up."
Me, I like my beer cold. That probably means I'm a novice. Well, I am. But I can learn, right?
(The truth is, neither of us is a big beer drinker. We prefer wine. But I became intrigued with beer tasting a decade or so ago when Country Living Magazine ran a beer column. It was cleverly and vividly written by some guy.)
As it turns out, Harvest Pumpkin Ale retains its spicy, pumpkin hints, even when warm. If anything, as it warms the broad fruity flavors come through for an overall refreshing experience.
"It's good warmer, too," said my husband. "I like it. I like it."
Harvest Pumpkin Ale has an almost cider-y feel. About five sips into my half-glass, I started to crave Beer Nuts, those salty, semi-sweet nuts that used to be ubiquitous in drinking establishments. After further imbibing, I started thinking of ham and cheese with mustard on pumpernickel.
Yup, we'll buy this one again. So much for staying away from pumpkin beer. But after sampling Harvest Pumpkin Ale, I realized I had not considered a few crucial factors like the speed of head formation (who knew?) and the appearance of the liquid. I just looked at the color. That's how I buy cars, too. Is there something wrong with that?
I did notice the scent, but since I'm rather experienced in purchasing perfume that observation came naturally. Maybe I should apply it to pulse points?
There are a few more factors I need to consider, too. I'm not aiming to become an expert, just seeking to find a few drinkable brews to pair with meals. And use for beer bread, which I really like.
It's a learning process. But it's more fun than math.