2012 Great Hoppy Trails Punk-off

Puyallup River Brewing wins 1st Annual Great HTBN Punk-off

Nine pumpkin ales were consumed and judged (blind test) on five attributes by a panel of common beer drinkers at the HTBN headquarters on October 27, 2012. Jack O’Lahar Pumpkin Ale from Puyallup River Brewing took top honors, followed by Pumpkin Spice from Two Beers Brewing and Punkin from Dogfish Head.


Ales in the competition were:

  • Jack O’Lahar Pumpkin Ale – Puyallup River Brewing
  • Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Samuel Adams
  • The Great Pumpkin – Elysian
  • Night Owl – Elysian
  • Harlot’s Harvest – Pike Brewing
  • Pumpkin Spice – Two Beers Brewing
  • Pumpkin Ale – St Ambroise
  • Pumking – Southern Tier
  • Punkin – Dog Fish Head

Judges awarded 1-5 points for:

  • Appearance (color, head, etc.)
  • Aroma
  • Initial taste response
  • Finish response
  • Pumpkin Pie – ness*

– Does the ale incorporate the common spices and mouth feel of pumpkin pie?


  • Judges received a 2-3 oz pour of a single beer and rated it on guided attributes. Basically an ale began with a rating of 3, and adjusted up or down based upon a positive or negative physical response or opinion.
  • Tasting glasses were rinsed between pours until all ale tastes were judged.
  • Official rating sheets were collected and tabulated by an independent agent.

Note: Beers were not judged on appropriateness to style. Rather, they were judged based on novice beer drinkers’ first impressions, some who had never tasted a pumpkin ale before; kind of like what you might find in any number of brewery taprooms across the country. Ales were selected for the competition based on availability, reputation and curiosity, while browsing offerings at local bottle shops.


Jack O’Lahar was the favorite ale tasted by 80% of the judges. Pumpkin Spice from Two Beers finished one point behind to earn the Silver medal. Punkin, from Dogfish Head captured the Bronze.

Judges then adjourned to a feast of homemade chili, cornbread, veggies and pumpkin pie. Some had pumpkin pie floats as an added treat. Reactions from the judges were fairly wide ranging. A certificate of achievement has been sent to Puyallup River Brewing for display at their brewery.

Congratulations to Eric Akeson for a fine ale that made a cold, rainy night a bit more enjoyable.