Lindsay & Neil’s 5th Annual Pumpkin Beer Tasting

Please enjoy this post from my hubby Neil. 

Every year around this time, Lindsay and I have a pumpkin and seasonal beer tasting party. The size and format of the party has changed just about every year with our first party was just the two of us and it was a healthy mix of pumpkin and seasonal beers. This year we had six adults taking part in the tasting, two observers and a slew of children playing together and having a good time. One thing that is consistent is that we’ve always had some form of rating system for the beers. 

Sourcing the beers to taste is one of the fun (and sometimes tedious) parts of the process. This year, we started collecting beers to sample early on in the season and have been acquiring a beer here and there when something catches our eye. This year was probably the first year that the selection was entirely pumpkin as well. We managed to find a healthy mix of local beers, imports from the East Coast and even a cider. 

Pumpkin Beer Tasting 2014 - 11 Beers

With such a wide selection of beers and a large number of guests, we needed to find a way to adequately supply tasting glasses for everyone.  Early on in the shopping process for the tasting, we had noticed Target had a beer tasting party collection designed by graphic designer and blogger Kate Peters of Wit & Delight. The suggested price of the products was a bit on the expensive side for disposable goods but as the party grew closer, Lindsay was able to find the beer tasting cups and cards and a few other party items for half off in stores. On each tasting card was four different spots to grade the beers you are tasting. The options were “Another” or “Never Again” with some of us adding a third option equated to “I’d drink it for free, but I wouldn’t pay for it.”

Pumpkin Beer Tasting 2014 - Place Setting

Pumpkin Beer Tasting 2014 -places

After some appetizers, we got the tasting under way. We poured four beers at a time and took the time to discuss what we thought of each beer as a group.  The nice thing about pumpkin beers is that they come in an ever growing variety of styles. Love it or hate it, it wasn’t too long ago that it seemed that all of the pumpkin beers on the market were sweet, pumpkin pie spice bombs. It’s nice to see some more balance and moderation in flavor and styles. 

Pumpkin Beer Tasting 2014 - Beer As we made our way through the beers, we had a great time discussing what we thought of the beers and what specifically we liked and disliked about them (as well as giving those who like the least popular ones a hard time of course). 

The results of the voting weren’t really all that surprising. The breweries at the top are known for making great tasting and creative beers. I know my personal favorite was the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Punkin managed to fall into the “pumpkin pie” style of beer with out being overwhelmingly sweet or spicy. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale has consistently been in our top picks for our favorite pumpkin beers since we started doing the tastings. I also enjoyed the New Belgium Pumpkick. The spices weren’t too heavy and the addition of the cranberries in the beer was a nice touch, giving it a slightly tart taste.

The East Coast wholly embraces Autumn’s seasonal beers and why shouldn’t it? Fall in New England is arguably the best season of the year. That being said since moving to the West Coast  we have struggled to find many of our favorite pumpkin/Autumn beers. However there is one brewery that we’ve enjoyed and have found really embraces pumpkin beers on the west coast is Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Company.

Elysian brews up a number of different pumpkin beers every fall and even host a pumpkin beer festival. Their beers have done really well in both of the tastings we’ve had since moving to Portland with Night Owl coming in third this year and first last year.

Elysian’s pumpkin coffee stout Punkuccino (not officially part of the tasting) was Lindsay and my personal favorite this year. It’s made with Stumptown Coffee cold brew, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was incredibly smooth and was basically a pumpkin spice latte in beer form. (Lindsay jumping in here- seriously the best pumpkin beer ever and I’m bummed we couldn’t locate another bottle for our tasting). 

Pumpkin Beer Tasting 2014 - BeersNow on to the losers of this years tasting. The two huge disappointments in the lot were the Burnside Brewing The Dapper Skeleton and the Woodchuck Hard Cider Private Reserve Pumpkin Cider. The Dapper Skeleton just fell flat. The description was just so enticing with the chillies and cocoa nibs but in reality they didn’t add much to the beer.  In the opinion of all but one of our tasters, the Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider was terrible. I don’t think a single person was able to even finish their two ounce pour. I know I took only one sip before dumping it. 

Below is the tally of our votes:

Pumpkin Beer Results 2014

This was our biggest pumpkin/seasonal beer tasting to date and we look forward to carrying on with it for many years to come.  We’re also planning to host more seasonal and themed tasting parties as well as beer pairing dinners in the future. 

What seasonal beer or drink do you look forward to most?

If you like coffee, beer and babies follow Neil on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Also keep an eye out for his new blog Life Brews launching December 2014. 

Pumpkin Beer & Upton’s Seitan Bacon Pizza

For the past three years Neil and I have done a harvest beer/pumpkin beer tasting (2010, 2011, 2012) and this year was no different except we are now on the other side of the country where there is a major lack of pumpkin beer options. Anyways we decided to have our friends over and we did a blind tasting of 6 different pumpkin beers, or rather it was 4 pumpkin beers, one pumpkin cider and one combo or pumpkin beer and oatmeal stout.

Of course a pumpkin beer dinner party is complete without dinner so first I whipped up some appetizers of chips, salsa, veggies and hummus and then for dinner we had vegan caesar salad and pizza.  Now this post is really about the beer and the pizza so let’s first do a run down of the pumpkin beers (and cider) that we had and then I’ll share my recipe or a yummy fall pizza.

2013 pumpkin beer

Okay so the beers we tried were:

  1. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale
  2. Elysian Night Owl
  3. Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider
  4. St. Ambroise Pumpkin
  5. KBC Pumpkin Ale (Trader Joe’s)
  6. KBC Pumpkin Ale + Stockyard Oatmeal Stout

Favorite of the night: Elysian Night Owl. Runner Up: Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider

Now on to the tasty stuff the pizza! As you might already know we are big fans of pizza around here and I really enjoy creating fun and new topping combinations. Last nights combination was a bit of a risk but I would say it was a success, a delicious success! I have been working on a few recipes using Upton’s Seitan products and this pizza uses my absolute favorite product of theirs, seitan bacon. Seriously this stuff is so good!

If you have experienced vegan bacon in the past you may have had what I like to call “cardboard” version, you know the one that you cook and it gets really hard and loses any flavor it’s just gross. Then there is the tempeh and coconut versions which are both tasty but not so versatile. Well now Upton’s has a seitan bacon and it is seriously so good. It cooks up well, it tastes great and I have used it for so many different recipes although I have to say a good ol’ BLT is my favorite way to use it, however this recipe is probably my new favorite way to use it now.

Okay, okay let’s get on to the recipe!

upton's seitan bacon pizza

Upton’s Seitan Bacon Harvest Pizza Pie

Preheat your oven (and pizza stone if you have one) to 550F. Roll out the dough cover with a layer of pesto and then top with all of your toppings. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove. Let rest for a few minutes. Serve. (Easy right?)

Little note about Upton’s (from a recent press release of theirs): Upton’s Naturals—a Chicago company specializing in a wheat-based meat alternative, seitan—has opened West Town’s very first 100 percent vegan establishment, housing their production facility, a top floor yoga studio, and Upton’s Breakroom: a vegan cafe with a modest menu featuring the company’s seitan, soft serve ice cream, and pastries created in-house by Chicago-area native Kelly Peloza (author of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and the soon-to-be released Cheers to Vegan Sweets).

So Chicago friends if you’re in the West Town neighborhood stop on by and check out Upton’s Breakroom and enjoy a yoga class or a vegan ice cream! I just checked out the menu and a vegan pastrami sandwich sounds so good. I am hoping we make a Chicago trip soon and this will for sure be on our list!

Disclaimer: I was provided coupons for free Upton’s Seitan products. All opinions are my own and I really am excited about their new location! 

You can check out my very first Upton’s post back in April 2011 here and my recipe for Upton’s Chorizo & Mushroom Potato Skins.

Q: Have you ever tried Upton’s seitan?



Portland: While We Wait

Since apparently our movers are off somewhere on a beach with their legs up and an umbrella drink in there hand, well that’s what I imagine they must be doing since they are already five days past due, we have been out exploring the area.  It’s pretty frustrating that they haven’t arrived yet but what can you do? Honestly this is probably the only time in my life I wish I had been unpacking my dishes than eating Voodoo Doughnuts….wait no I’d always rather be eating Voodoo Doughnuts who am I kidding?


On Saturday morning we headed downtown to get our Voodoo Doughnuts on and for good measure we chose 5 doughnuts to share between the three of us (my mom is here right now).  Although we ordered 5 we really only shared 4 because after a tiny nibble of one of the vegan cake doughnuts we decided it was awful and tossed it out and moved on to the vegan maple creme (hello yum). We also had to of course get some Stumptown Coffee while we waited in line for doughnuts which had us crossing off two of the top sites to see in Portland.

After crossing those two sites off we headed to Powell’s Books to cross a third top site off the list. This bookstore is insane and I could have spent days in there just browsing all of the books. The children’s book section is especially impressive and I can’t wait to bring E there when she is older. I am already planning a bi-weekly Voodoo-Stumptown-Powell’s tradition in my mind for when she is older where we will all share one (okay maybe two) Voodoo Doughnuts, Neil and I will get Stumptown Coffees and E will get a new book at Powell’s.

After Powell’s we all started to come off our sugar high and decided that we should eat some real food so we walked a few more blocks to Deschutes Brewery. I have to say I am in beer heaven around here and Deschutes has a really beautiful brew pub in Portland. Neil and I got the veggie burger and some avocado for E and my mom and I shared a sampler while Neil had his own. The food was good and the beer was so good- my favorite was the White IPA.

The remainder of of our Saturday was spent at Ikea trying to pick up some new things for the house but we ended up being pretty unsuccessful since our rental car is on the smaller side and our car doesn’t arrive until at least Friday.  So we picked up a few little things and made a list of what we need to go back for next weekend.

Since our things did not arrive on Sunday we headed out for more adventures, this time we took a little drive to Multnomah Falls. Neil and I have been dying to visit since our canceled Portland trip two years ago.  The drive was beautiful and the falls even more so although it was pretty icy and freezing so I can’t wait to go back in the summer when we can also do a little hiking.

So far we are in love with the area and I can’t wait to do more exploring and of course hit up a few food carts- any recommendations?

Head over to Naturally Family to check out more photos of our adventures this weekend. 


Baby Wearing Me Out

Although Edie slept beautifully this morning I was still in need of a little pick me up so I whipped up a 5 Sparrow Snow Ghost Frappe* made with Chameleon Cold-Brew. The frappe tasted just like something you could pick up at a coffee house for an arm and a leg but it was made at a fraction of the cost at home with unsweetened almond milk. I sucked this back quick and I am looking forward to trying the other flavors that 5 Sparrow have including the chai.

After enjoying my coffee frappe I spent the remainder of the day nursing a baby who just couldn’t eat enough; today was one of those challenging nursing days.  When I was finally able to take a quick break and Neil was able to have a little daddy-daughter time I whipped up two big salads for Neil and I for lunch.


leftover potato-summer squash-chickpea hash


heirloom tomatoes


shredded cabbage

red onion


Drew’s Roasted Garlic & Peppercorn Salad Dressing for me and Lemon Goddess Salad Dressing for him

After lunch I was back at my nursing station on the couch for a few more hours.  In between feedings I was able to get a little bit of work done on the computer and played with Edie when she wasn’t fussing to eat or needing to be changed (we went through so many diapers today!).

As a snack I decided to try a Good ‘n Natural bar but after one bite (that I couldn’t finish) it ended up in the trash bin; the texture and flavor was awful.  Neil tried the other two flavors that we had but after a small bite of each he came to the same conclusion- they were all awful.  So instead I had a KIT’s ORGANIC bar instead which I already knew was tasty.

Once Neil finished up working for the day (he is working from home this week and next) we decided to head downtown to the local wine shop to pick up a few bottles of wine and use our Living Social deal. When we arrived downtown we put Edie in the Boba wrap and she fell asleep instantly so we headed to the wine shop and picked up two bottles of red and a beer for a gift.  Since Edie was still sleeping peacefully we decided to stop into American Flatbread for a beer. I had a 6oz pour of Juhlia which is a sahti (for you beer geeks) and Neil had a pint of the TLA IPA (and about 1.5oz of my Juhlia because it was a high alcohol beer).  It was amazing to sit outside and enjoy a beer with Neil while Edie just slept peacefully.

This evening I bathed Edie and put her to bed while Neil made dinner (veggie burgers and homemade baked potato “chips”).  Now it’s time to sit back, relax and watch a few shows on Netflix before heading to bed.

Today on Naturally Family check out our post on our DIY Nursery Art.

Disclaimer: 5 Sparrow provided me with their product at no cost. I was under no obligation to review them if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway.