10/1/20: Samuel Adams' Jack-O

4:59 PM

Has it really been three years since I've talked about Sam Adams on here? I guess so. There's a reason why that is and, by the end of this post, you might just guess what that reason is. 

Anyway, it's officially October now, so I can begin my month-long discussion of pumpkin beers/cider(s)/seltzer without getting grief for it. Because, whether you love all things pumpkins spice or hate it, it's in-season starting today.

I'm kicking off the festivities with a beer I've had before, one that I think'll set the bar for the rest of the month. That beer is Samuel Adams' pumpkin offering for 2020: Jack-O.

Jim Koch, co-founder of the Boston Beer Company, brewed his first batch of Sam Adams' flagship beer, Boston Lager, in the 1980s. Since then, he's built up America's most widely renowned craft brewery, one that, just recently, purchased merged with one of my favorite breweries. Luckily, Dogfish Head's quality hasn't dropped an ounce. I was worried their stuff would become a carbon copy of the beers Sam Adams offers. Here's Sam's "About us" page if you'd like to read more about the company behind today's ale.

Like I said, Jack-O is Sam's new pumpkin beer and it's only available until the end of the month. Its official writeup bills it as a shandy/pumpkin ale. The shandy gets the first billing online. The word "shandy" doesn't appear on the beer's packaging (surprisingly "wheat ale" does). If I'd known about that slant of style before digging into my first bottle, maybe I'd feel differently about the beer that bottle held. Probably not, though.

The 4.4% ABV ale is touted as tasting like "Pumpkin pie with subtle notes of fresh citrus" (emphasis added by me. We'll get to why). Sam states the ale, boasting aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon, has the ideal balance of seasonal spice and a refreshing finish.

So. Subtle. There's no subtle here. What I'm finding on the nose is murky. Muddy. I'm met at first with wheat--pasta-like and hazy. After that there's heavy big citrus zest: lemon, lime, and grapefruit. It's all watery and muddled. Then, in the finish, I find the pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. It's a fine bouquet, but not anything close to what I look for in a pumpkin ale. I can see why Purrl only gave my bottle one whiff.


I'll be fair when it comes to the flavor profile. I do find a quick wash of pumpkin on the fore and lingering spice in the finish. But, between the two ends, it's all citrus and honey. Watery, to boot. There's almost an artificial juice quality to the whole thing. It's making me think the folks at Sam's have never had an actual pumpkin pie. Jack-O doesn't taste anything like one.

The mouthfeel? Good. Creamy with a tad bit of bite. Honestly, this is the best part of the beer.

You remember the first Halloween that you didn't go trick-or-treating? You wanted to but you were just a little too old and it'd be weird. You also couldn't drive yet and none of your friends were throwing the kinds of Halloween parties you'd enjoy in college. It was just disappointment. That's what this entry into the pumpkin beer canon is. 

Samuel Adams' Jack-O is somehow simultaneously both bland and sweet. It's a shandy, and not a super great one. If you try it--and I don't recommend that you do--you ought to be aware of that going in. I'm giving it a 3.0/10. I'll save you the guesswork of figuring out why I don't post about this brewery. To put it plainly, I don't like Sam Adams.

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