Terrapin Imperial “Pumpkin Pie” Porter (2014)

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Terrapin Imperial “Pumpkin Pie” Porter is 9.2% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: An easy and hard-at-the-end pour tossed up a half-finger of light brown head, which dissipated over a few minutes to leave a thin ring and the thinnest remnant of foam atop the beer. This has a very dark brown/black color, letting no light through. Bubbles rising at the surface suggest mild to moderate carbonation.

Smell: I get nice vegetal squash, quickly followed by a warm and notable spice blend. For spices I think I get heavy nutmeg and some cinnamon. The malt has great roasty elements, and even some slight smoke to it. This also smells pretty sweet, with some dark fruit like plum. I also get some dark sugar and molasses. Great aroma. Looking forward to tasting it.

Taste: As I first taste more roasty and somewhat smokey pumpkin. This is not as sweet as I was expecting, at least up front. There is definite strong roastiness and some smokiness. The spices aren’t so clear coming through on the palate. As for malt, I get nice roast, and a bit of dark coffee-like bitterness. There is some pumpkin around the edges, with some dark fruit towards the finish. Very little by way of hops.  As in the smell, I get dark sugar and molasses. This finishes with the dark roast and the coffee-like bitterness fading into an aftertaste of smoke and mild undescript spice. Very mild notice of alcohol. Good flavors, heavy on the roast and smoke. The pumpkin isn’t so strong, like many of the pumpkin porter/stout offerings.

Feel: This is medium to heavy bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel is pretty good, no heavy lingering sugar, and a good amount of roast to add some complexity to the otherwise smooth and forthright malt. The roast and mild smoke in the aftertaste is mostly pleasant, and not a major detractor for me. So, pretty good feel.

Drinkability: For something of 9+%, this does pretty darn well. You don’t get much of an alcohol bite, and you also don’t get overwhelmed with sugar. So this has a good balance there, and drinks pretty well. It is a rich beer, with strong roasty flavors, and so isn’t a paradigm drinkable beer. Even so, for its style, it does pretty well here.

Overall: I like the roast and the slight smoke in this. I also enjoy the balance of sweetness, and the mostly hidden alcohol. I would not describe this as pumpkin pie, for a few reasons. It doesn’t have strong pumpkin, nor does it have a kind of sweetness that you get with pie. This is more of a roasty and slightly smokey strong porter, with some hints of pumpkin. The more I drink it, the less pumpkin I get too. As a pumpkin porter, OK. As a bigger porter, I like it. This was pretty hard to get, and went real fast. The wax also gives it a kind of prestige, which likely contributed to that. I don’t think it lives up to all that.

Overall Rating: **3/4

photo 4About Terrapin and Imperial Pumpkin Pie Porter: Terrapin is out of Athens Georgia, having started there in 2002. Yesterday I reviewed their “Pumpkinfest”.

This Imperial Pumpkin Pie Porter was something of a limited offering. I think I might have actually come across the last bottle in the state of Virginia. This is also the first year Terrapin has made it. It joined their reserve series of small batch, wax-dipped 22’s, following in the footsteps of “White Chocolate Moo Hoo” and “Cinnamon Roll’d Wake-n-Bake”. This malt bill of this beer has 2-Row Pale, Wheat & Chocolate Wheat, Crystal 85 & 120, Black Malt, and Chocolate Malt. It has added pumpkin and a spice blend of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves. Columbus and U.S. Golding Hops take this to 35 IBU’s.

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Terrapin “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer (2014)

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Terrapin “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer is 6.1% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: My pour was not so gentle, and it tossed up less than a finger of off-white head. This didn’t last long, and dwindled to leave no lacing and just a thin ring around the sides of the glass. This has a very bright and beautiful orange/amber, with moderate haziness. The bubbles in it suggest moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: I get a nice spice profile, set against some vegetal pumpkin and some somewhat toasty malt. The spices are warm, and give off ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This also has some caramel to it, and some hops that are sort of lemony. Nice spice which complements the other aromas. Fresh.

Taste: This has good vegetal pumpkin, with just some slight sourish tones. The squash and sourish tones are nicely balanced in fact, and don’t have the deep sourness a lot of vegetal-y pumpkin offerings have. This also has a warm blend of spices- I think ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Behind this there is a smooth base layer of sweet but not overly sweet caramely malt, with a little toastiness and some bread. And then you get some bright hops, with a mild lemony character. This finishes dryer, with some of that hops presence fading into some slightly bitter and peppery spice with a bit of lemon on the tongue. No one flavor dimension takes over, and nothing is distracting. It has really great balance. Fresh, bright, enjoyable.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied, with moderate carbonation plus. It has a smoothness to it that is pleasantly interrupted by some spice, some mildly sour squash, and some hops. Really fresh, and dryer than I was expecting.

Drinkability: This drinks really well for a pumpkin offering that has notable spice. I like all of the flavors, and the freshness of it. The only thing that holds back the drinkability is some of the sourness and lemon which lingers. Even so, this does really well here.

Overall: I have enjoyed this beer for years. I most always want to revisit it, as I think it is just a solid offering that has stayed solid. This year is no different for me. Good pumpkin, good spice, nice balance, and a very pleasant drink. For those looking for a good balance in a vegetal pumpkin offering, this is one of the best. It is also a fun brew as it combines some of the oktoberfest style with a pumpkin ale. So it doesn’t blend in so easily with the many pumpkin offerings out there. It shares the same name with a VA offering I previously reviewed this year, St George’s “Pumpkinfest”. This year, Terrapin’s takes it.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03789About Terrapin and “Pumpkinfest”: Terrapin Beer Co is located in Athens, Georgia. They have been brewing beer there since 2002. One of my favorites is their “Wake ‘N’ Bake” Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout. I wrote more about them and this beer in my 2013 review of Terrapin’s “Pumpkinfest”.

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Anderson Valley “Pinchy Jeek Barl” Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Anderson Valley “Pinchy Jeek Barl” Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 7% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: I poured it pretty easy, which gave a little light brown creamyish head, which was fairly thin, and gone pretty quickly. This left a thin ring around sides of glass. The color is a medium-dark brown, moderately cloudy, and blocking some light. This looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: At the outset I get buttered popcorn, butterscotch sweetness, and caramel. This is very candyish, with not much of a hop profile. I maybe get a little fruitiness, and some brown sugar. There is a little spice, with (I think) cinnamon, and some light bourbon. The aroma is mostly butterscotch, buttered pop corn, and a little bourbon. The aroma smells very malty, sweet, kind of sickeningly sweet. I’m nervous this is going to be too sweet.

Taste: This is not as sweet as I was expecting, which is good. I get some malty sweetness of caramel corn and brown sugar,as well as something kind of like marshmallow. There is some roastiness to the malt, adding a nice dimension to the flavors. I get some spice, but it really blends in among the very sweet malt and the bourbon notes. The bourbon is pretty round, with just a few unkempt edges. There is a little bit of vegetal squash, but it is not so pronounced. There are basically no hops present in this. This finishes with the sweetness fading into a dryer finish, and some more definite bourbon popping through a bit. The sweet malt and buttery popcorn flavor continues in the aftertaste. This has some diacetyl hanging out, and a few sourish notes. I’d say it has OK flavors, but is not so balanced. I wish there were more pumpkin.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with light to moderate carbonation. It is sweet, and ends up a bit heavy on the palate. The heavy sugar at the outset is sort of coarse,and returns a bit after the sip is over. The more I sip this, the more the sugar is harder to work with. Some more spice and hops could balance this out a bit . The dryer finish is good. So the feel has some different parts to it, but is still too heavy for me.

Drinkability: This is OK but not great here. There is something coarse with the sugar. The bourbon is round enough, but this buttered popcorn and sweet trend in this hangs, and stays on my palate.

Overall: The more I drink this, the more the sugar hits me. There is not enough pumpkin in this, and the spice profile doesn’t really come out. It has a whole lot of that buttered popcorn and sweet marshmallow-like sweetness. So, something like diacetyl. For me, it is a bit much. I like the dry finish and the bourbon having a presence but not taking over. But I could go for a lot more pumpkin, and some hops to balance this out a bit more. I wouldn’t recommend this, especially given the higher price. This was about 12 dollars at a competitively priced beer store. I would recommend Anderson Valley’s 2014 “Fall Hornin'”, which I reviewed a few days ago

Overall Rating: *3/4

DSC03786Anderson Valley and this offering: I recently wrote about Anderson Valley, with my 2014 review of their “Fall Hornin'”.

“Pinchy Jeek Barl” is part of Anderson Valley’s “Barl Series” of beers, beers aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. For this beer, Anderson Valley uses Pale Two-Row, Munich, Maris Otter, Crystal 120L, and Dark Chocolate malts, as well as some pumpkin puree. Bravo hops takes this to 20 IBU’s, and the beer  sits in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels for 6 months. Other “Barl Series” beers include a stout, and imperial stout- “Huge Arker”, and an amber ale.

 

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Anderson Valley “Fall Hornin'” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Anderson Valley “Fall Hornin'” Pumpkin Ale is 6% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz can into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: An easy pour gave over a finger of light tan head, which had a creamy texture and some substance to it. This left some lacing on the sides of the glass, and settled into a thin layer of foam atop the beer. The color of this is a beautiful dark red/amber, with good clarity and just a bit of haze. From watching bubbles at the surface of the beer, this looks to have mild carbonation.

Smell: Right at first I get strong vegetal pumpkin with some definite sour notes. Following this is some milder spicing with some earthiness. It has something like clove, bark, and some ginger and cinnamon. The sour notes are certainly present throughout. I get some toasty malt, as well as some sweetness of burnt sugar. This also has something like a marshmallow sugariness to it. Nice aroma.

Taste: This does start out with that vegetal pumpkin, which is joined by some nice wood-like spicing. The spices add a warmth, and I get clove, nutmeg, and something nutty and earthy. The spices work nicely along with the vegetal and astringent pumpkin in this. There is also a good malt presence, with some toastiness, and a nice base layer of mild sweeteness. I get a little hops presence in this. As in the aroma, there is something like burnt sugar, like the top of a crème brûlée fired with a heavy hand. This sugar is nice and works well with the earthy spices. This finishes with that sweetness giving way to the woody spices, which linger along with a bit of vegetal pumpkin in the aftertaste. Good flavors.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. It has a smooth and creamy feel, which is very pleasant. The spices add a bit more complexity to this otherwise totally smooth beer. Great here.

Drinkability: I’d say this is pretty drinkable. After a while, the earth from the spices hangs a bit. But even so, the smooth feel and the restrained sweetness help this to drink well. For a pumpkin beer with definite flavor, it does very well here.

Overall: I like this beer. I like the vegetal pumpkin alongside the warm and woody spices. I really like the feel, how creamy and smooth the beer is. So this is certainly a good choice, especially for those that want something that drinks well with something of a good but not overdone spice presence. The pumpkin in this gets a little lost for my tastes. And I also think that the dark spicing becomes more univocal the further into this beer I get. But again, the flavors are good, and this works well as a darker and still not too heavy pumpkin offering. I say good and worth trying.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03781About Anderson Valley and their “Fall Hornin'”: Anderson Valley is located in Boonville, California. I wrote more about them and this beer, which was first on the market last year, in my 2013 review of “Fall Hornin'”. This year Anderson Valley has a new bourbon pumpkin offering, which I’m looking forward to reviewing in just a few days.

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Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.2% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a stout glass.

Appearance: My pour was careful at first, and had a heavier hand at the end. This produced about two fingers of frothy and thick egg-shell-colored head. This clung to the sides of the glass and left some definite lacing, while settling in to a notable cloud still atop the beer. This has a medium to dark burnt orange/amber, with good clarity and just a slight haze to it. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: Smelling this immediately gives me rich bourbon, along with some vegetal pumpkin behind it. There is a nice richness in smell, created also by the addition of some warm spiciness that blends in and doesn’t advertise itself so clearly or heavily. I get a little earthy yeast, and some mild bright hops. Nice bourbon-heavy aroma. It doesn’t smell harsh, and in fact smells round. I am very eager to take my first sip.

Taste: I get bourbon at the outset, along with some nice vegetal pumpkin. There is something warm to this one, in part because of the bourbon. The pumpkin adds a nice contrast, with a little astringency. Some fairly tame complementary spice adds more complexity. It is almost like nutmeg. More noticeable is that the bourbon and pumpkin are paired so well together. This is rich, and has some earthiness. It is not overly sweet, which is a little surprising. The malt is smooth and restrained with respect to the sweetness it contributes. I get some yeast with pleasant bitterness, along with some very tame hops to give a hint of brightness towards the end. The hops have a floral character to them, some mild perfume, and are balanced very well against the otherwise malty pumpkin offering. This finishes dry, with the hops and earthy yeast. The aftertaste has some restrained bitterness, a hint of hops, and warm bourbon. Great flavors in this one.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. It has a nice warmth from the bourbon, is somewhat round, and doesn’t come off as too aggressive. The astringent pumpkin and floral hops add some nice complexity to the feel, allowing it to be dynamic and interesting. There is a mild alcohol bite, especially towards the end of the sip. Otherwise good feel.

Drinkability: For a bold bourbon aged imperial pumpkin offering, this does alright. This is strong, and not the sort of thing one thinks of if considering sessionable beers. For what it is, I say it drinks well. There is some mild bitterness hanging on my palate, but nothing too distracting. Decent here.

Overall: This beer has great flavors, nice complexity, and a good pumpkin presence. It has great warmth from the bourbon, and nice restrained sweetness. The more I sip this, the more the bourbon settles in. I really like the roundness that is achieved here. I also like the balance of hops, and the nutty character that contributes but doesn’t overwhelm. Overall the flavors are warm and rich, and many things I’d want a pumpkin beer to be. The bourbon is strong, and maybe a bit stronger than I’d ideally want. Even so, this is still a really successful offering. This just came out last year, and has quickly become one of my favorite VA pumpkin beers.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 2 (1)About Blue Mountain Barrel House and “Spooky”: Blue Mountain Barrel House is located in Arrington, Virginia. They are something like an outpost brewery location for Blue Mountain in Afton, Virginia. They brew a number of barrel-aged beers under the “Barrel House” name, but also produce some Blue Mountain mainstays. Blue Mountain Barrel House makes some great beer, with one of my favorites being their “Dark Hollow”.  I also really enjoy this “Spooky”. This bottle notes that “Spooky” is made with cocoa nibs and pumpkin flavor. I think the cocoa nibs are what I was thinking of as like nutmeg. In any case, I wrote more about this brewery and this delicious beer in my 2013 review of “Spooky”.

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Isley “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Isley Brewing “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale is around 7% ABV.

I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully, and then hard at the end. This did not produce any real head. This beer has a rich medium burnt orange/amber, which is mostly clear. It looks to have mildish carbonation. Great color.

Smell: On the nose I get some vegetal squash, and some very pleasant and strong spicing. This has standard fare  “pumpkin pie” spicing, but it also has some warmth and a nice pop to it. I get something like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This also has some smooth brown sugar and sweet maltiness, and not much by way of hops, save for a little brightness around the edges. Great spice in the aroma.

Taste: This does have that vegetal pumpkin to it, which you get up front with some slight sour notes. The spices quickly follow, and form something of a prominent bitter wave that works its way to the back end of the sip. The spices aren’t as warm as they were in the nose. I think I get some cinnamon and ginger, but not as clear as I was expecting. Definite strong bitter spicing. This also has some smooth malt that doesn’t say a whole lot, but is complicated by some earthy yeast. The finish has the bitter spicing and yeast taking hold and hanging out in the aftertaste. The pumpkin gets a bit lost by the end. I like the earthiness in this, though it doesn’t have a lot of complexity.

Feel: This is medium bodied with light carbonation. I wonder whether it was different right from the tap. (This was purchased yesterday, quickly stored in a cold fridge, and pulled out right before pouring. A 32 oz growler should be able to store enough carbonation.) The feel has some mellow mild sweetness, which gets interrupted by the botter spice and yeast. Not completely one dimensional in feel, but not that complex either. There is a slight alcohol bite at the end. The bitterness hangs and invites another sip. After a bit of drinking this, the bitterness detracts.

Drinkability: This is OK here. The yeast and heavy spice do hang on my palate, such that I’m not sure I could have more than one of these.

Overall: This is alright. I like the earthiness from the yeast, but wish the spices did a bit more to add complexity, and weren’t so muted and flat-lining at bitter. The smooth malt is nice, and is good to set against the vegetal notes and the spice. Yet the pumpkin does get a little lost in this one towards the end. This doesn’t really feel to me like a dubbel. For that, I’d want a little more richness. This would be a good choice if you wanted something with a yeast and a bitter spice presence, perhaps after a sweeter maltier offering- which Isley often offers up in good numbers. This is not a top pumpkin beer in the state, but nothing to avoid. I like the Belgiany pumpkins I’ve had before a bit more than this one. For example, Hardywood Park’s, which I’ve yet to review this year, is quite good.

Overall Rating: **1/4

DSC03782About Isley and their offering: Isley opened in Richmond, Virginia in late October of 2013. They are located in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition, very close to Ardent Craft Ales, whose pumpkin ale I reviewed a week ago. Isley’s brewmaster is Josh Stamps, who works with their sole owner, Michael Isley.

I visited Isley to pick up a growler of this beer, which is the first year I’ve heard about Isley having a pumpkin offering. They weren’t so keen on giving information about the beer, saying that they keep their recipes very secret. I was able to learn that the ABV was around 7%, and that they were planning on also having this for the Scott’s Addition Pumpkin Festival in a week.

 

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St. George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer (2014)

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St. George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer is 6% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: Quite the careful pour frothed up a few fingers of off-white whipped egg-white foam. This lasted for a good while, still hanging on as I’m writing about this beer. The color is a light orange/amber, with some definite sediment and haze to it. Many bubbles rising suggest very heavy carbonation.

Smell: For aroma I get some vegetal pumpkin, and some light spicing.  The particular spices aren’t so clear, but I get somethign like cinnamon and ginger. This is also sort of bready, with some toasty malt. It has just a little bright hops. The aroma also has a lot of CO2 to it. It stings the nostrils, again suggesting heavy carbonation.

Taste: This is a very fizzy beer, which makes picking out the flavors not as easy of a process. I get some pumpkin which is on the vegetal side. I also get some nice spice that has some warm dimensions and some moderate to strong bitterness. Cinnamon, ginger, and probably some other things. This has a malty sweetness with bready notes. The finish has a little bit of brightness from the hops, leading into an aftertaste of slight sour notes and mild lingering bitterness. The flavors really get overshadowed by the very heavy carbonation. You can’t make out the pumpkin or the spices so well.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied, but certainly over-carbonated. You get so much fizz that the other aspects to the feel are unable to make an impact. Not good here.

Drinkability: This offering is not so great here. The over-carbonation really detracts from it, making it hard to drink. What I get in the aftertaste is some lemony and bitter notes, and the feeling like I just drank a lot of soda too fast.

Overall: This is not so great overall. I think there is good spicing, and interesting flavors to it. But it really just is over-carbonated, to the point where I don’t enjoy it. When we recently did a blind VA pumpkin beer tasting, we opened two other bottles of this beer, both of which were bought as individual singles. Both of those bottles were also seriously over-carbonated. I wonder how much of their production of this beer was like this. As it stands, I can’t really finish this beer. So I can’t really give it a good rating. Previously, I really enjoyed this beer when I did my 2013 review of “Pumpkinfest”. It was also harder to get last year. I wonder if this production problem is related to scaling up. Or, perhaps, this was just a bad batch of it. I know this beer has been great before, as last year I did a non-blind VA pumpkin beer tasting (which I didn’t post about), and this was one of the favorites. Hopefully it will be more dialed in next year.

Overall Rating: *

photo 3 (1)About St. George and this offering: St. George Brewing is located in Hampton, Virginia. They make a number of their own beers, and also help with contract brewing for a few other local breweries. I recently heard that they are doing some work for Back Bay Brewing out of VA Beach, whose “Witch of Pungo” Pumpkin Ale I recently reviewed. I also previously wrote more about St. George and their “Pumpkinfest” in my 2013 review of St. George’s “Pumpkinfest”, a beer that shares the same name with Terrapin’s pumpkin beer/Oktoberfest offering.

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