Midnight Sun “Trickster” Belgian-style Pumpkin Ale (2014)


Midnight Sun “Trickster” Belgian-style Pumpkin Ale is 7% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A pour with a bit of splash gave 2 fingers of thick and frothy off-white foam. This had great retention, and, within the first 5-7 minutes, only dissipated a bit towards the center of the foamy cloud. It maintained strong contact along the sides of the glass. The color of this offering is a fairly hazy, bordering on murky, burnt orange/amber. Carbonation bubbles rising suggest heavy carbonation.

Smell: With this up to my nose, I’m greeted with some earthy and slightly funky Belgian yeast, some nice citrus, as from orange, some vegetal squash, some almost minty hops, some pleasant nicely balanced spicing, and a rounded sweetness as from honey and some light Belgian candi sugar. For spicing, I think I get some ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. This has just a great and complex aroma.

Taste: This bursts with flavor up front: juicy orange, earthy yeast with white pepper, honey, and some vegetal pumpkin. It is a bit sweeter, and has more orange and sweet citrus than I was expecting. This nicely complements the pumpkin and the white-pepper-like earth and Belgian yeast. The spices, as in the nose, seem to have ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. The spices have a distinct nuttiness that I associate with cardamom. The pumpkin is notable and fairly present, and the sweetness gives me more citrus and honey than anything else. As this finishes, the earth and yeast take hold a little more and linger with a pleasant fine-particulate earthy bitterness in the aftertaste, like softer white pepper. Great flavor, nice complexity, and not as funky as it smelled.

Feel: I really like the feel of this one. It has good complexity from the smooth citrus and honey, to the mild sourness of the pumpkin, and then the earth and nuttiness from the yeast and the spices. Smooth on the palate with some some spice and yeast adding structure, and grabbing more of the palate for a semi-dry finish.

Drinkability: For a style with stronger yeast, I think it drinks really well. The strong sweet orange citrus and the smooth honey help this out a bit here. The strong fine-particulate bitterness that hangs a lot on the palate does hold this one back a little bit. Even so, it is pretty darn drinkable.

Overall: This is a successful Belgian pumpkin offering. I love Belgian and Belgian-style offerings. And I enjoy pumpkin beers! Some of my two favorite things. I’ve also known about this beer and it has taken a while for me to finally make it happen to try it. This was worth a try, but not something I’ll work too hard to get. It is also a bit pricey, even before shipping. I have to facilitate getting this beer from CA, as it is not distributed on the east coast. It is made in Anchorage. In any case, it reminds me a bit of Hardywood Park’s Farmhouse Pumpkin. As for comparison, this one is less funky, and not really in the farmhouse style. This doesn’t have as much strong or roasty pumpkin as the Hardywood, but is a bit sweeter and has more smooth honey. If you like the Belgian yeast, and like farmhouse ales, Hardywood Park’s Farmhouse Pumpkin is the way to go (if you can get it- it is an East Coast beer from Richmond, Virginia). If you prefer more of a sweet orange and more sessionable Belgian-style beer with toned down earth and funk, this would be your ticket. But again, it is not something I’ll work for, and in my opinion a bit pricey.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

DSC03821About Midnight Sun and this offering: Midnight Sun Brewing is located in Anchorage, Alaska.

To make this beer, they use pumpkin, Belgian yeast, and a spice blend of allspice, black pepper, and ginger.

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter (2014)

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter is 8.2% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz can into a porter glass.

Appearance: A slightly splashy pour gave up about a finger and a half of light brown and creamy foam, which had good retention and clung to the sides of the glass as it slowly dissipated. The color is a very dark brown/black, with very little light getting through. It looks to have moderate carbonation, with some bubbles rising along the sides of the glass.

Smell: This has a great roasty malt aroma, along with a mild spice bill and some mild vegetal pumpkin around the edges. The malt is dark with strong roast, some smokiness, as well as some coffee and cocoa. I get some spicing, with the likes of cinnamon and nutmeg, perhaps some clove too. The beer has a dark burnt sugar and molasses smell to it. Not much by way of a hop profile. Good aroma, strong roast.

Taste: This has strong roastiness to it, with dark, earthy, and bitter (but pleasant) malt. I get cocoa, some smoke, and dark molasses flavors. There is some very mild pumpkin that sets in a little later, but nothing remarkable.  This dark roast is set against some smooth sweetness of molasses, dark chocolate, and a blend of spices. The spices are hard to discern, given the strength of the roast, but I get something like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. There is little by way of a hops profile in this, save for some balancing hops. This finishes to let the roastiness of the malt break past the smooth sweetness and hang out for a long while in the aftertaste. The roast is not going anywhere after the sip. Some dark roast and bark-like bitterness stay in the aftertaste for a good stretch.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, though it is surprisingly thin in body, given the strength of flavor and intense roast. This has that real punchy and attention grabbing roast, which persists throughout, and gives a texture to this beer. There is a little creaminess, but it otherwise doesn’t have more complexity to its feel. A slight alcohol bite at the end. Pretty good here.

Drinkability: For a strong and roasty Baltic-style porter, this drinks pretty well. The relentless roast and the mild alcohol bite do detract some. This is not one to drink all night. Not quite a sipper, but something you won’t breeze through. It is not your smooth 4% fresh stout.

Overall: This is a really enjoyable Baltic-style porter. It has outrageous roast, which doesn’t go away. This is balanced fairly well by a strong and somewhat smooth malt backbone. But the roast is still a bit aggressive for me in this. Because of this, both the spices and (to some extent) the pumpkin get lost. After having about 8 sips, I don’t get much pumpkin at all. In fact, at this point I wouldn’t say it has any pumpkin. I still really enjoy the flavors, and the little pumpkin presence it does have. It is a really enjoyable drink. I am just not apt to point to this one as a top pumpkin porter.

Overall Rating: ***

photo 5 (1)About 21st Amendment, Elysian, and this beer: Last year I wrote about this beer, and this collaboration project, in my 2013 review. This is one of two beers that came out last year, both called “He Said”. They are sold as a 4-pack, and are a collaboration between 21st Amendment from San Francisco, California, and Elysian from Seattle, Washington. Last night I reviewed the other beer in this collaboration pack, a Belgian-style tripel.

This Baltic-style porter, just like last night’s Belgian-style tripel, is 8.2% ABV. It is brewed with pumpkin and some spicing of caraway seed and Vietnamese cinnamon. The ingredients in this beer, and the process for making it, get much more attention in my 2013 review.

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel (2014)


21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel is 8.2% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz can into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: An easy pour produced just a finger of thinner but bright off-white foam, which slowly resolved itself into a thin layer of creamy foam atop the beer, along with some foamy lacing along the sides of the glass. This has a mostly very clear golden to light amber color. Really bright color, with lots of light coming through. There is just a little haze amidst the many carbonation bubbles rising, suggesting moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: Here I get some nice Belgiany yeast, some candi sugar, and some milder vegetal pumpkin. This certainly smells on the sweet side, and has a nice blend of spice to it. The spices are sort of earthy, but more herbal and somewhat medicinal (in a good way). There is also a kind of fresh subdued sage-like minty thing going on, which is nice. Not the standard pumpkin pie spices at all. The malt is smooth and sweet, with some bread to it. Nice and very interesting aroma. Now for a sip.

Taste: This gives me a nice yeasty earthiness and an herbal profile of spice. The spice is sort of like a woody herb like, sage, which is set against sweet tripel flavors. There is also some anise. I get some candi sugar, and some sweet (but not overly heavy) and smooth flavors from the malt. There is a breadiness to this, laying down a nice base layer of malt. I do get some vegetal pumpkin in this, but it takes a little bit of a backseat to the herbs and the sweet candi sugar. The hops in this are really nicely balanced: great complex bitterness with some floral and citrus notes. This does have great flavors, with really interesting and enjoyable spice. This finishes with the sweet tripel flavors giving way to more of the restrained bitterness from the hops, yeast, and woody and earthy spice. There is a noticeable but not overwhelming alcohol bite towards the end, which is noticeable a still into the earthy and herbal aftertaste. Not a standard pumpkin ale at all. A great Belgian-style offering, with a really unique spice profile.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. The feel is really nice. You get smooth malt with that belgian sugar kind of pop. This is then set against some herbal spice and some earthy yeast to add a richness and more of a roundness. I love saisons and, more generally, Belgian-style offerings. So I say great here.

Drinkability: This drinks really well for a beer of 8+%. The smoothness and round complexity of the feel helps. The only real detractor, save from mote bitterness lingering more on the palate than I’d like, is the mild alcohol bite. So pretty good here.

Overall: This is a very tasty offering. For those folks that want to try Belgian pumpkins, I’d say this is ertainly worth a try. The real downside to this is its lack of prominent pumpkin in the flavors. The spices are just so well done, and balanced with the hops so well. It is interesting, earthy, and has lots of good qualities. The more I drink this the more I’m apt to mention anise a bit more. As a pumpkin offering, it is something I’ll probably revisit in the future, but not top tier for me. As a tripel, I’d gladly have this over a lot of other Belgian-style offerings.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03808About 21st Amendment, Elysian, and this beer: I’ve previously written about this beer, and this collaboration project, in my 2013 review. This beer first came out last year, and is one of two beers in a collaboration 4-pack between 21st Amendment out of San Francisco, California, and Elysian out of Seattle, Washington.

This Belgian-style tripel incorporates pumpkin and interesting spicing of tarragon and galangal, and again, gets much more detail in my 2013 review. I still really enjoy it, thus my drinking it again this year. Cheers.

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Midnight Sun “TREAT” Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (2014)

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Midnight Sun “TREAT” Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter is 7.8% ABV.

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

Appearance: A slightly splashy pour gave about two fingers of light brown and frothy head. This had decent retention and dissipated some to leave fairly thick lacing and still some thin foam atop the beer. This has a very dark brown/black color, with no real light getting through. Doesn’t look murky, just dark. Tiny bubbles rising along the sides of the glass suggest mild to moderate carbonation.

Smell: This has a nice smell, real rich. I get strong chocolate, almost like Hershey’s chocolate syrup, along with some vegetal pumpkin, great smooth roast, and a warm blend of spices. For spices I get cinnamon, nutmeg and maybe some allspice. This also has some sweet brown sugar to it. Not much by way of hops. Absolutely top notch aroma, save for the slight suggestion that this might be really sweet. Now I taste and find out.

Taste: This starts strong with great and smooth dark roast, building with some nice cocoa- more cocoa /dark chocolate than milk chocolate- as well as some vegetal pumpkin. This is really quite rich. The malt is dark and very sweet, lots of chocolate and some coffee. A little vanilla. As for spices, the roast really makes it hard to discern what is part of the spice bill. I do get a spice presence, as from clear cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg. The vegetal pumpkin has a pleasant sour note that adds complexity to the otherwise sweet and roasty offering. Some non-descript hops are adding some balance, good for a porter. This finishes with the brighter vegetal pumpkin pulling away a bit to accent more of the chocolate and dark roast. The finish is almost like cola. The aftertaste has some strong lingering roast, as well as a little coffee-like bitterness. Really good flavors, very strong chocolate, nice pumpkin presence.

Feel: I’d say this is on the lighter end of heavy bodied. Given how strong the flavors are, I’m surprised this isn’t really heavy on the palate, or cloyingly sweet.The dark roast is nicely balanced against vegetal pumpkin notes and sweet chocolate, and enough hops for balance. It also seems like there might be some lactose in it, in terms of feel. A little creaminess. So I’d say really pleasant feel here, save for some strong roast that just won’t depart after the sip, which could detract for some.

Drinkability: This drinks really well. The sweetness really helps it out here, and the fact that it tastes like dessert. One thing holding it back is the strong dark roast, which does stick around a while on the palate. The sweetness, though making it smooth to drink, may also hold one back from having much more than 10 oz of this. So I’d say this is fine for the style- an imperial roasty porter in the pumpkin pie style.

Overall: I’ve known about this beer for a few years. Finally I get a chance to try it. Thanks to CraftShack.com, a craft beer site out of California, I can count on getting some of the Pacific Northwest (and above) beers. In any case, this beer is pretty good. I like all of the flavors, which are quite rich and strong. The chocolate you can’t miss, and it is joined by some unbridled roastiness, The pumpkin is present throughout this beer, but could have more of the stage. The pumpkin isn’t as central as offerings like the Alaskan Pumpkin Porter, in the same state as Midnight Sun. I also think the spices are nicely balanced. This beer runs for about 14.50 per 22oz. So it is a little on the pricey side, I think, especially for something under 8%, and for the quality. But it really is a nice rich offering, with pretty good pumpkin. It is definitely a beer for dessert. If you like strong roasty porters, or sweet malty beers, especially with chocolate notes, this could be a good pick. The more I drink it the more I would want a little more pumpkin and a little less roast. The roast gets a little overpowering. In any case, this is certainly enjoyable among the pumpkin porter’s I’ve had, but doesn’t quite accomplish all that Alaskan’s Pumpkin Porter does.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

photo 4 (3)About Midnight Sun and their offering: Midnight Sun Brewing is located in Anchorage, Alaska.

To make this beer they use pumpkin, cocoa nibs, and a blend of spices. It is then aged in oak.

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Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2014)


Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 10% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A mostly careful but slightly splashy pour produced a finger or so of frothy off-white head. This slowly reduced to a dollop still atop the beer, along with as a fairly thick ring along the sides of the glass. This also left the beginnings of some lacing. This has a beautiful rich orange color with reddish hues. It is mostly very clear, with a slight haze, and bubbles suggestive of moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: Bringing this to my nose gives me great aromas of roasty pumpkin, bourbon, strong round oak, some very mild sourness, subdued hops, and a complex and well-incorporated spicing. The spicing is hard to pin down, but I get something like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. It has a nice rich malty sweetness with caramel and some brown sugar. I also get some good vanilla in this as well. Great complex, rich, and round aroma. Now I get to taste it.

Taste: The first sip is wonderful, strong, and stays with me for a while. It has great complexity in flavor from the somewhat roasty pumpkin and spices, which are set against a strong and sweet malt backbone and rounded out with bourbon and oak. This is a cold weather sipper for sure. The pumpkin is present, and strong. There is enough by way of hops to add some brightness here and there, and a little floral dimension. The bourbon and oak really add great roundness and warmth to this, and are well-balanced. The bourbon does have a bit of a bite to it. In any case, the sweet but not heavy malt, the brown sugar flavors, and the vanilla bring this all together like a piece of pumpkin pie with some finely aged bourbon, served neat. This finishes dryer than I was expecting, letting the round complex bourbon, vanilla, and oak linger in this fairly prolonged aftertaste. Really successful.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has a very rich and round feel to it. There is great complexity, but the edges of the barrel really come through with vanillin and some softening of the otherwise rich and strong flavors. There is a little alcohol bite, but nothing major. Really great feel.

Drinkability: Given the strength of flavors with this, and the bourbon barrel aging, its not something to chug. But its roundness and balance of sweetness does really help it to drink really well. I would guess something like 10%. Not incredibly drinkable here, but that’s not really to be expected. For all the flavor and complexity,I say this is still really successful here.

Overall: This is a must try. I’ve spoken about its complexity and roundness. There is great bourbon and oak, wonderful balance, and the sweet malt, brown sugar, and vanilla are all equally effective contributions to this rich and warm offering. There is also great pumpkin and well-done and importantly, not overdone spicing. Some might find this boozy, I would guess. I say, if you like bourbon barrel offerings, especially pumpkin ales done in bourbon, you need to try this. For the price, about 8 or 9 bucks, it is a steal.

Overall Rating: ****1/2

DSC03813About Heavy Seas and their offering: Heavy Seas opened in 1994 (under the name, “Clipper City Brewing”), and is located in Baltimore, Maryland. I wrote about them last year in my 2013 review of “Great’er Pumpkin”.

Before this beer is aged in bourbon barrels, the brewers use pumpkin, brown sugar, and some spicing of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove to make this beer. More info can be found in last year’s review of this beer. This year is, I think, my favorite year having this beer.

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Corcoran “Padawan” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Corcoran “Padawan” Pumpkin Ale is 6% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: A steady pour tossed up a finger of off fairly thick off-white head, which has decent retention and still sits pretty firm atop the beer, and is sticking to the sides. (Later on as I drank this, there was definite lacing along the sides.) The color of this is a moderately hazy burnt orange/amber, and has what appears to be moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: For aroma I get nice vegetal pumpkin, with some bright citrus notes: lemon and tangerine. This has something of a warm spice presence with good balance, and I think consists of cinnamon, clove, and allspice. The malt has a little toast some nice breadiness, which is set against some caramel sweetness. The hop profile seems bright, but not overwhelming. I also get a little yeasty earthiness. Good aroma, smells like a fresh and nicely balanced pumpkin ale in the pumpkin pie camp.

Taste: To start I get strong vegetal pumpkin, which is joined by a balanced spice profile and some strong earthy yeast notes. The pumpkin is great and fresh-tasting, and works nicely with the sweetness and the spices. The spice profile has some cinnamon, clove, and I think allspice, and is balanced with the vegetal pumpkin and the sweetness from the malt. The malt gives off some smooth caramel, and a little breadiness. I get some bright citrusy hops around the edges, which are also in balance and don’t overwhelm. This also has a lot of an earthy yeast presence to it, almost like a german yeast, and even reminds me a bit of a bock.This finishes with the vegetal pumpkin fading away to bring more earthy and lager-like yeast forward, which hangs out in the aftertaste quite a bit and has notes of smoke and some mild pepper. This has definitely good flavors, but is real strong on the yeast, stronger than I’d expect.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. It has a smooth feel, like from a robust lager with heavy yeast. The earth and pepper add some complexity in feel, which  otherwise has some bright notes, some slightly tart vegetal pumpkin, and smooth caramel malt. So a pretty good feel, though perhaps a bit coarse from the yeast.

Drinkability: This drinks alright. For a 6% beer, it could be smoother. The malt backbone is really smooth, but the yeast and pepper drag a bit. The peppery yeast does hang on a long time, and kind of builds up on my palate. I wonder what yeast and spices were used.

Overall: I think this is an enjoyable beer. I picked up a bottle of this for $10.50 in a Richmond bottle shop, a ways away from Purcellville. I knew this beer was also produced last year, but never had the opportunity to venture that far out to see Corcoran. I like this offering, but was a bit suprised by the heavy yeast, which still sits on my palate. The vegetal pumpkin is strong and really nice. If someone had asked me what this was I would have guessed a strong lager or some kind of hybrid. but the bottle says “pumpkin ale”. I’m glad I finally got the chance to try it, but think the 10.50 is way too high. The shop I bought it at doesn’t have the best prices for beer. But still. I’d feel more comfortable with 5 or 6 bucks for this one. 7 would be more of a stretch. In any case, this is a unique VA pumpkin offering, which is kind of hard to do with how many there are.

Overall Rating: **3/4

photo 3 (3)About Corcoran and their offering: Corcoran Brewing company is located in Purcellville, Virginia. They opened in 2011 near the grounds of a winery, when the family wanted to branch out into the beer industry. I had a chance to taste some of their offerings at the Holiday Cheer and Beer event, which took place a bit north of Richmond about two years ago.

This Star Wars themed beer sits in at 6%, and is made from real pumpkin, honey, and pumpkin pie spices.

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully and got about a finger of thin off-white head, which was gone pretty quickly. This had substantially different head than the non-barrel aged offering I reviewed yesterday. This has a very clear light orange/amber color with what appears to be light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma of this is fairly mild. Not a whole lot of earth or yeast. I get some light booze from this, as from whiskey. There is some mild spice, like from white pepper. Perhaps some of that spiciness is coming from the rye. This doesn’t have much of a hops presence, nor much sweetness on the nose. The nose is so different from the non-barrel aged offering.

Taste: Up front I get pretty strong whiskey, with the spiciness of a rye. You get the pumpkin, but much less in this than in the non-barrel aged offering. The pumpkin has some roasty dimensions. This has a great spice to it, from the added spices and the spiciness of the rye, as well as a little earth. I get some nutmeg in this, and not a whole lot else by way of pumpkin pie spices. The rye whiskey takes hold of the flavors a good bit. The malt in this has a restrained sweetness with something like a mild burnt sugar to it. There is also some vanilla and oak, which I’m guessing is coming from the barrels. Not a whole lot by way of hops noticeable, save for some non-descript brightness that lingers around the edges. Really rich and strong flavors. This finishes pretty dry with some more of the rye whiskey notes taking hold and fading into an aftertaste of vanilla and oak and mild rye. Great flavors, a real nice fall sipper.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with mild carbonation. The feel is very warm, with a definite warming alcohol bite. It isn’t boozy in a bad way, but definitely lets you know it was aged in whiskey barrels. The oak and vanilla round things out a good bit, changing the feel of this so much from the offering I had yesterday. It really feels like a different beer. Nothing is harsh on the palate. And it feels a little thinner.

Drinkability: This is a 10.5% beer, with some spiciness and notable alcohol. So it is not a chugger. It is a good sipper, and has the roundness and warmth allowing it to drink pretty well as a sipper. So, given the style, I’d say decent here. The alcohol does detract a little, and some of the flavors don’t quite stand up to the strong rye whiskey. But, in any case, it drinks pretty well.

Overall: This is a real nice fall beer. Again, it is remarkably differing in flavor and feel than the offering from last night. It loses a good bit of the bright and rich pumpkin, but gains some warmth and spice from the rye whiskey. This also feels thinner and a lot less sweet than the standard offering. Barrels change a lot of things, it seems. This is the first rye whiskey pumpkin beer I’ve had. I think the spice from the rye and the pumpkin pie spices is kind of a cool combo, set against the booze from the whiskey, the pumpkin, and the seemingly light sugar. There is also some burnt sugar and mild earth that add new dimensions which you don’t get in the other offering. That gives this some added complexity. I really like saisons, and strong roasty pumpkin. And, just as this one does, their original farmhouse pumpkin offering has great complexity with much more of a saison quality. So, though this version is something I’d love to drink, I do not find it as compelling as their original farmhouse pumpkin.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 5About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park is from Richmond, Virginia, and has been putting out some great beer there since 2011. I’ve previously written about them and what they’ve got going on.

Last night I reviewed their original Farmhouse Pumpkin, which they’ve been making since they opened. This Rye Whiskey barrel version was a real treat. Apparently, this year this rye version replaced the “Rum Pumpkin” they were thinking of doing again, due to some barrel acquisition issues. They had previously made “Rum Pumpkin” last year. I’m happy to get to try them all.

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