Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale (2011)

Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale comes to us at 6.0% ABV. I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a pilsner glass.

Appearance: A restrained pour yielded about 1 finger of light-brown head that dissolved in less than 2 minutes. The color is caramel with a tint of orange. It is also quite cloudy, with moderate carbonation that is more easily visible at the more narrow bottom of the glass.

Smell: Pleasant solid pumpkin aroma is met with a group of standard pumpkin pie spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice are discernible, with some brown sugar elements. This smells quite a bit like the fleshy part of a pumpkin pie combined with beer. It doesn’t smell overly sweet, though. This is inviting.

Taste: The first thing I noticed was that it was malty, spicy, and well-balanced. The spices are balanced by some caramel-tasting malt and some sweetness throughout. It has some pumpkin with very heavy spices as its backbone. There is minimal hop bitterness on the finish, with a hint of lemon (which doesn’t come across as sour). The aftertaste is spicy, but definitely subdued. While drinking this beer all the tastes come together cohesively, without any elements dominating at any particular time. The spices do become more noticeable while breathing in after sipping this beer. The overall flavor profile is mellow, with some malty pumpkin and lots of well-incorporated spice.

Feel: This is a medium bodied ale that is somewhat creamy. The spices, and the small amount of hops, become more pronounced, giving a slightly coarse texture towards the middle of a sip. The experience of carbonation is low to medium, with most of it coming at the slight fizzy finish.

Drinkability: Because the taste has good flavor and is mellow, I think I could enjoy a good number of these. The ABV is moderate for the style, and wouldn’t pose problems to having a couple. It is also easy to drink  because the heavy spices are restrained a bit.

Overall: I enjoyed this beer and think it does a nice job of incorporating the spices. It is malty and full of these spices. One good feature is that it is mellow and almost keeps the spices in check, so to speak. What I don’t like as much is that the not-too-original standard profile of spices really drives this beer. The pumpkin is clear, but somewhat lost because of the presence of the spices. The beer also seems a bit too mellow in terms of flavor. After a bit, the spices come across as sort of dull. A greater dose of pumpkin and something that would cut the malty sweet profile would really add nice complexity. I think of this beer as (being in the same league as and) having many similarities with Terrapin’s “Pumpkinfest”, New Holland’s “Ichabod”, and Elysian’s “Night Owl”. I like it more than New Holland’s, because it is more balanced and gives more focus to the pumpkin. And I like it less than Terrapin’s and Elysian’s “Night Owl”. Terrapin’s had the extra element of coming across as warm and sort of round. This was preferable for me. Finally, Elysian’s “Night Owl” was just more interesting flavor-wise. “Night Owl” has some nice woody elements that add something, whereas Cottonwood’s can (again) be a bit dull.

Overall Rating: **3/4


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