Monthly Archives: November 2012

Wasatch Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Wasatch Pumpkin Ale is 4.0% ABV.

I poured all of this 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: A steady pour gave basically no head, but just a very thin ring of whitish foam around the edge of the glass. The color is a bright but significantly hazy toasted orange. This appears to have medium carbonation.

Smell: To start I get some vegetal pumpkin and strong spices. I get cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, as well as some caramel-like sweetness and brown sugar. The pumpkin aroma in this is pronounced and inviting, and has an almost raisin-like character to it. This smells like it will have definite pumpkin flavor. I like the aroma of this one.

Taste: Up front there is clear fleshy vegetal pumpkin. This is complemented by some spicing, though the spicing is much less pronounced than in the smell. The spice profile has some flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg,  and ginger to it. As for sweetness, this has some light toasted malt sweetness, some vanilla, and something like a touch of honey to it. This finishes quick to let some of the pumpkin give way to more of the spices, but also comes along with some vanilla and slightly sour tones. The aftertaste has some of the light toasted malt hanging out with some very slight bitterness from the spices. This also doesn’t have much of a prolonged aftertaste. This has very clean and pronounced pumpkin flavor that isn’t overwhelmed, but is complemented by the spices. There is also a warmth to this one. Great flavors for something really sessionable.

Feel: This is light bodied, with light carbonation. It is very smooth, mellow, and subdued. It has some warmth to it from the pumpkin and spices. Really nice and gentle feel.

Drinkability: This is the most drinkable pumpkin ale I’ve tasted so far. It is incredibly smooth, low in ABV, and has enough flavor to keep one coming back for more.

Overall: I acquired this one from a friendly and helpful guy named DJ in Utah. Thanks, DJ! This one has really nice pumpkin flavor, nice subtle spicing, and a great smooth feel. There is also a warmth to this one, which is impressive given its low ABV and light body. So this one does quite well for itself as an easy drinking pumpkin ale. The pumpkin is impressively strong (again, for its ABV and body). I tend to prefer the heavier bodied and more robustly flavored pumpkin ales, but still enjoy this one. I’d recommend this pumpkin ale to friends who hold drinkability high as a criteria for selecting beers. I’d also probably pick some of this up if there were some hotter fall days. Not a must try, but an enjoyable sessionable pumpkin ale.

Overall Rating: **1/4

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Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 18.1% ABV.

I poured some of this 12 oz bottle into a round wine glass.

Appearance: A slow pour gave absolutely no head or bubbles. This poured a very murky and opaque rusty orange/brown. This has some noticeable sediment floating in the beer, but no noticeable carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get strong roasted pumpkin and rum, along with a heavy amount of spices. The spices include strong clove, cinnamon, and perhaps some of the other usual suspects; However it is difficult to discern much more because of the strong rum and fruit. For fruit, there is pumpkin, but also banana. My girlfriend noted, and I agreed, that there is also some cherry and dark fruit in the aroma. This gives off a slight booziness. Overall this smells warm, rich, complex, and too good for me to spend more time writing about the aroma.

Taste: Up front I get an impressive and overwhelming punch of pumpkin, sweet and dark fruit, and spice. This also has a smooth rum flavor with some wood to it that is present throughout, but not overwhelming or distracting. The dark fruit flavors come across as quite sweet and raisiny, and pair well with the earthy spicing of clove, cinnamon, and something like mild pepper. There is the flavor of banana that also works among the other fruit of raisin and mild cherry; however the banana is less pronounced than in the smell. The fruit flavors in this are quite strong, and (for me, quite surprisingly) do not overwhelm the pumpkin. As I sip this I notice more new flavors, like vanilla and some other (otherwise non-descript) earthy spicing. This does have some alcohol that comes through, though nothing like one might expect. For its strength, it is quite good on the booziness score, actually. This finishes to let some of the fruity sweetness linger and give off some chewy and juicy rum-infused notes of earthy… fruit. This “fruit” doesn’t present itself as any one fruit, but does have some earth (like seeds and stems) that tastes quite different from the earthy spicing some beers have. The finish also brings with it some strong booze, which noticeably (but not overwhelmingly) joins the earthy fruit for the aftertaste. The more I drink this, the more the rum comes through (though it has yet to hit an unpleasant point). This has the most intense flavors of any pumpkin beer I have tried. Good marks here.

Feel: This is on the heavy-bodied side, with mild carbonation. The fruit and earthy spicing gives some movement to the feel, which is also made complex by the serious rum flavors. The rum adds a serious warmth to the feel on this one. I wouldn’t say this is syrupy, though it is sort of sticky. As noted above, the more I drink this, the more the rum flavor comes through. This is also true for the boozy parts of the feel. Even so, the otherwise smooth wood and fruit contribute some balance. Overall, I’d say this has a pretty good feel, despite the stickiness and increasingly strong booze.

Drinkability: This is obviously not the beer for having a six-pack of while watching the game. It is strong, has intense flavors, and really stays with the palate. Yet, for something that is 18.1 percent alcohol, I’d say it is darn drinkable. You would know you are drinking a strong beer, but could be shocked to know just how strong. It is impressive how drinkable it is, given its stats (i.e., being aged in rum barrels, being 18.1 percent ABV, having many different strong flavors incorporated, etc.). You wouldn’t want a whole lot of this one, though.

Overall: This is really an impressively flavorful pumpkin ale. The pumpkin isn’t the star of the show in the way it is in other pumpkin ales (i.e., the Cigar City “Good Gourd” and the Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale). Still the pumpkin doesn’t get lost and has a real solid place in the flavors of this beer. I quite like the pumpkin presence in this, and don’t remember this being so of last year’s Avery “Rumpkin”. This is now just the second year for Avery’s “Rumpkin”, and it’s gotten better, I think. (I really look forward to next year’s.) It is impressively smooth given its potency and complexity, so I give this beer quite high marks. In comparison to some of the other top scoring pumpkin ales, I like this better than the Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator”, in great part because of how much better the Avery establishes pumpkin flavor as pumpkin flavor (rather than as something fruity that resembles pumpkin in some ways). On the other hand, I like the Avery somewhat less than the Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin”, since the latter has both great pumpkin and a real warmth in flavor that isn’t just accounted for by the liquor-barrel aged process or high ABV. (The Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin” uses bourbon barrels in the aging process.) In any case, this Avery is a really great pumpkin ale, and is best treated as a sipper. Try it if you get the not un-rare opportunity. A big thanks to Jay at Beer Run in Charlottesville for helping me acquire this bottle I am rating. (I should also give a big thanks to Greg from Whole Foods Short Pump for helping me get bottles of this both this year and last. I am using those for a vertical tasting of sorts that I’ll be doing in the future!)

Overall Rating: ****

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Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator” Imperial Pumpkin Stout (2012)

Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator” Imperial Pumpkin Stout is 10.0% ABV.

I poured some of this 22 oz bottle into a stout glass.

Appearance: A steady pour gave about a finger of creamy light brown head that dissipated to just about a dollop. The color of this is an opaque and very dark brown. This looks like a real hearty stout, as very little to no light is getting through, even when held to bright lights. This appears to have light carbonation.

Smell: The aromas that stand out first are chocolate, sweet dark cherry, and some earthy roastiness with spices. This smells like a flavored stout, but not overwhelmingly so. The aromas of dark cherry and dark fruit establish a licorice-like sweet quality. There are also the hearty stout aromas of dark chocolate, roasted malt, and earth. I am getting some spices in this, most notably some cinnamon. Because of the cherry notes and the strong roastiness, I’m unsure about what other spices there are. I’m getting some hearty fruit in this, but nothing that advertises itself as pumpkin. Regardless, this smells wonderful!

Taste: This bursts up front with delicious juicy flavors of cherry, pumpkin, dark chocolate, and the otherwise standard priming layer of stout flavors. These stout flavors are strong with nice complex roasted malt, earthiness, and some slightly coarse or rugged spicing. The pumpkin is present and enjoyable, but either manifests itself as (or is dueled by) strong cherry notes. This is quite sweet, with some juicy fruitiness, sweet malt, and dark molasses. As for spicing, I get cinnamon, but get lost in the roast when I try to find the rest. This finishes to let some of the sweetness fade to enable more of the roasted malt and earthy stout qualities to gain greater hold. Even in the finish there are still the cherry pumpkin flavors, though. The aftertaste holds on to some of the roast, but also has some of the cherry/pumpkin, licorice, and dark fruit that linger on the palate. The flavors in this were interesting and really nice. I was originally surprised by how much cherry I was getting. After a while, it was less dramatic and more clearly pumpkin. I assume that the beer let the pumpkin somehow enable a juicier and fruitier profile. In any case, I really like the flavors in this.

Feel: This is medium to heavy bodied, with medium carbonation. It coats the mouth nicely, and isn’t too thick or viscous. It is a bit syrupy; but the carbonation helps to interrupt that and keep it from being distracting. The feel starts out full with the bursting fruit. It then gains some more complexity with the slightly coarse roastiness and earth tones. So the feel has dynamic qualities. There is some slight booziness, but nothing major or catastrophic. Overall, this has a good feel, albeit being a bit syrupy.

Drinkability: This is pretty drinkable for a 10% stout. It obviously wasn’t crafted with the aim of folks sitting down and drinking a few 22s. Even so, it does pretty well here given its style. The things that do detract from its drinkability are the obvious intense and rich flavors which can weigh one down, the syrupy qualities, and again, the ABV.

Overall: I was able to acquire this beer from a very friendly guy named Basil living in Texas. Thanks, Basil! I am so glad this worked out, since this is a really special pumpkin beer. During the first 5 minutes or so of sipping this beer, I was overwhelmed with how much this tasted of cherry. I was wondering about the pumpkin. However, as I took some more sips, and as a little time passed, this changed. I don’t know whether it was the beer being opened and poured into a glass to set for a while, or its reaching a more suitable temperature, or what; but the pumpkin flavors qua pumpkin flavors came out a lot more fully. This is quite a rich and flavorful pumpkin beer! It is dynamic, holds on to good pumpkin flavor, and enjoyably dark. It is certainly my favorite pumpkin ale of all the porters, stouts, and brown ales I’ve tried. I love the juicy fruit that comes out, and how it pairs so well with the earthy and roasty stout qualities. I would surely get this again. It is on my radar for next year, which can be difficult living in a state that is both far away from and not identical to Texas. Thanks again, Basil!

Overall Rating: ****

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Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Porter (2012)

Ardmore Brewing Pumpkin Porter is 8.0% ABV.

I poured some of this 375 ml bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: A steady pour gave basically no head, but something off-white and more bubbly than foamy. A little bit of this hangs around the sides of the glass in a ring. The color is a fairly dark and murky (but not completely opaque) brown with a slight red tint (when held to fairly bright light). It doesn’t appear to be so carbonated, and has no real bubbles rising up.

Smell: I get a good bit of bourbon, some oakiness, maybe some slight smokiness, and light chocolate. It also smells fairly sweet, as though its got a good bit of sugar from dark malts. I am getting more of a brown ale than a porter for the smell. Overall this smells pretty sweet, and certainly complex.

Taste: To start I get nice mellow roastiness, strong pumpkin flavor, sweetish bourbon, and some oak. This has nice restrained roastiness, subtle and well incorporated bourbon, that oak, some vanilla, and a nice dark roasted malt. I do think there is some fall spicing, maybe some cinnamon or something else earthier and coarser. This has great flavors; and with all of the flavors going on, it is really well-balanced. For sweetness, I get some dark toasted malt. The finish holds on a little to the bourbon, but then gives way to more of the earthiness and roastiness. This roastiness is really quite nice. The aftertastes holds on to the roasted notes and dark malt sweetness. The sweetness is nice and not over the top. My friend Ben and I each had bottles of this (which were generously given to us by Tyler of Ardmore Brewing) that we tasted and discussed over a Skype session. Ben noted, and I agreed, that this smelled much sweeter than it tasted. Overall this had really great flavors.

Feel: This is medium bodied, creamy, and coats the mouth nicely. It has an almost milk stout lactose quality at the front, followed by that roastiness which adds some movement but doesn’t mess up the smooth elements. The bourbon also adds a sort of warmth to this feel. Surprisingly, this is fairly thin-bodied for something in this style with such intense flavors. I don’t mean that as a complaint. This also has a really dynamic feel. Great marks here.

Drinkability: This is quite drinkable, especially given the ABV (which is 8%) and the strong flavors. It has (as noted) a dynamic flavor and feel, and remarkable smoothness. These really help the drinkability. For a bourbony porter, this is darn drinkable. The only things holding one back from going through a few of these are the ABV, and perhaps, the roastiness and bourbon which can hang on the palate a little bit.

Overall: I tasted and discussed this beer over Skype with my friend Ben in Philadelphia. We both had bottles, which were very generously given to us by Tyler of Ardmore Brewing. This was also the fifth pumpkin beer (see the first, second, third, and fourth) I’ve had this season from Ardmore Brewing. For me, it was my favorite of the five. It really held on to the pumpkin, had great flavors, and had incredible complexity. Through all of this it remained decently smooth and fairly drinkable. This is pretty impressive. From the pumpkin beers I’ve had by Ardmore, there seem to be a lot of bourbon, oak, and vanilla elements added. This was the most accomplished of the Ardmore ones I’ve tasted on this score. The bourbon, oak, and vanilla worked well together, and didn’t overwhelm the pumpkin. One thing I would have liked to get, which I think would have really pushed this into the upper echelons of pumpkin ales, is a more integrated flavor profile with more pronounced and well accented pumpkin. This isn’t so much a complaint, as just a preference on my part. The flavors were all interesting and well-balanced; I thought they weren’t so well integrated into a cohesive flavor profile. I also tend to prefer the front and center pumpkin in bold pumpkin ales. In any case, I was so glad to have this. Great pumpkin beer competing with some real serious craft beer.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

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Bootlegger’s Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Bootlegger’s Pumpkin Ale is 6.1% ABV.

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

Appearance: A robust pour gave about two fingers of frothy whipped of-white foam. This settled down to about 1/4 of an inch that just barely coated the top of the beer. The color of this is a fairly bright and slightly hazy medium orange. This appears to have medium carbonation.

Smell: Up front this has vegetal pumpkin, strong spices, and a strong bread-like yeastiness. The pumpkin isn’t the most vegetal I’ve come across, but does seem to be more like the raw vegetable than its roasted friends. The spices smell like cinnamon, allspice, and some punchy ginger. There is a nice light toasted malt sweetness that also brings in some light brown sugar and caramel-like malt. This smells on both the sweet side and the pumpkin pie side of pumpkin ales. It also smells complex. I’m excited to taste it now.

Taste: At the front I get strong and clean pumpkin, earthy spices, and a restrained sweetness. The pumpkin is on the vegetal side, though certainly not the paradigm “just sliced open the gourd” vegetal pumpkin flavor. The spices impart an earthiness, and I think consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. There is also a sort of woody earthiness that could be from the pumpkin seeds. In fact, it reminds me of some others that I know use pumpkin seeds (most notably, Elysian’s “Night Owl“). This has a nice caramel sweetness that is well-balanced with the rest of the pumpkin and spices. This makes a real great addition flavor-wise as well, resulting in an earthy and not overly sweet pumpkin pie flavor. This finishes with the sweetness dissipating just a little bit to just slightly highlight the woody earthiness. The aftertaste is very slightly bitter with those spices and earth hanging on. Overall, this has bold, quite well-balanced, and delicious flavors. Because of how bold the flavors are, I would have guessed the ABV was in the 7-8 range. Anyway, quite good marks here.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with medium to heavy carbonation. The feel is quite smooth, and has some elements that make it more dynamic. For instance, the strong and clean pumpkin is matched with the woody spices which gain a little prominence here and there. Just as well, the sweetness really adds a nice body to the feel. Good marks here too.

Drinkability: This is really drinkable. Its sweetness really helps here, as does its generally well-balanced demeanor. The flavors, as noted, are fairly bold. This is in part because of the strongish earthy spices. This dimension could hold back some that like to drink pilsners. It also could weight down the palate. Even so, and especially at 6.1%, this gets decent marks here.

Overall: I like this one, and would suggest trying it if you can get one. A good guy named Joe in California helped me to acquire this one (and some awesome other non-pumpkins- Thanks Joe). This one was kind of a sleeper for me. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. I was also impressed by how bold the flavors were, as well as by the fairly well-accomplished pumpkin pie flavor. It’s no Southern Tier  “Pumking” in terms of getting across pumpkin pie; but its darn good on this quality. I really like the woodiness and earthiness, which reminds me of the Elysian “Night Owl” I linked to in the taste description above. Compared to that beer, I like this one more. This is in part because, in addition to great balance, nice woodiness, and strong pumpkin, there is also a nod to the pumpkin pie. This adds a richness and complexity that I prefer. I had to do a lot of thinking and revisiting of older posts to find out how I would finally rank this one. It got quite a high standing. Real good pumpkin beer.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

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Karbach “Krunkin’ Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Karbach “Krunkin’ Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 7.9% ABV.

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

Appearance: A steady pour gave about a finger or so of light tan head that dwindled to about a dollop after ~2 minutes. This left not quite enough foam to cover the top of the beer, and some medium lacing along the sides of the glass. The color of this is a dark reddish amber. This is mostly clear, but just slightly hazy, and appears to have light to medium carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get roasty and wood-like spicing. There is some pumpkin as well, though it isn’t so strong. This pumpkin adds a bit of mild sourness to the smell. I also get a nice bread-like yeast presence, which pairs well with aromas of dark malt, brown sugar, and gingerbread. As for spices, there seems to be some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and some other earthy spices that impart wood tones. Overall, this smells sort of like a fall hike with some early season gingerbread cookies in hand. I really like the aroma of this.

Taste: To start I get some dark and roasted tones, some earthy and slightly bitter spicing, and some malty and (as my girlfriend rightly noted) almost rum-like sweetness. This has some mild pumpkin to it, but I don’t know that I would think of it as pumpkin were I not specifically looking for it. As the smell suggested, there is a decent bread-like yeast presence, and some spicing of (I think) cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. There also seems to be something else in the spice profile that imparts this smooth wood flavor. As for sweetness, this has a really nice malty and brown sugar sweetness. This finishes to give way to more of the wood notes and the slightly coarse and earthy spicing. The aftertaste lets these wood and spice notes linger for quite a while. From contemplating the sweetness, and really, the whole of the flavor profile of this beer, I think this comes across much more like a winter or Christmas ale than a pumpkin ale. It is malty, spicy, and doesn’t have real forthright or strong pumpkin flavors. Don’t get me wrong, the flavors are really nice, and this is really well balanced. It just don’t seem to form a real clear pumpkin beer.

Feel: This is medium bodied, and has medium carbonation. It is somewhat creamy, and has some real smoothness to it that I think is coming from what I am calling the “wood notes”. There are also some other notes to make the feel more dynamic: slight sourness from the pumpkin, earthy spicing, and a pleasant and strong malty sweetness. This has a really nice feel.

Drinkability: For an almost 8 percent beer, this is really drinkable. The drinkability is also helped by the nice malty sweetness, and the wood notes. As noted, the spices do hang on to the palate a bit, which could certainly detract a bit here. Even so, good marks on this score.

Overall: I really do like this beer. It is smooth and has nice roasty and earthy flavors. The sweetness is again nice and not overwhelming, just all of the flavors in this are. It is well-balanced, and really drinkable for something that is almost 8 percent alcohol. I could go on about the other great aspects in this that I’ve mentioned above. What I would have loved in this is more and clearer pumpkin. I don’t really think of this as a pumpkin beer. Were it not for this, this beer could be a great contender to some of the big and impressive pumpkin beers that top my list.

Overall Rating: **3/4

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Hoppin’ Frog “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Hoppin’ Frog “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale is 8.4% ABV.

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

Appearance: A careful pour gave just a touch of off-white and thin foam. This didn’t last long, and fizzed away to leave just a thin ring around the sides of the glass. This has a very bright orange/copper color that is also slightly hazy. This looks to have medium to heavy carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get strong pumpkin pie spices, along with strong roasty pumpkin. The spices present seem to be cinnamon, nutmeg, and a good dose of ginger. I think I am getting some allspice too. In any case, the spices are warm, slightly punchy, and add a nice addition to the aromas in this beer. There is also a decent and pleasant vanilla presence. Overall this smells warm and very nice. Certainly this is in the “pumpkin pie” style of pumpkin ales.

Taste: At the front I get the strong roasty pumpkin with strong spices. The ginger in the spicing adds a sort of punch. The pumpkin is forthright, and reasonably well balanced (with the spicing). As in the nose, I get spicing of cinnamon, but now I’m thinking I get more allspice than the nutmeg I suspected. The spice and pumpkin flavors in this are strong, and are set against a caramel and rock candy sweetness. The sweetness is not as strong as I was suspecting from the nose. There is also some wheat-like malt, and some vanilla. This finishes to push more of the vanilla and slightly bitter spices to center stage, while also giving off some sweetness. The aftertaste has some of the bitterness from the (I think, ginger in the) spicing, and some vanilla, and some booze. There is a noticeable booziness to this one.

Feel: This is medium bodied with medium carbonation. There is some warmth with the spicing, and strong pumpkin which enables reasonably smooth and rich sips. However, there is perhaps a bit too much of the spice punch. I wouldn’t say there is too much in terms of spices, just that the mixture of spices is a bit too punchy. The booziness also detracts from the feel. Otherwise, this would be incredibly enjoyable for feel. As it stands, it is just alright on this score.

Drinkability: This is not the most drinkable of pumpkin ales; but this doesn’t mean a whole lot, given that this is in a heavy-hitting style. It has bold and rich flavors; so one wouldn’t expect it to be so “drinkable”. Even so, the 8.4 percent comes through more than I was expecting. As I recollect last year’s batch (or batches), I also remember that this was the case. The drinkability in this is helped by the smoothness from the vanilla and the strong pumpkin. I would still prefer a great number of other pumpkin ales (even within this heavy-hitting style) for drinkability.

Overall: I do like the strong pumpkin, the smooth vanilla, and the warm spicing in this quite a bit. It makes for a reasonably complex and inviting pumpkin ale. I don’t like the overly-punchy spice aspects and the booziness. Even so, this is a really good pumpkin ale. Were it not for these issues, this would really blast off into my top top tier. Also, if this weren’t at the price point it is (at 10ish for a 22), I would put this as a “must try”. It is certainly a very good beer and worth a try, but may not be as competitive in price with other similar or less boozy 22s. For example, Southern Tier’s “Pumking” is much cheaper, as are a few others.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

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