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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