Sweetwater Tavern (Sterling) Ghost Town Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Sweetwater Tavern (Sterling) “Ghost Town” Pumpkin Ale is 5.7% ABV.

I was served a 16 oz glass from the brewery’s tap, which was rimmed with some ground up seeds and spices. (I also tried this without the rimmed glass. All of what follows the notes on the appearance are about the non-rimmed beer.)

Appearance: This was served to me with basically no head, but a glass rimmed with toasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and light and dark brown sugar. The color was a bright but light orange that appeared to have light carbonation. The beer was also served in a chilled glass, however I also had a small pour of this without the seeds and spices on the rim, and without a chill. This appeared to have light to medium carbonation.

Smell: I get light spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. There is not much by way of pumpkin in the scent. This does smell quite light and sessionable. It also smells like it would be on the sweet side with some caramel tones to it. Overall I’d say it smells light and inviting, like the kind of pumpkin beer you actually could drink in July when some of the first ones start to roll out to market.

Taste: I get a light flavor of pumpkin and some subtle spicing, which adds a nice touch. The spicing has cinnamon, allspice, and some notable ginger. I am not getting anything else as clear as those, but think there is probably also some nutmeg in this. This also has a caramel-like sweetness, some light flavor of vanilla, and a touch of bitterness and slight fruitiness. This finishes slightly fruity with a touch of ginger and a some sour notes. The aftertaste gives some of the light bitter, white-pepper-like ginger and some slightly sour notes. The flavors in this are fairly smooth and are well-balanced.

Feel: This is light bodied with light to medium carbonation.This is very smooth, with just some slight bitterness that adds a change to the otherwise smooth and mellow feel. Overall, this gives across a feel that, though certainly on the dry side, is not completely dry. The finish is also fairly dry and clean.

Drinkability: This is really one of the most drinkable pumpkin ales I’ve had. It is smooth, and has some sweetness with some slight sour, bitter, and fruit notes. One could have quite a few of these without it dragging on the palate or becoming too heavy.

Overall: Though nearing the very end of the pumpkin beer season, I was excited to hear of this brewery/restaurant in Virginia that made a pumpkin ale. I had never been to a Sweetwater brewery/restaurant before, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. I was already planning on being near Dulles today, so this worked out quite well. One of the main brewers there, Joe Schineller, was incredibly helpful and informative. I couldn’t have asked for someone more welcoming, or willing to help me and answer my questions about the brewery. He even showed me the whole brewery setup, down to seeing how they ran their growler operation. (I ended up buying a counter-pressure filled growler of the pumpkin ale to bring back with me!) Thanks so much, Joe! With respect to this pumpkin ale, I have a lot of positive things to say. It is very clean, with clear pumpkin flavor and a few other subtle flavors. It is quite smooth, and incredibly drinkable. Certainly, it is one of the best sessionable pumpkin ale I’ve had. My girlfriend and I both independently thought of it as an entirely more successful beer than Shipyard’s “Pumpkinhead”, which is light and in the same kind of sessionable style, though no where near as smooth, clean, or flavorful. I am more partial to the fuller-bodied pumpkin beers that hit you a little harder with intense flavors. So this beer isn’t a must try for me, though it is great for a sessionable pumpkin ale. I look forward to sharing this growler with some friends who aren’t as in to heavy hitting craft beers. (Also, a side note on the rim: the seeds, sugar, and spices on the rim really add a nice touch that enables those interested in sweeter pumpkin pie style pumpkin ales to have their fix, but still allows others to opt out.)

Overall Rating: **1/2

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