Horny Goat “HornyCopia” Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Horny Goat “HornyCopia” Pumpkin Ale is 6.3% ABV.

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

Appearance: A moderate turned fairly aggressive pour produced a quarter inch of off-white and thin foam that was mostly gone before it came. (Yet, as I turn this glass a bit to look at the color, some head keeps wanting to collect again.) The color on this beer is a bright and beautiful sunset orange. This is pretty cloudy, and appears to have low to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The nose on this gives me very bright vegetal pumpkin, and some nice earthy spicing of what seems to be cinnamon, allspice, and clove. This also has some definite sweet citrus to it, something like a juicy orange, as well as a nice lightly toasted malt presence. The sweetness also has hints of vanilla , but nothing huge or overpowering like in some of the pumpkin-pie styles of pumpkin ale. Overall this smells bright with pumpkin and spices, like a refreshing and perfect beer for when the warmer times are creeping into the time when people have begun to celebrate fall.

Taste: This starts bright, and very sweet. It has some rock candy sweetness to it, along with some juicy vegetal pumpkin. The spices are not as easily discernible as they were in the nose, but seem to give off cinnamon, clove, and some general and fairly strong woodiness. I quite like the woodiness in this one, which adds more depth to the otherwise bright and sweet pumpkin flavor. There is a tinge of sweet artificiality to the flavors, but nothing very prominent. I do also get a few nice notes of tart that change things up a bit. The pumpkin in this is nothing incredibly roasty, nor is it slap you-in-the-face powerful; but the pumpkin flavor really is strong, clearly recognizable as pumpkin, and does contribute nicely to the other flavors in the profile. This finishes pretty sweet, with some bitter notes from the spicing grabbing hold at the end. The aftertaste has some woodiness and slight but restrained bitter notes.

Feel: This is light bodied, with moderate carbonation. The sweetness in this, along with the real woodiness it exudes, keeps the feel from being flat. A lot of sweetness, some tart here and there, and some strong woodiness make the feel more interesting. Decent marks here.

Drinkability: This is quite refreshing and drinkable. The sweetness makes the sips easy, as do the bright flavors. Moreover, the spices hang on the palate a bit at the end, which creates a want for beginning another bright and sweet sip. The spices might hang on a bit more than I’d want; But this beer is pretty good on this score.

Overall: I really like the bright pumpkin in this, the woody spicing, and the warmth the spicing enables this beer to have. This reminds me of Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale. (See my most recent 2012 review of Wolaver’s.) Both this and Wolaver’s have strong and bright pumpkin flavors in beers that are middle of the road for ABV. Getting nice and strong pumpkin in a non-imperial pumpkin ale is really nice, I think. What Horny Goat does that Wolaver’s doesn’t do, however, is incorporate more earthy and woody spices. So I love that. What detracts from Horny Goat’s, so I say, is the somewhat overly-sweet character which brings along some slight artificiality. Were the sweetness more restrained, this would be really up there along with some others like Long Trail’s non-imperial pumpkin ale and maybe even Dogfish Head’s Punkin. Nevertheless, this is still a good, fun, and solid pumpkin ale as it stands. They don’t shy away with the pumpkin, which is great.

Overall Rating: **3/4

DSC03402About Horny Goat and their “HornyCopia”: CEO Jim Sorenson started Horny Goat brewing in 2009 in Milwaukee, with one main aim in mind: having and encouraging fun with craft beer. They began with just 3 year-round beers, and through trying new beers and discontinuing old beers, they now have 7 seasonals in addition to their 3 year-rounders. Horny Goat also opened a brewpub that first year in 2009, and continues to use it to test new beer ideas there, in what they call a “haven of fun”. I spoke with Curtis Peacock, who does sales and marketing for the brewery, and he noted that the brewery has distribution in 21 states, and, much like many good craft breweries nowadays, is expanding rapidly. They have worked in these 4 years to make good beer, and to stay true to their goal, as exhibited by their slogan: “Carfeully Crafted, Famously Fun”.

The HornyCopia is a real pumpkin ale, with pumpkin in the mash (along with some 2-row, caramel, and vienna malt). With their beer, only about 10% of the pumpkin flesh is converted to fermentable sugars, which leaves lots of room for pumpkin to contribute good flavor. In their boil, they then add both brown sugar and lactose, with the aim of giving body and the kind of dark sugar flavors that go so well with pumpkin pie. Finally this beer is dry spiced at the end to add that warmth of a good pumpkin ale without the spices totally dominating. I’d say they definitely did a great job with the spicing. Horny Goat made about 449 barrels of this beer in 2013, compared to 425 last year, when the beer was in its rookie year.

Thanks to Dave Reese, brewmmaster, and Lindsay Bania, sales manager, for answering my questions about the brewery. Finally, a big thank you to Curtis Peacock for helping me to connect all the dots with this review and write-up, all the way from the actual beer to the history. Definitely check out Horny Goat if you are in Milwaukee. All the folks there are awesome! I hope I get the chance soon.

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