Traveler “Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy is 4.4% ABV.
I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a pilsner glass.
Appearance: Pouring steadily, and with vigor at the end, produced a finger of thin and fizzy off-white head. This, in the course of about 5 minutes, dissipated to about an 1/8 of an inch cap that still covered the top of the beer. The color is a light orange amber that is mostly clear, but with a slight haze. It looks to have high carbonation.
Smell: To start I get a nice pop of spices, some strong sweetness of honey and brown sugar, as well as some roasty pumpkin. The spices that are forward are dark and woody like clove and allspice. As I work to get a good sense of the spice profile, my nostrils get a peppery sensation, much like from smelling ginger. This also has some definite citrus to it that brightens the smell up a bit. It is on the lemony side. Good, bright, and sweet aroma.
Taste: This starts sweet, with a ginger-ale-like pop to it. It has some definite pumpkin, some steady spicing, and some nice lemony notes as well. The sweetness is like honey and rock candy, but doesn’t overpower the other flavors. The spices I get are less bold than in the nose, and remind me of cloves and allspice. The pumpkin isn’t as roasty as I thought I’d get from the nose, but is still on the roasty side. This has interesting, though not incredibly complex, flavors. As my partner noted, and I agree, this has the kind of flavors one would want for when the dog days of summer are upon us in September.
Feel: This is light bodied, with heavy carbonation. The feel is quite similar to a less-carbonated soda, much as I’d expect with a shandy-beer. The sugar is fairly heavy, which does weigh on the palate some and detract from the feel a little bit. Nevertheless, the steady sweetness, the somewhat roasty pumpkin, and the notes of citrus make for an enjoyable feel.
Drinkability: This is very drinkable. This might be the most easy-drinking pumpkin beer I’ve ever tasted. Yes, this beverage is alleged to be an “ale brewed with lemon peel with natural flavors and pumpkin added”, despite the shandy traditionally being a beer and soda/sparkling water/etc. mixture. (Some claim Shipyard’s “Pumpkinhead” is the most drinkable. I see why folks would say that, given how light it is; but I still don’t think it is good for drinkability, as I noted in my review from last year.) So “Jack-O Traveler” gets good marks here.
Overall: The flavors in this are nice, sweet, and bright. The pumpkin is there, not lost, and on the roasty side. The spices do some work, but don’t take over. And this is very refreshing. So, yeah, this is pretty well made. As noted, I do think some of the sugar hangs on the palate a little too much. I also wish the pumpkin flavor were a little more pronounced. It does have good pumpkin flavor for how light this is in body, though. So, overall, this is successful on many dimensions. As for an overall rating, this is difficult because it is so different in “style” from the other beers I’ve reviewed. It is sold as a “shandy”, so it really is a different kind of drinking experience. It is quite successful as a soda/beer beverage. This would be perfect for a hotter late summer or early fall day, and an especially good beer for those who may not be ready to drink a heavy craft stout. Try it if you can. I’ve heard this travels off the shelves pretty fast.
Overall Rating: **1/2
About Traveler and this beer: The Traveler Beer Company started in 2012 in Burlington, Vermont, aiming to bring the popular European Shandy to the U.S., in interesting and creative ways. I’ve read that they wanted to create “The American Shandy”. Other big companies like Leinenkugal’s (for a few years now) and Shock Top (now just recently) are also making a shandy (or shandy-inspired beer) in the U.S.. So it seems Traveler has set out to do it better!
What is interesting about Traveler is that it is just one of three different beer projects pursued by the company Alchemy and Science, which consists of two former big wigs from Magic Hat Brewing, Alan Newman and Stacey Steinmetz. Apparently, they left Magic Hat in 2010 and started this company, which was later bankrolled by The Boston Beer Company. So, a mouthful: Traveler is one of a few beer projects run by Alchemy and Science, a subsidiary (though, independently operating subsidiary) of Boston Beer Company. I corresponded some with Kathleen Barnes at Traveler up in Burlington, and she was incredibly helpful.
Despite other U.S. breweries working to seriously promote shandy in the domestic market, Traveler has the first pumpkin shandy in both the U.S. and (I’ve heard) the world. New this 2013 season, “Jack-O Traveler” is brewed with real pumpkin and some spices (though, I don’t know what). They use two-row barley, malted wheat, and Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops to reach 4.4% and 8, count em, 8 IBU’s. It is their fourth beer in their lineup, alongside “Curious Traveler” (their flagship shandy, inspired by the European original, with lemon and lime), “Tenacious Traveler” (a ginger and honey shandy), and “Time Traveler” (a strawberry shandy). Get out there and try it if you can, as it is a whole new dimension to pumpkin beer.