Horseheads Pumpkin Ale is 7.0% ABV.
I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian-ale glass.
Appearance: A heavy-handed pour whipped up about 2 fingers of off-white foam, which lasted for about two minutes, dwindling to just a very thin layer on top of the beer. The color is a very clear light to medium orange/amber. It looks to have light carbonation.
Smell: To start I get, well, pumpkin pie. Lots of breweries say their pumpkin offering smells like pumpkin pie. Some do, but many don’t. This does, though doesn’t capture the graham cracker crust in the way Southern Tier’s does. That is no complaint, though.; for the Horseheads pumpkin ale smells just incredible. It has nice strong and sweet malt, with strong vanilla and some brown sugar. It has bold pumpkin that has both a roasty and a vegetal side, as well as some standard fare spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg, and maybe some allspice too. The sweetness of vanilla and strong pumpkin makes this smell so nice. It is like pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. Really, very nice.
Taste: I get really nice vegetal pumpkin, some sweet vanilla and smooth malt, and some good spicing. This does taste like a more earthy pumpkin pie. The pumpkin is strong, and uncompromising, though not overpowering. It isn’t pumpkin-like. It is pumpkin. And the sweetness of caramely malt and strong vanilla is really very nicely balanced with the standard pumpkin pie spices. The spices are there, but don’t take over. This is all very nicely balanced. The main attraction is the pumpkin and the smooth malt and vanilla. This finishes with the bold pumpkin and some spices, leaving an aftertaste of fairly restrained spices, but nothing dragging or weighing me down. This is like pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a little earth. Quite good.
Feel: This is light to medium bodied, and is velvety and smooth. The vanilla and malt sweetness pair so well with the spices to add some complexity to the feel. The body is on the light side, but impressively so, for all the great flavor in this one. Good marks.
Drinkability: This is quite drinkable. Given its great flavor, that nothing drags, and that it is middle of the road for ABV, this couldn’t be much better on this score. So this is nice.
Overall: This is a must try. Delicate, flavorful, great pumpkin, and some nice but not overwhelming sweetness and spices. This is a very delicious pumpkin ale, especially for something that is not high in ABV. This is now my favorite non-heavy-hitting pumpkin ale. And it is among the top beers for my favorite pumpkin ales, all things considered. I tend to gravitate towards the heavier-bodied more smack-you- in-the-face-with-flavor type pumpkin ales, of which this one is not. Even so, this is a traffic stopper. For criticism, I’m having a harder time. I suppose the spicing could be a bit warmer, but that might make it hard for this to be flavorful and delicate, which this so nicely pulls off. I will say, the spicing does not have much depth to it. But in any case, I’m really having to work to find real criticism. This is one of the very best.
Overall Rating: ****1/4
About Horseheads and their pumpkin ale: I had the pleasure of speaking some with Ed, the brewmaster and manager of many things for Horseheads Brewing. I didn’t get a long time to talk with Ed, but learned some things about Horseheads. They opened in 2007 in Horseheads, New York, which is about 20 minutes north of the Pennsylvania/New York Border on route 17. They have also won a good number of awards for their beer. Ed is a mechanical engineer with fifteen years brewing experience. Having attended the Siebel Brewing Institute where he received a certificate in concise brewing technology, Ed continues to find recognition for his beers, even having been voted Best Craft Brewery in New York State by “Tap New York” in 2010.
As for their delicious pumpkin ale, Ed says he uses Libby’s canned pumpkin, some spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, as well as some vanilla. Last year they made about 150 barrels of this seasonal offering. They are set to make about 210 barrels this year, from within their 15 barrel brewhouse. However much they make, and whatever they are doing precisely to make it, I just hope I get the chance to have some more of it in the future. After finishing my glass of this beer, my girlfriend and I started tossing around the idea of making the 6-7 hour drive at some point in the future to see this brewery and their other offerings. In any case, thanks to Ed for the help and time to learn about Horseheads.