Stevens Point “Whole Hog” Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Stevens Point “Whole Hog” Pumpkin Ale is 7.5% ABV.

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

Appearance: A steady pour gave just a splash of off-white head that didn’t want to linger around. There was just a thin ring at the surface of the beer. The color is a very hazy and deep orange/amber. The color is just beautiful. It looks like it has mild carbonation.

Smell: At the front, I get a strong layer of smooth malt that has some sweetness and some caramel and toast to it. Then I get some meek-at-first-but-quickly-gaining-momentum sweet spices that are indicative of the pumpkin pie style of pumpkin ales. I get cinnamon, nutmeg, and some hearty brown sugar. This smells like it will be rich, smooth, and really well balanced. Not any noticeable alcohol on the nose. Now I must try it.

Taste: Wow. This is top tier. It is rich and well-balanced. The malt presence brings some caramel and toastiness, while the spice profile gently adds some cinnamon and nutmeg and nicely dosed brown sugar. And the pumpkin. The pumpkin has a great roasty character, but with some vegetal tones here and there. The flavors in this are incredible and complex, and have just the right amount of hops for the pumpkin pie style. There is also a vanilla character in this that lingers. Really nice deep flavors. This finishes with the strong malt and sweetness, fading to leave some pleasant and rounded spice in the aftertaste. This has such a great roast character to it!

Feel: This beer is medium bodied, plus some. It has light carbonation. The feel is warm like from wood, and roasted pumpkin. This has the best feel of any pumpkin ale I’ve ever tried. It is velvet, not too heavy, and not a one-dimensional experience. This is a must try beer if you are a pumpkin ale enthusiast.

Drinkability: This is also quite drinkable for something 7.5%. The smoothness and well-balanced sweetness really help it here. I had a number of sips towards the beginning of drinking it, then remembered I was in the process of writing a review. The spices don’t linger, and the alcohol doesn’t advertise itself. So this is great here too.

Overall: This is a must try. Incredibly smooth and bold flavors. It has good roasty pumpkin, nice tones of vanilla, spice, and caramel malt. The spice and roasty pumpkin are so well-balanced in this one. And the sweetness and hops are just right for the pumpkin pie style of pumpkin ales. I’m kind of sad to know that I can’t just go to my store and get any more of this one. For those that can, do it! For me, I’ll just keep searching for more wonderful pumpkin ales.

Overall Rating: ****3/4

DSC03473About Stevens Point and their Whole Hog Pumpkin: Frank Wahle and George Ruder founded Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 1857. Stevens point is now the 5th oldest continuously operating brewery in the U.S. From their rich history of making beer for troops during the Civil War and “near-beer” during prohibition times, to their Gold medal at the GABF in 2003 for “Point Special Lager”, Stevens Point has been through a lot. They just finished a million dollar addition to the brewery, adding more equipment, and upping their production capacity to 120,000 barrels per year.

Stevens Point’s pumpkin ale is part of their Whole Hog Limited line. Along with 5 other beers, including a barleywine and a raspberry saison, the “Whole Hog” pumpkin comes in 4-packs and on draft within a smaller area of distribution. They use real pumpkin and spicing of cinnamon and nutmeg. For the rest of the bill, they add Perle hops and Caramel, Munich, and Roasted malt to achieve a whopping 10 IBUs. I think this is certainly the way to go for a pumpkin pie style ale. And others must agree, for this won the Gold Medal in 2012 at the Great American Beer Festival in the pumpkin ale category. This beer is also my favorite pumpkin ale so far in 2013. This is a bit frustrating, since sharing an opinion with the judges of the GABF may often come across as mimicry or the mere echoings from the prescriptive force of popular appeal. In this case, the beer just is so good. So I can deal with the possibility of being uncharitably interpreted in that way.

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