AleWerks Pumpkin Ale is 7.3% ABV.
I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.
Appearance: A fairly heavy pour produced a small finger of off-white but thin head. This lasted maybe 2 minutes, before it was almost all gone. There is just a thin ring of foam along the sides of the glass, and no real lacing. The color on this is a beautiful clear and bright orange/amber. It looks to have moderate carbonation.
Smell: The aroma brings great roasted pumpkin, and some lovely spicing. I get a great blend of pumpkin pie spices, and a touch of wood on the nose. The malt presence is smooth and lovely. This also has some caramel sweetness, and some nice sticky brown sugar to it. The aroma is inviting, and not all that strong.
Taste: This is one of those beers that I taste, have 5 more sips of, and then begin to forget that I am doing a review. It is delicious. The roasty pumpkin flavor is forward and deep. There is also a great dose of pumpkin pie spicing that is so nicely balanced with the unforgiving pumpkin. The spicing has cinnamon, ginger, and good nutmeg to it. I get some stronger brown sugar as well. The flavors in this are bold and good. And the wonderful roasted pumpkin is the centerpiece. This finishes with the pop of brown sugar fading into the spices. The aftertaste has some muted bitterness and some lingering brown sugar sweetness.
Feel: This is medium bodied, plus some. And it has moderate carbonation. The feel is warm and full. The spices also add something more dynamic to the feel. There is a bit of a bite towards the end with this one, with some alcohol poking through. Otherwise, the feel on this is just great.
Drinkability: This is certainly quite drinkable for its bold flavors and 7+ ABV. The spices are also impossible to miss, along with that little bite of alcohol towards the end. Even so, this doesn’t force the spices on the palate, and they don’t drag. So this is pretty darn good on this score.
Overall: I look forward to trying this every year. I’ve had an untouched six-pack of this for about a month that I’ve been waiting to drink until after I completed the 2013 review. This is among the top pumpkin beers I’ve ever had. The wonderful roasted pumpkin and well-dosed spicing take it a long way. This doesn’t have any wild or unusual ingredients. It is just a great pumpkin ale, and then some. This is not surprising, as I loved it in 2012 and 2011 as well.
Overall Rating: ****1/2
About AleWerks and their pumpkin: Alewerks, formerly “Williamsburg AleWerks”, started in late 2006 in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia. They have a direct-fired brick brew house, which, unlike the more popular steam process, is more akin to the brewing technology used in colonial times. Some of AleWerks’ beers, like their Tavern Ale, are something of a tip of the cap to what beer would have been like a few hundred years ago. Though, AleWerks certainly experiments with much bolder flavors than the settlers would have been familiar with. Among their bolder beers is the delicious Bourbon Barrel Porter. This incredible beer is in their “Brewers Choice” series, and aged for two months in Virginia Gentleman bourbon barrels. Since 2006 AleWerks has added a number of successful and sought after beers like this to their lineup: most notably, their Cafe Royale (a coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels) and of course their pumpkin ale.
I spoke with a few of the folks over at AleWerks, and they were quite generous to answer questions about their great brewery. Geoff Logan, brewmaster, said he first introduced the pumpkin ale in 2009, after having experimented with his brother to make this beer. Geoff told me about his mother making an incredible pumpkin pie; he and his bro used her basic pumpkin pie recipe to invent this beer. This labor intensive beer, which involves roasting real squash, has grown quite a bit since its introduction. From 2 25-barrel batches in 2009, to 6 in ’10, and the projection of completing between 20 and 22 this current 2013 season. Kyle Meyerhoff, assistant brewer, reinforced to me the labor intensive process for this beer. The roasted squash gets put in the mash, with pale ale base malts, and Caramel, Crystal and Victory Munich malts. For the boil they use Fuggle hops, and add brown sugar and lactose. Then at the end of the boil, they dose with the special “mom’s pie” blend of spices made from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and clove. Standard pumpkin pie spices, though done so well. They finish with a bit of dry spicing to get the spice profile just right.
If you ever get a chance to stop by AleWerks, do it. Geoff told me they are hoping to soon complete the project of a new tap room. With that large project, a new website on the way, and an appealing re-branding of some of their beers which has been done with the help of artist, Jeff Phillips, AleWerks has many new changes to their humble colonial setting.