Fire Island Pumpkin Barrel Ale is 4.8% ABV.
I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a Belgian-ale glass.
Appearance: I poured this with a steady hand, which tossed up about an inch of creamy off-white head. This settled down a bit, but was still covering the surface of the beer after 5 minutes or so. This has a copper color, and is quite hazy. It seems to have moderate carbonation.
Smell: I notice strong, crisp, and slightly sour vegetal pumpkin to start. This also has a standard layer of pumpkin pie spices, which seems to consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The spices aren’t so discernible, though. I also get notable grassiness, some hints of lemon, and some honey sweetness.
Taste: To start there is strong vegetal pumpkin, and strong spicing. The vegetal pumpkin comes with notes of lemon, and some less pronounced grassiness than one would expect from the nose. There is more of a roasted pumpkin seed/pepper profile than the standard pumpkin pie spicing I was expecting. The pepper is quite notable in this. The sweetness has some honey to it, and some smooth and soft caramel-malt qualities. There is a more aromatic hop presence towards the end. This finishes to let go of the pumpkin, giving a pop from the pleasant and peppery spices. The aftertaste has the spicing hanging on for quite a while.
Feel: This is light bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel has some sour and grass notes which add to the depth of the feel some. The peppery notes really hang on, and dominates the otherwise totally smooth feel. I wish the pepper were a bit more restrained.
Drinkability: This is ok but not great on this score. The heavy pepper qualities to the spicing keep this from being so sessionable. The pepper isn’t harsh. It is just quite prominent, and hangs on in the aftertaste quite a bit.
Overall: This has good flavors in it: nice vegetal pumpkin, some lemon, and a non-traditional take on the traditional spice combinations. The malt is also nice and soft. What I’m wondering about is whether the strong bitterness and the pepper qualities are too strong. In any case, I’d go for this over a number of pumpkin ales that are widely available on the market. I do like that this has both the non-traditional spice/pepper profile and the light body, but doesn’t lose all the pumpkin flavor.
Overall Rating: **1/2
Fire Island and their Pumpkin Barrel Ale: Fire Island Beer Company is located on Fire Island, off the coast of Manhattan Island in New York. This deer-filled island is only reachable by ferry, and doesn’t allow any cars over. The guys from Fire Island had previously started The Shack, a place on Fire Island to relax and enjoy beer. After first serving their home-brew at The Shack, they later discovered that there was quite the demand for good craft beer on Fire Island. So they began, putting out their first two beers: Lighthouse Ale (an American Amber/Red Ale) and their Red Wagon IPA. In an apparently relaxed atmosphere, Fire Island hopes that folks remember their slogan, “Beer. People. Both are better when they are chilled.”
I spoke with Simon Leonard, head brewer, who told me a little about their Pumpkin Barrel Ale. He noted that they use pumpkin puree and a pumpkin spice combination that he didn’t get into. For their recipe, pumpkin consists of around 6% of the bill. Something unique is that Simon adds some roasted barley to give the beer a little more depth in its flavor. Fire Island has produced 300 barrels of this beer a year for the single batch that they brew of it. Despite more demand, this production has remained steady over the last few years. I asked Simon about what else interesting was going on at Fire Island, and he told me about their Blonde Ale. It is called “Sea Salt Ale”, and was released earlier this year. For this beer, he used Pilsner malt, American Ahtanum hops, and American Ale Yeast. Simon also uses real sea salt that gets incorporated before the boil. Apparently it was just a great beer for the summer. I myself have had a lot of problems with pesky deer running in front of my car and eating all my home-grown tomatoes. However, if I could watch them hang around the beach while drinking Fire Island’s Sea Salt Ale, I think that would be quite nice. The whole relaxing “no cars” deal sounds like a perfect location for a good craft brewery. If you are near their area with some time to relax, I’d say check them out. They also have one of the most unique and interesting websites I’ve seen for a brewery.