Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale is 5.4% ABV.
I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.
Appearance: Pouring steadily fluffed up a finger or so of off-white and thin head, which was gone in 2 minutes. The color of this is a very hazy medium orange/amber. As it sits in my window, and the orange sun sets behind it, it looks very deep red with moderate carbonation bubbles.
Smell: Up front I get smooth and strong vegetal pumpkin. Then the spices come through more, with a nice mellow and restrained blend of what seems like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. This has a smooth malt aroma to it, as well as some grassiness. There is also a little bit of tame sugar, and just a touch of hops. This smells balanced, and warm. It doesn’t have the sour aroma notes that a lot of vegetal pumpkin offerings have.
Taste: This has good pumpkin flavor that is hanging out on the vegetal side. It is smooth, with mellow caramel malt and a smooth spice bill. The spices are less discernible than in the aroma, and seem to consist of cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. The sweetness for this has a little honey to it. Towards the end I get a small amount of mild citrus hops. This finishes very clean, with a little bit of bright pumpkin and light hops. The aftertaste has some vegetal pumpkin and a mild and slight bitterness. Good clean flavors, and great balance.
Feel: This is light to medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. The malt and vegetal pumpkin is enjoyable and smooth. There is a little sweetness and spice, some grass, and bit of hops at the end. And the whole time, all I can feel is subtle tones and balance. Great marks here.
Drinkability: This is quite drinkable. It is refreshing, and has some nice balanced flavors along the way. Good on this score.
Overall: Every year I look forward to this beer. And this year was no different. It has a very clean pumpkin flavor, with balanced spice, hops, and sweetness. A lot of pumpkin ales are pretty heavy with spices. This has the pumpkin pie spice in it, but pulls off a very flavorful pumpkin beer without the heavy-on-the-palate and coarse sediment from the spice. I recommend this for folks that like the vegetal pumpkin side of pumpkin ales, as well as those that don’t want a ton of spice. I also recommend this to folks that don’t fit those categories, as it has great flavor and balance. Grab some.
Overall Rating: ***1/2
About Wolaver’s and their Pumpkin Ale: Having not spoken with the folks at Wolaver’s, I don’t know much about their history. I do know that Wolaver’s is located in Middlebury, Vermont, and is owned by Otter Creek Brewing Company. Otter Creek began in 1991, and also has two other lines of beers. They use their Wolaver’s line to produce USDA-certified organic beers. They were in fact the first brewery in the U.S. to get that label in 1997. Both Wolaver’s and Otter Creek currently leave a lot to be desired in terms of websites, but fortunately make good beer. Wolaver’s mission statement on their Facebook now reads, “Our brewery is dedicated to brewing great tasting beers, supporting sustainable agriculture, and minimizing our impact on the environment.”
In the first half of September, Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale was dubbed the best pumpkin beer in 2013 by Boston.com. Wolaver’s noted that they owed a lot to the people at Gold Russet Farm, which is located in Shoreham, VT, and produces over 1,000 pounds of organic gourd for Wolaver’s each year. I certainly agree that this beer is very competitive for the big-market pumpkin ales. However, I wonder about the ability to make that pronouncement in early-ish September, when a substantial number have yet to hit market. In any case, this is one I look forward to every year.