Devil’s Backbone “Ichabod Crandall” Pumpkin Ale (2013)


Devil’s Backbone “Ichabod Crandall” Pumpkin Ale is 5.1% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: A steady pour made a half-inch of off-white and thin foam, which was gone very quickly and left almost no trace. This has a very clear medium orange/amber color. The bubbles suggest moderate carbonation.

Smell: There is some definite spice strong with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The spicing brings a warmth. I get some slight vegetal squash with some starch and tame sour notes. This is on the malty side, with just  a little hops coming through for aroma. I don’t get much sweetness to this one, mostly just strong spice.

Taste: I get some peppery yeast and some spicing up front. The spicing is less intense than I thought it would be from the aroma. There’s some seed-like earthiness to the spices and some nutmeg, though the spice bill doesn’t advertise itself as “pumpkin pie” spicing. This has some squash to it that seems to have some roasty characteristics, perhaps coming from the toasty and biscuity malt. This has nice complexity for something so light, some mild malty sweetness, and not much by way of a hop profile. It finishes with the squash and sweetness dropping out quickly to leave a little pepper and biscuity malt. I get some dulled nondescript bitterness in the aftertaste. This has some similarities to an oktoberfest.

Feel: It is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel has some texture from the strong spice and the toasty malt characteristics. It is on the dry side, and has some lingering yeast to it. Okay, but not great here.

Drinkability: This is decently drinkable. None of the flavors are outrageously strong, though the malt and spice do sort of overpower and hang on a bit. There is a dulled bitterness that keeps this from being really good for drinkability.

Overall: This is alright. I bought it, as it is local to me. I also like some of the beers Devil’s Backbone makes quite a bit. This one drinks a bit like an oktoberfest. It has some pumpkin, but doesn’t achieve any really deep or interesting flavors, nor does it accent its pumpkin flavor. I think some of the stronger dulled spicing detracts from the otherwise smooth flavors in this. I’d rather drink an oktoberfest than this, or a pumpkin beer with more emphasis on the pumpkin or roasted squash flavors. As for something that combines an oktoberfest and a pumpkin beer, Terrapin’s “Pumpkinfest” is a lot more successful. Also, in 2 days I’m reviewing another VA pumpkin offering: St. George’s, which is also a combination of an oktoberfest and a pumpkin beer, and is also called “Pumpkinfest”. All in all, this offering from Devil’s Backbone is decent, but nothing I’d seek out.

Overall Rating: **1/4

DSC03639About Devil’s Backbone and their offering: Devil’s Backbone opened in Roseland, Virginia in 2008. Their head bewer is Jason Oliver, who has lead the brewery to winning a number of prestigious awards in the beer world. Most recently they won the GABF Small Brewing Company/Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2013, after having won their Small Brewpub/Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year in 2012. Last year Devil’s Backbone expanded with a 15,000 foot production facility outside of Lexington, Virginia. So they are growing.

I spoke a little with Heidi Crandall, marketing and media manager, who’s family is well-involved with Devil’s Backbone, as Steve Crandall is the founder. They make the “Ichabod Crandall” with pumpkin and spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. The malts include Crystal Wheat, Honey, Naked Oats, Pilsner, and some Special Aromatic. Finally, a little Chinook and Northern Brewer hops take this to 14 IBU’s.


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