Mendocino Pumpkin Ale is 5.0% ABV.
I poured some of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.
Appearance: A boisterous pour gave up about a finger of light tan bubbly head, which quickly dissipated to leave just a bit of thin lacing. The color of this offering is a fairly clear dark amber. This looks to have moderate carbonation.
Smell: Vegetal pumpkin, warm spicing, dark brown sugar, and roasty malt come out at first. The pumpkin has some slight sour notes, and balances nicely with the warm spicing and sweetness. For spicing I am getting cinnamon, and I think some nutmeg and ginger. This has smooth malt, and more roastiness to it than I was expecting, like from a nice porter. Good aroma.
Taste: To start there is some bright and astringent vegetal pumpkin that is well balanced against the other flavors. The sour notes don’t take over, and are nicely set against some strong roastiness, smooth dark sweetness, and spice. For the spices, I get some cinnamon and (I think) nutmeg and ginger. There is also something roasty like coffee or chocolate. The sweetness in this comes in sort of bright, like from some citrus and mild hops. This finishes with some of the smooth roastiness and spice, leading way into an aftertaste with some subtly sour notes, mild hops, and roast. Nice fresh malt in this one.
Feel: This is light bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel is pretty smooth and a little creamy with dark sugar, spice, and roasty notes. Some bright sour vegetal pumpkin cuts through in parts. And the roast is great. Good here.
Drinkability: This is certainly on the drinkable side. The sweetness and roast round out the bright astringent pumpkin. The sour notes do hang a bit in the aftertaste. This is good on this score, though.
Overall: I like the flavors in this. It has good roast, especially for something this light in body. The pumpkin flavor is vegetal and is a good contrast to the roasted malt and smooth and warm spice. It also has great complexity for something so light. So great marks here. As for criticism, I suppose I’d like the astringency to not hang on so long, and for this to be a bit more robust in malt and roasty malt flavor. This isn’t a major problem for me, though, as this isn’t intended to be so heavy. Mendocino’s pumpkin ale is a delicious offering. A little different than a lot of the standardly spiced “pumpkin pie” styles of pumpkin ales. Well worth the try.
Overall Rating: ***
About Mendocino and their offering: Mendocino brewing has its roots in the Hopland Brewery, which began in Hopland, California in 1933. Hopland was the first brewpub in the state of California, and only the second in the entire U.S.. The brewery took on the name ‘Mendocino’ in 1983, 50 years later. Mendocino underwent an expansion in the 90’s, opening up their most recent facility in Ukiah, CA. Mendocino is just 30 minutes down the road from Anderson Valley, who’s “Fall Hornin'” pumpkin ale I reviewed earlier this season.
I corresponded with Ben Wilkinson, brewing supervisor, who told me a bit about how Mendocino makes their pumpkin ale. This is in fact the first year they have produced the pumpkin ale, which joins their recently updated seasonal list. For the brewing, they add over 3 lbs of pumpkin per barrel! Spicing of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger goes into the boil, giving some complexity to the flavors of this. Finally, some cocoa nibs are added to the fermenter for both a rich roasty flavor and a richer texture. Ben noted that this first batch was 200 barrels, saying that more could be made next year depending on its reception. I thought it was great, and the folks I corresponded with who have tried it also liked it. A great flavorful but still sessionable pumpkin ale. So grab some if you get the chance.