Heritage “Bradford” Pumpkin Ale is 5.6% ABV.
I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a Belgian ale glass.
Appearance: An easy pour gave about a finger of off-white foam that fizzed away in under a minute, leaving no real lacing and little remnants of the foam. The color is a moderately hazy deep burnt orange/amber. Bubbles rising to the surface of the beer suggest moderate carbonation.
Smell: To start I get a warm presence of fall aromatics: squash, cinnamon, and caramel. There is some vegetal pumpkin with some sour notes, as well as a warm spicing of predominantly cinnamon, and perhaps some ginger too. This also has a kind of dark liquor smell to it, as from bourbon or rum. This smells like it is in the sweeter camp of pumpkin ales, and I get some nice sweet malt, with notes of caramel and toffee. Finally, some lemony hops are noticeable, adding good balance to the aromatics. Great aroma.
Taste: Up front I get some vegetal squash notes that have a sour character, quickly followed by a kind of peppery spice profile that grabs hold of my palate and attention. As for the spices, I get cinnamon, black pepper, and I think some ginger and nutmeg. There is a nice nuttiness to this beer. This spice profile is joined by some mild liquor, as from bourbon, and some nice sweet malt with notes of caramel and toffee. Towards the end I get some lemony and almost grassy hops. This finishes with more of the grassy and lemony hops, leading into an aftertaste with some fine-particulate bitterness, as from white pepper or ginger. Great flavor, and a lot of complexity to it.
Feel: This ale is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel is pretty dynamic, with sour vegetal notes, bold spices, some lemon from the hops, some mild dark liquor, and a smooth malty sweetness. I like that the sourish vegetal notes are quickly followed by the spices. The fine-particulate bitter spicing lingers some on my palate and detracts a bit for feel. Otherwise, good dynamic feel.
Drinkability: I’d say this does alright here. There is that lingering bitterness, which does affect my ability to want to have much more than a pint of this. The bold spices and notable vegetal sour notes also keep this one from being dangerously drinkable. This drinks as though it were closer to 7 or 8%.
Overall: I am enjoying this new VA fall offering. This fits into the category of pumpkin ales, in the sense that it was fermented with pumpkins- so I’m including it. But it is a bit different in body and flavor than your average 6ish% pumpkin ale. I like the complexity of flavors in the Bradford, which work together for an interesting and dynamic flavor profile. I do wish there was a bit more of a pumpkin/squash presence. The spices are nice and bold, but add a kind of bitterness that could be better complemented by some more sweet malt or some stronger caramelized squash flavors. That’s my thought, anyway. I do think that this has a pretty nice balance as it stands, though. You get all the parts: the squash, some spices, some smooth malt, some lemon notes, and some clear hops. I wish the finish was a little smoother. Even so, I think this is definitely a nice offering for fall. It comes off as warm, complex, and really fresh. I think it is something good to drink during this time of year. Even more, its flavors are interesting and keep this from blending in among the many pumpkin ales and fall seasonals that have been hitting the shelves for a few months now. If they sold this in 6-packs, I’d definitely grab one to share with friends.
Overall Rating: ***
About Heritage and their Bradford: Heritage Brewing is the first microbrewery to open in Manassas, Virginia. They opened just hours before the beginning of 2014, with a New Years Eve/Grand Opening event. They recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign in July, and are now putting out their beer in bottles and kegs across the state. They describe themselves as a veteran owned and operated micro-brewery (similar to Young Veterans Brewing in Virginia Beach, Virginia), and source 100% of their ingredients from the U.S.. Their main line of beers includes their “Revolution” amber ale, their “The Teddy” pale ale, and their “Kings Mountain” “Scot-American ale”. This weekend they are first offering cans of their “Freedom Isn’t Free” IPA.
I picked up a growler of the Bradford at Whole Foods in Short Pump, the first place I had seen this beer. Heritage labels this a “harvest ale”, rather than a “pumpkin ale”. This is made by adding organic pumpkin into the fermentation. They also add organic ingredients: pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon sticks that they previously soaked in local Catoctin Creek Organic Rye Whiskey. Summit, Palisades, and Fuggle hops take this offering to 41 IBU’s. I haven’t been able to get in touch with these folks, but have the impression this beer is only offered on tap. Try it if you get the chance. Good local offering.