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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully and got about a finger of thin off-white head, which was gone pretty quickly. This had substantially different head than the non-barrel aged offering I reviewed yesterday. This has a very clear light orange/amber color with what appears to be light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma of this is fairly mild. Not a whole lot of earth or yeast. I get some light booze from this, as from whiskey. There is some mild spice, like from white pepper. Perhaps some of that spiciness is coming from the rye. This doesn’t have much of a hops presence, nor much sweetness on the nose. The nose is so different from the non-barrel aged offering.

Taste: Up front I get pretty strong whiskey, with the spiciness of a rye. You get the pumpkin, but much less in this than in the non-barrel aged offering. The pumpkin has some roasty dimensions. This has a great spice to it, from the added spices and the spiciness of the rye, as well as a little earth. I get some nutmeg in this, and not a whole lot else by way of pumpkin pie spices. The rye whiskey takes hold of the flavors a good bit. The malt in this has a restrained sweetness with something like a mild burnt sugar to it. There is also some vanilla and oak, which I’m guessing is coming from the barrels. Not a whole lot by way of hops noticeable, save for some non-descript brightness that lingers around the edges. Really rich and strong flavors. This finishes pretty dry with some more of the rye whiskey notes taking hold and fading into an aftertaste of vanilla and oak and mild rye. Great flavors, a real nice fall sipper.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with mild carbonation. The feel is very warm, with a definite warming alcohol bite. It isn’t boozy in a bad way, but definitely lets you know it was aged in whiskey barrels. The oak and vanilla round things out a good bit, changing the feel of this so much from the offering I had yesterday. It really feels like a different beer. Nothing is harsh on the palate. And it feels a little thinner.

Drinkability: This is a 10.5% beer, with some spiciness and notable alcohol. So it is not a chugger. It is a good sipper, and has the roundness and warmth allowing it to drink pretty well as a sipper. So, given the style, I’d say decent here. The alcohol does detract a little, and some of the flavors don’t quite stand up to the strong rye whiskey. But, in any case, it drinks pretty well.

Overall: This is a real nice fall beer. Again, it is remarkably differing in flavor and feel than the offering from last night. It loses a good bit of the bright and rich pumpkin, but gains some warmth and spice from the rye whiskey. This also feels thinner and a lot less sweet than the standard offering. Barrels change a lot of things, it seems. This is the first rye whiskey pumpkin beer I’ve had. I think the spice from the rye and the pumpkin pie spices is kind of a cool combo, set against the booze from the whiskey, the pumpkin, and the seemingly light sugar. There is also some burnt sugar and mild earth that add new dimensions which you don’t get in the other offering. That gives this some added complexity. I really like saisons, and strong roasty pumpkin. And, just as this one does, their original farmhouse pumpkin offering has great complexity with much more of a saison quality. So, though this version is something I’d love to drink, I do not find it as compelling as their original farmhouse pumpkin.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 5About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park is from Richmond, Virginia, and has been putting out some great beer there since 2011. I’ve previously written about them and what they’ve got going on.

Last night I reviewed their original Farmhouse Pumpkin, which they’ve been making since they opened. This Rye Whiskey barrel version was a real treat. Apparently, this year this rye version replaced the “Rum Pumpkin” they were thinking of doing again, due to some barrel acquisition issues. They had previously made “Rum Pumpkin” last year. I’m happy to get to try them all.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2014)


Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: Carefully pouring produced under 2 fingers of frothy white head, which reduced over about two minutes to leave a little lacing and settle into a bubbly ring atop the beer. This has a beautiful bright orange color, with a lot of haziness and no real sediment to speak of. It looks to have moderate carbonation, judging by the many tiny bubbles rising.

Smell: I get roasted pumpkin up front, with some vegetal dimensions. This is paired against a funky and earthy yeast presence, some spices- think I am getting nutmeg and clove- as well as a bright citrus quality like from tangerine. There is also some warm sweetness as from brown sugar or molasses. The yeast comes off as almost having some smoke to it.  This smells complex, and warm and inviting. 

Taste: Really rich and enjoyable flavors. You get the roasted pumpkin up front, and it is clear. You also get more sweetness than the nose suggested, some brown sugar and some honey-like sweetness. The spices are nicely balanced, and I think again include nutmeg and clove. The yeast presence isn’t as pronounced as it is in the aroma, but is still a major part of the flavors in this. The spices work well with this to add more complexity to the sweetness and roasted pumpkin. Real earthy with some slightly bitter notes, and some restrained funkiness. The yeast gives off something like smoke and white pepper and earth. This finishes a little dryer with that sweetness and roasted pumpkin moving into mild earth and white peppery yeast. The earth and yeast hang out for a while in the aftertaste. The finish is long on this one. I say this has wonderful flavors, great complexity, and great roasted pumpkin presence.

Feel: I’d say this is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. The carbonation is very pleasant. This has a very warm feel, and has the spice and yeast notes set against the sweet sugar and roasted pumpkin. This adds complexity to the feel. This is heavier than I remember it with respect to the sugar. Still, really nice feel, especially for a saison-style beer.

Drinkability: Given its 8.5% ABV, I say this does pretty well. There is a little bit of an alcohol bite to this, but nothing too much. For an 8.5% farmhouse ale, it drinks pretty smoothly. The spices and the yeast do interrupt the smoothness, but they pay huge dividends in flavor and complexity. Good here.

Overall: I like this one a whole lot this year. I have always really enjoyed this offering, but am particularly liking it this year. It has great roasted pumpkin, and wonderfully complex and rich flavors. The more I drink this the more I get more tangerine too. There is that alcohol bite, but I’d rather have that than a ton more sugar to knock that out. Unless you actively dislike saisons, I’d call this a must try among pumpkin beers in VA. I included this in a blind VA beer tasting, where I didn’t put in any votes, and no one voted for this for gold, silver, or bronze. That was surprising to me, as I think this is just a great offering. Soon I’ll be trying their rye whiskey pumpkin offering!

Overall Rating: ****

DSC03805About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park Craft Brewing hails from Richmond, Virginia, and has made quite a splash there since they opened in October of 2011, when I first reviewed this beer. I enjoy it every year.

Last year, they also made a “Rum Pumpkin“, a version of this beer aged in rum barrels.

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour quickly tossed up well over two fingers of foamy bright off-white head, which slowly dissipated to leave thick lacing along the sides of the glass. This has a clear and very bright burnt orange color. Judging from the head and the bubbles (and the sound when I uncorked this), it looks to have very heavy carbonation.

Smell: To start I get some strong and warm rum that brings some booziness. There is also some warm pumpkin pie spicing, though it blends in with the rum such as to not project any one spice so clearly, save for maybe some ginger. The spice does have a bit of an earthy white peppery or gingery sting to it. This beer also has strong floral notes to it, and some citrus. All in all, strong rum with some added complexity. Nice aroma.

Taste: There is quite strong rum to start, which is joined by some earthy and warm spicing with some roasted flavors. The roasted flavor isn’t unimpeachably pumpkin, but I think it does get across some pumpkin. This also has a strong but not overdone sweetness like from some honey and brown sugar, though with some definite dark rum thrown in as well. A lot of spice contributes to the flavor of this, moreso than with the non-rum-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin that I reviewed last night. I get a slight bitter pop from the spices in this, as from white pepper or ginger. This also has less of a yeast presence, with the barrel aging rounding out some of the otherwise funky and citrusy qualities had by Hardywood’s non-barrel-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin. This has some of those funky qualities, though they are fewer in number and a lot more subdued. This finishes with a good bit of dark rum and brown sugar sweetness with some citrus notes. It has some residue of yeast in the aftertaste. Great strong flavors with solid rum throughout.

Feel: This is medium bodied to heavy bodied, with heavy carbonation.The feel is bold, and quite warm. There is definite booziness to this, though the sweetness smooths some of this out. The warmth and strong rum stays with me. So a good and bold feel, even if a bit boozy.

Drinkability: This is a strong beer with strong rum. So it is far from something that merits the label drinkable. It is a definite sipper, especially as the more I sip this, the more I notice flavors coming through. Some lemon comes through.

Overall: This is bold, with intense flavors of rum and earthy spice. The strong rum in this is quite nice, as it imparts a great warmth and some enjoyable sugar. There are some enjoyable citrus and spice contributions that come through more strongly in parts. The pumpkin is there, but is not as front and center as the non-rum-aged version, especially given the strength of the rum. This also, like its non-rum-aged version, has a great earthiness to it. This would be great with a savory dinner, or nice as an after-dinner drink. It could even stand up to a cigar if someone was so inclined. So it is good. Even so, I do prefer the non-rum-aged version I reviewed here, as it has more nuance and complexity in flavor. The rum is tasty, and adds great flavor. Yet it does cover up some of the complex parts of Hardywood’s farmhouse pumpkin ale. In any case, you can’t go wrong either way. You trade off some wonderful nuance for some great rum, rounded flavors, and serious warmth.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

image (21)About Hardywood Park and their “Rum Pumpkin”: Yesterday I wrote a little about Hardywood Park, when I reviewed their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”, the beer they age in rum barrels to make this “Rum Pumpkin”. They are a great brewery, which has really changed things for both the beer scene in Richmond, Virginia, and more generally, for Virginia beer.

Hardywood Park makes “Rum Pumpkin” by aging their farmhouse pumpkin ale in dark Caribbean rum barrels for months. The aim is to impart great flavor from the white-oak barrels, and to allow some dark molasses notes. This beer was released for the first time on October 12th, 2013 with a two bottle limit per customer, just as a number of Hardywood’s other Barrel Series beers have been set to. At $14 for a 750ml, it isn’t cheap. But it is worth it, especially for rum enthusiasts or those searching for the perfect full-flavored autumn beer to bring to Thanksgiving.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2013)


Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour gave a finger of bright off-white foam, which slowly dissipated to leave some froth on the surface of the beer. This is slightly hazy with a bright burnt orange color. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: To start there is nice roasted pumpkin along with some bready yeast and funky notes. Smells like a roasted pumpkin farmhouse ale. I get some earthy white pepper, bright citrus, brown sugar, and some warm spicing. The spicing isn’t so easy to individuate by its component, due to the strong yeast and other flavors. I get some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, I think. Really great aroma. My favorite things: roasty pumpkin and saison qualities.

Taste: The first sip was just so flavorful: roasted pumpkin, and great complexity from the yeast, citrus, spice, and sugar. This just overtakes with powerful flavors. The roasted pumpkin is noticeable throughout, as the bready yeast is. This isn’t as funky as I was expecting from the aroma. I guess the sugar rounds things out a bit. This just has great earthy flavors, with spices of (I think) allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This also has a white peppery bitterness with the spicing, adding a great match to the citrus and funky yeast. This finishes with a little more white-pepper-like bitterness and yeast along with a citrus tang. Some mild yeast and peppery bitterness in the aftertaste. What a great example of a non-traditional pumpkin ale with great roasted pumpkin flavor.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has an earthy feel, with the yeast, citrus, and spices adding texture, while the roasted pumpkin and sweetness round it out. The pepper notes do grab hold and attract some attention.

Drinkability: This is a full-flavored beer with a substantive yeast presence. So it is not a paradigm drinkable pumpkin ale. Even so, the sugar and the roasted pumpkin smooth things out some. Because of the bold and contrasting flavors in this, it isn’t one to really barrel through.

Overall: I like this beer quite a bit. I love saisons and other farmhouse ales. Having one with a roasty pumpkin presence is quite nice. I’ve had this beer in the past, and look forward to having it each year since it came out in 2011. This year I like it even more than I remember. The sugar was well-balanced, the citrus notes were bright, and the yeasty elements substantive but not overwhelming. And all that paired well with the roasted pumpkin and the spicing. Given all that is going on in this beer, it could get busy quick. But it doesn’t. It is an artfully crafted beer, another very good offering from Virginia. Check in tomorrow when I review Hardwood’s “Rum Pumpkin”, their farmhouse pumpkin aged in rum barrels!

Overall Rating: ***3/4

DSC03649About Hardywood Park and their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”: Co-founders, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh opened Hardywood Park in Richmond, Virginia in October of 2011. As the story on their website goes, McKay and Murtaugh had been lifelong friends, and were inspired in 2001 during a trip to Australia to make some of the best craft beer in the world. Since then both have done a lot en route to achieving this goal, much of which can be read about on their website. They have also done a lot for the beer culture in Virginia, being instrumental in getting Senate Bill 604 to pass. That bill allowed on-site consumption of beer at breweries in Virginia, a privilege already enjoyed by wineries in the state. Moreover, the folks at Hardywood seem to pride themselves on being involved with the local community, by locally sourcing their ingredients, hosting community events, and participating at a number of farmers markets. If you come near Richmond, Virginia, Hardywood Park is located near the historic Fan neighborhood, just north of Broad street, in a massive 12,000 square foot warehouse. During release days for their beer, you can expect a big crowd.

Hardywood makes their Wallonian-style farmhouse ale with a saison yeast and barley, rye, and wheat for their grain. They add roasted Virginia-grown sugar pumpkins, brown sugar, and spices fresh or bought at local businesses. For spicing they use allspice, Ceylon cinnamon, fresh organic ginger root, Grenada nutmeg,  and Madagascar cloves.

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Three Brothers “Five Pound Fall Ale” Pumpkin Ale (2013)


Three Brothers “Five Pound Fall Ale” Pumpkin Ale is 5.3% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A slow then firm pour allowed over two fingers of thick and frothy off-white head. This hung on for quite some time, leaving fairly thick lacing when it dissipated some. The color is a very clear and beautiful darker reddish orange. It looks to have heavy carbonation.

Smell: Starting out I get a lot of spice that is earthy and warm: cinnamon, clove, and allspice being what I think are the most prominent. The spice profile has a woody and seed-like character. There are some subtly sour tones of something like vegetal squash, as well as some mild dark sugar. Finally, there is some breadiness adding to the otherwise smooth malt. This smells smooth, almost creamy, and warm, but with a heavy dose of spice.

Taste: This has nice smooth and deep flavors. The spice is warm and still woody, with some clove and allspice coming through (I think). There is some great roasty pumpkin, and some bready malt with a rich darker character. The flavors are also woody, like from toasted pumpkin seeds. This has some slight astringency, especially towards the end. Finally, there is a restrained sweetness of something like molasses. This finishes with the warm spice and some slight astringency grabbing hold at the end, leaving a little slightly sweet and soft bitterness in the aftertaste. Good flavors.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. It is  smooth and soft with a creamy texture. The woody spices bring great warmth, as does the roasted pumpkin. This doesn’t drag or overwhelm in any way. Really great feel.

Drinkability: This is good here. It is low to middle of the road for ABV, smooth, and doesn’t drag on the palate. The woody flavors do come on strong, but don’t make this cumbersome or busy.

Overall: This is a successful pumpkin ale. It has woody spicing, great strong roasted pumpkin, and restrained sweetness. The feel is on the creamy side, which is nice. There is a lot of good flavor for something this low in ABV. I especially enjoy what comes off as pumpkin seeds. I certainly recommend this offering from Three Brothers. It reminds me of Anderson Valley’s “Fall Hornin'”, which also brings a creamy texture to a warm spiced pumpkin ale. I think Three Brothers is better, due to its more roasty pumpkin as well as its deeper and more pronounced flavors overall. Try this if you get the opportunity. I grabbed some bottles when I visited their tap room a few weeks ago. I think it was somewhat limited in production.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

DSC03644About Three Brothers and their offering: Three Brothers Brewing opened in Harrisonburg, Virginia in December of 2012. They are owned by three brothers, from oldest to youngest: Adam, Jason, and Tyler. Having grown up in that community, they say that their goal is to work to brew good and unique craft beer by collaborating with and supporting their community. This is exactly what they did for their “Five Pound Fall Ale”, which I was told was only the third beer to be bottled by Three Brothers, as well as their first in 22 oz bottles. Three Brothers had previously released and distributed their “The Great Outdoors” pale ale and their “Hoptimization” IPA on tap and in 6-packs.

Three Brothers brewed “Five Pound Fall Ale” on September 14th, 2013. Many people from the community brought 5 pounds of their own roasted pumpkin that they either grew or sourced themselves. This was Three Brothers’ first beer to be community sourced. And it is a good one. They approached 400 pounds of pumpkins for a 465 gallon batch, which comes out to over 4/5ths of a pound of pumpkin per gallon of beer! The brothers use their family pumpkin pie spices in the beer, similar to how Geoff Logan from AleWerks constructed his recipe with his brother. First released just to the pumpkin contributors as well as to their “passport members”, “Five Pound Fall Ale” was then available to the rest of the public on October 10th. It seems like they have sold a lot of it, if not sold out entirely. (I’m not sure, so check if you are interested in trying it.) The three brothers are also coming off of a bronze medal win at the Great American Beer Festival for their Rum Barrel Aged Belgian Dubbel. Three cheers for Virginia beer.

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