Tag Archives: Virginia beer

Corcoran “Padawan” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Corcoran “Padawan” Pumpkin Ale is 6% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: A steady pour tossed up a finger of off fairly thick off-white head, which has decent retention and still sits pretty firm atop the beer, and is sticking to the sides. (Later on as I drank this, there was definite lacing along the sides.) The color of this is a moderately hazy burnt orange/amber, and has what appears to be moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: For aroma I get nice vegetal pumpkin, with some bright citrus notes: lemon and tangerine. This has something of a warm spice presence with good balance, and I think consists of cinnamon, clove, and allspice. The malt has a little toast some nice breadiness, which is set against some caramel sweetness. The hop profile seems bright, but not overwhelming. I also get a little yeasty earthiness. Good aroma, smells like a fresh and nicely balanced pumpkin ale in the pumpkin pie camp.

Taste: To start I get strong vegetal pumpkin, which is joined by a balanced spice profile and some strong earthy yeast notes. The pumpkin is great and fresh-tasting, and works nicely with the sweetness and the spices. The spice profile has some cinnamon, clove, and I think allspice, and is balanced with the vegetal pumpkin and the sweetness from the malt. The malt gives off some smooth caramel, and a little breadiness. I get some bright citrusy hops around the edges, which are also in balance and don’t overwhelm. This also has a lot of an earthy yeast presence to it, almost like a german yeast, and even reminds me a bit of a bock.This finishes with the vegetal pumpkin fading away to bring more earthy and lager-like yeast forward, which hangs out in the aftertaste quite a bit and has notes of smoke and some mild pepper. This has definitely good flavors, but is real strong on the yeast, stronger than I’d expect.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. It has a smooth feel, like from a robust lager with heavy yeast. The earth and pepper add some complexity in feel, which  otherwise has some bright notes, some slightly tart vegetal pumpkin, and smooth caramel malt. So a pretty good feel, though perhaps a bit coarse from the yeast.

Drinkability: This drinks alright. For a 6% beer, it could be smoother. The malt backbone is really smooth, but the yeast and pepper drag a bit. The peppery yeast does hang on a long time, and kind of builds up on my palate. I wonder what yeast and spices were used.

Overall: I think this is an enjoyable beer. I picked up a bottle of this for $10.50 in a Richmond bottle shop, a ways away from Purcellville. I knew this beer was also produced last year, but never had the opportunity to venture that far out to see Corcoran. I like this offering, but was a bit suprised by the heavy yeast, which still sits on my palate. The vegetal pumpkin is strong and really nice. If someone had asked me what this was I would have guessed a strong lager or some kind of hybrid. but the bottle says “pumpkin ale”. I’m glad I finally got the chance to try it, but think the 10.50 is way too high. The shop I bought it at doesn’t have the best prices for beer. But still. I’d feel more comfortable with 5 or 6 bucks for this one. 7 would be more of a stretch. In any case, this is a unique VA pumpkin offering, which is kind of hard to do with how many there are.

Overall Rating: **3/4

photo 3 (3)About Corcoran and their offering: Corcoran Brewing company is located in Purcellville, Virginia. They opened in 2011 near the grounds of a winery, when the family wanted to branch out into the beer industry. I had a chance to taste some of their offerings at the Holiday Cheer and Beer event, which took place a bit north of Richmond about two years ago.

This Star Wars themed beer sits in at 6%, and is made from real pumpkin, honey, and pumpkin pie spices.

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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)

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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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Beach “Jolly Roger” Pumpkin Porter (2014)

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Beach “Jolly Roger” Pumpkin Porter is 6.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a porter glass.

Appearance: An easy pour from the growler tossed up very little light brown head, which was gone pretty quickly. The color is a dark reddish-brown, with some light coming through it. It looks to have moderate plus carbonation.

Smell: I get strong roast and smoke. This gives off smooth dark malt, and very little by way of hops. I get a little bit of dull spice to it, but nothing that advertises itself so clearly. There is some vegetal pumpkin, though it isn’t so strong. As for sweetness, maybe a touch of molasses. This doesn’t smell all that sweet. Not a whole lot of complexity in the aroma, but a good bit of smoke.

Taste: This has more complexity in flavor than it does in smell. I get roasted and smokey pumpkin, with some vegetal notes. There is also some dark and fairly smooth malt, with good roastiness there too. I’m getting some spice, a little earthy woody spice coming in more towards the end. This does have some restrained molasses sweetness to it. There are noticeable bittering hops, adding good balance. This finishes with the roastiness giving way to some of that spice and some lingering smoke in the aftertaste. Some vegetal tones also linger a bit in the aftertaste. Pretty good flavors, a good bit of smoke, and some present pumpkin.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate to heavy carbonation. The feel has some complexity, with the smooth malt interrupted by the smoke and the roastiness. It is thinner than I was expecting from pouring it, and thinner than I’d expect in a fall porter. The smoke and spicy bitterness does linger a bit. OK feel.

Drinkability: The body is not too heavy, which helps out here. It doesn’t have an alcohol bite. It also doesn’t weigh you down with a lot of sugar, like a lot of other pumpkin porters. The smoke does hang and makes this not drink so smoothly. So this does OK here.

Overall: I like this beer. I like that it is not overly sweet, and that there is good roast and something a bit different than a pumpkin pie style pumpkin porter. I enjoy the hops presence, which I think is just right. I don’t enjoy the (I think) overdone smoke. Perhaps many people will not be bothered by this much smoke. For my tastes, it is more than I’d like. But again, I still enjoy it. This beer isn’t as complex as some other pumpkin porters I’ve had, and is surely not as porter-like in body as some of those others. So I’d think that this is an interesting alternative, but not a destination beer for me. If I were in VA beach looking for a local pumpkin offering that is on the dark side, I’d probably rather go for Back Bay’s “Witch of Pungo”.

Overall Rating: **1/2

photo 3 (2)About Beach Brewing and their offering: Beach Brewing is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. They have been around for a few years, producing some really enjoyable beets. Among my favorites is their “Hoptopus” double IPA, and their “Seadevil” imperial stout.

This beer was picked up in growler form from the brewery. They smoke the pumpkins themselves for this beer, and end up releasing it a bit later than a lot of the “early creep” pumpkin beers that hit market.

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Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.2% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a stout glass.

Appearance: My pour was careful at first, and had a heavier hand at the end. This produced about two fingers of frothy and thick egg-shell-colored head. This clung to the sides of the glass and left some definite lacing, while settling in to a notable cloud still atop the beer. This has a medium to dark burnt orange/amber, with good clarity and just a slight haze to it. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: Smelling this immediately gives me rich bourbon, along with some vegetal pumpkin behind it. There is a nice richness in smell, created also by the addition of some warm spiciness that blends in and doesn’t advertise itself so clearly or heavily. I get a little earthy yeast, and some mild bright hops. Nice bourbon-heavy aroma. It doesn’t smell harsh, and in fact smells round. I am very eager to take my first sip.

Taste: I get bourbon at the outset, along with some nice vegetal pumpkin. There is something warm to this one, in part because of the bourbon. The pumpkin adds a nice contrast, with a little astringency. Some fairly tame complementary spice adds more complexity. It is almost like nutmeg. More noticeable is that the bourbon and pumpkin are paired so well together. This is rich, and has some earthiness. It is not overly sweet, which is a little surprising. The malt is smooth and restrained with respect to the sweetness it contributes. I get some yeast with pleasant bitterness, along with some very tame hops to give a hint of brightness towards the end. The hops have a floral character to them, some mild perfume, and are balanced very well against the otherwise malty pumpkin offering. This finishes dry, with the hops and earthy yeast. The aftertaste has some restrained bitterness, a hint of hops, and warm bourbon. Great flavors in this one.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. It has a nice warmth from the bourbon, is somewhat round, and doesn’t come off as too aggressive. The astringent pumpkin and floral hops add some nice complexity to the feel, allowing it to be dynamic and interesting. There is a mild alcohol bite, especially towards the end of the sip. Otherwise good feel.

Drinkability: For a bold bourbon aged imperial pumpkin offering, this does alright. This is strong, and not the sort of thing one thinks of if considering sessionable beers. For what it is, I say it drinks well. There is some mild bitterness hanging on my palate, but nothing too distracting. Decent here.

Overall: This beer has great flavors, nice complexity, and a good pumpkin presence. It has great warmth from the bourbon, and nice restrained sweetness. The more I sip this, the more the bourbon settles in. I really like the roundness that is achieved here. I also like the balance of hops, and the nutty character that contributes but doesn’t overwhelm. Overall the flavors are warm and rich, and many things I’d want a pumpkin beer to be. The bourbon is strong, and maybe a bit stronger than I’d ideally want. Even so, this is still a really successful offering. This just came out last year, and has quickly become one of my favorite VA pumpkin beers.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 2 (1)About Blue Mountain Barrel House and “Spooky”: Blue Mountain Barrel House is located in Arrington, Virginia. They are something like an outpost brewery location for Blue Mountain in Afton, Virginia. They brew a number of barrel-aged beers under the “Barrel House” name, but also produce some Blue Mountain mainstays. Blue Mountain Barrel House makes some great beer, with one of my favorites being their “Dark Hollow”.  I also really enjoy this “Spooky”. This bottle notes that “Spooky” is made with cocoa nibs and pumpkin flavor. I think the cocoa nibs are what I was thinking of as like nutmeg. In any case, I wrote more about this brewery and this delicious beer in my 2013 review of “Spooky”.

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Isley “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Isley Brewing “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale is around 7% ABV.

I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully, and then hard at the end. This did not produce any real head. This beer has a rich medium burnt orange/amber, which is mostly clear. It looks to have mildish carbonation. Great color.

Smell: On the nose I get some vegetal squash, and some very pleasant and strong spicing. This has standard fare  “pumpkin pie” spicing, but it also has some warmth and a nice pop to it. I get something like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This also has some smooth brown sugar and sweet maltiness, and not much by way of hops, save for a little brightness around the edges. Great spice in the aroma.

Taste: This does have that vegetal pumpkin to it, which you get up front with some slight sour notes. The spices quickly follow, and form something of a prominent bitter wave that works its way to the back end of the sip. The spices aren’t as warm as they were in the nose. I think I get some cinnamon and ginger, but not as clear as I was expecting. Definite strong bitter spicing. This also has some smooth malt that doesn’t say a whole lot, but is complicated by some earthy yeast. The finish has the bitter spicing and yeast taking hold and hanging out in the aftertaste. The pumpkin gets a bit lost by the end. I like the earthiness in this, though it doesn’t have a lot of complexity.

Feel: This is medium bodied with light carbonation. I wonder whether it was different right from the tap. (This was purchased yesterday, quickly stored in a cold fridge, and pulled out right before pouring. A 32 oz growler should be able to store enough carbonation.) The feel has some mellow mild sweetness, which gets interrupted by the botter spice and yeast. Not completely one dimensional in feel, but not that complex either. There is a slight alcohol bite at the end. The bitterness hangs and invites another sip. After a bit of drinking this, the bitterness detracts.

Drinkability: This is OK here. The yeast and heavy spice do hang on my palate, such that I’m not sure I could have more than one of these.

Overall: This is alright. I like the earthiness from the yeast, but wish the spices did a bit more to add complexity, and weren’t so muted and flat-lining at bitter. The smooth malt is nice, and is good to set against the vegetal notes and the spice. Yet the pumpkin does get a little lost in this one towards the end. This doesn’t really feel to me like a dubbel. For that, I’d want a little more richness. This would be a good choice if you wanted something with a yeast and a bitter spice presence, perhaps after a sweeter maltier offering- which Isley often offers up in good numbers. This is not a top pumpkin beer in the state, but nothing to avoid. I like the Belgiany pumpkins I’ve had before a bit more than this one. For example, Hardywood Park’s, which I’ve yet to review this year, is quite good.

Overall Rating: **1/4

DSC03782About Isley and their offering: Isley opened in Richmond, Virginia in late October of 2013. They are located in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition, very close to Ardent Craft Ales, whose pumpkin ale I reviewed a week ago. Isley’s brewmaster is Josh Stamps, who works with their sole owner, Michael Isley.

I visited Isley to pick up a growler of this beer, which is the first year I’ve heard about Isley having a pumpkin offering. They weren’t so keen on giving information about the beer, saying that they keep their recipes very secret. I was able to learn that the ABV was around 7%, and that they were planning on also having this for the Scott’s Addition Pumpkin Festival in a week.

 

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St. George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer (2014)

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St. George “Pumpkinfest” Pumpkin Beer is 6% ABV.

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

Appearance: Quite the careful pour frothed up a few fingers of off-white whipped egg-white foam. This lasted for a good while, still hanging on as I’m writing about this beer. The color is a light orange/amber, with some definite sediment and haze to it. Many bubbles rising suggest very heavy carbonation.

Smell: For aroma I get some vegetal pumpkin, and some light spicing.  The particular spices aren’t so clear, but I get somethign like cinnamon and ginger. This is also sort of bready, with some toasty malt. It has just a little bright hops. The aroma also has a lot of CO2 to it. It stings the nostrils, again suggesting heavy carbonation.

Taste: This is a very fizzy beer, which makes picking out the flavors not as easy of a process. I get some pumpkin which is on the vegetal side. I also get some nice spice that has some warm dimensions and some moderate to strong bitterness. Cinnamon, ginger, and probably some other things. This has a malty sweetness with bready notes. The finish has a little bit of brightness from the hops, leading into an aftertaste of slight sour notes and mild lingering bitterness. The flavors really get overshadowed by the very heavy carbonation. You can’t make out the pumpkin or the spices so well.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied, but certainly over-carbonated. You get so much fizz that the other aspects to the feel are unable to make an impact. Not good here.

Drinkability: This offering is not so great here. The over-carbonation really detracts from it, making it hard to drink. What I get in the aftertaste is some lemony and bitter notes, and the feeling like I just drank a lot of soda too fast.

Overall: This is not so great overall. I think there is good spicing, and interesting flavors to it. But it really just is over-carbonated, to the point where I don’t enjoy it. When we recently did a blind VA pumpkin beer tasting, we opened two other bottles of this beer, both of which were bought as individual singles. Both of those bottles were also seriously over-carbonated. I wonder how much of their production of this beer was like this. As it stands, I can’t really finish this beer. So I can’t really give it a good rating. Previously, I really enjoyed this beer when I did my 2013 review of “Pumpkinfest”. It was also harder to get last year. I wonder if this production problem is related to scaling up. Or, perhaps, this was just a bad batch of it. I know this beer has been great before, as last year I did a non-blind VA pumpkin beer tasting (which I didn’t post about), and this was one of the favorites. Hopefully it will be more dialed in next year.

Overall Rating: *

photo 3 (1)About St. George and this offering: St. George Brewing is located in Hampton, Virginia. They make a number of their own beers, and also help with contract brewing for a few other local breweries. I recently heard that they are doing some work for Back Bay Brewing out of VA Beach, whose “Witch of Pungo” Pumpkin Ale I recently reviewed. I also previously wrote more about St. George and their “Pumpkinfest” in my 2013 review of St. George’s “Pumpkinfest”, a beer that shares the same name with Terrapin’s pumpkin beer/Oktoberfest offering.

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