Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Roundup

I had planned on doing pumpkin reviews every few days through the fall months, but travel and work have interrupted my schedule of release.  So I'll take this time to catch up on a few more pumpkin beers I've tried over the past week.  As I taste these, I find that my descriptions are often pretty similar--mainly because most pumpkin beers have a limited flavor if you get bored with my ramblings you can just enjoy the pictures!

Alaskan Pumpkin PorterOne of the Pilot smaller batch series, this beer touts 11 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, as well as brown sugar, spices and hint of alderwood smoked malt.

Aroma: Subtle cinnamon, and nutmeg in the aroma.  I get brown sugar or molasses sweetness as well.  A light roasty or coffee aroma as it swirls.
Appearance: Deep brown to nearly black in color.  Has a slight haze and is nearly opaque.  A dark tan to brown head that is fairly persistent.
Flavor:  Up front spices (nutmeg and cinnamon especially) followed by a molasses or treacle sweetness.  Some mild roast, but not much of it here, leaving this more malty.  I might pick up a hint of smoke, but very subtle.  I get an allspice burn at the finish that is warming and pleasant.  Medium bodied, but ends off-dry.  No astringency in this beer, but has some light earthy notes in the finish.
Overall: Well balanced porter with a well blended mix of spices, where none are overwhelming but all are apparent.  I could drink this all day.  4 of 5 for final grade!

Dangerous Man Imperial Pumpkin Ale:  Going local, Sj heard that Dangerous Man had an Imperial pumpkin on tap and prompted me to drive to Nordeast for a try.  She loves pumpkin beers even more than I do!  Twist my arm lady... I don't know many details on this beer, but here are my impressions during a very loud and busy visit to the brewery taproom.

Aroma: Nutmeg and allspice are strong, but not overwhelming.  A powerful malty sweetness to the aroma.  Also has a hint of alcohol/spice sting on the nose.
Appearance: The color is a very deep orange with a minimal haze.  A fine white head is present, that fades fairly soon after pouring. 
Flavor: Very intense maltiness without being cloying sweet.  Reminds me of a light colored bock or Imperial Octoberfest.  Nutmeg and cinnamon in the flavor, but second fiddle to the malt and grain.  Some alcohol warming, but does not detract from the beer. 
Overall:  A very good version of an Imperial spice beer.  I'm not sure if there is actually pumpkin in it, but I suspect there is based on the haziness.  It reminds me a lot of Pumpking from Southern Tier, but a bit less aromatic.  This is one for sipping from a snifter in front of a fireplace.  4 of 5 for me.

Town Hall Petunia's Pumpkin Ale:  I'm not going to lie, this has been one of my favorites in the past few years since discovering it, so I may be biased here.  But I try to take that into account with my reviews.  Last year's was very good, but a bit more hoppy than expected.  This beer sells out fast, and growlers sold out within 2 days of release.  We were lucky enough to find that they had filled a few more growlers on the day we visited (though they were not on the board and Sj had to shed to tears to get them for us).  They should really make more of this.  I have also had a version in the past that was aged on cocoa nibs and was heaven in a glass. 

Aroma:  Subtle malt and grain aroma.  A hint of nutmeg, but not a lot of other spices to pick out. 
Appearance: Excellent clarity, perhaps the clearest I've seen yet.  Fine white head that fades quickly to the rim of the glass. 
Flavor: Like a crisp but malty Octoberfest.  Rounded flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.  Ends smooth with a light sweet touch.  Has none of the astringency I've come to expect with this style. 
Overall:  While this is certainly not the most extreme or flavor-packed pumpkin beer I've had this season, it is the best balanced.  So far this is the best example of restrained spicing and a perfect base beer I've tried.  4.5 of 5 (I save 5 for things like Bourbon County Stout and Cantillon).  You must try this--even if you dislike pumpkin beers--it may change your mind.

Cisco Pumple DrumkinThis is the first beer I have tried from Nantucket's Cisco Brewers (sorry Kyle, the name is already taken...).  I don't know much about the brewery and there isn't much info on their website--they seem to have snuck into our local beer market with minimal fanfare.

Aroma: Nutmeg and ginger are present along with an earthy almost rotting bark-like aroma.  Some maltiness present, but not a lot. No hop aroma.  Slight fruity esters as it warms.  Overall mild aroma for a spiced beer.
Appearance: Gold to light orange in color.  Has a fine but large white head.  Very good clarity.
Flavor: Initial malt flavor but lacking in sweetness.  Quickly turns to a bitter harshness.  Has a very thin body and ends with an astringent and metallic finish.  Not much spice is tasted beyond those off-putting flavors.
Overall:  This beer is not good.  To be honest it has the harsh and metallic flavors that I associate with old-style homebrew (before we really understood the need for fresh ingredients and sanitation...)  Sj and I had to pour this out after a couple sips.  Not a great start from this brewery, but I'd still try another of their beers before boycotting them.  Scores a 1 out of 5 for me.  Yech.

Samuel Adams Harvest PumpkinThis is Sam Adams' version of a pumpkin ale, and may actually be the first commercial example of this style that I ever tasted.  There is actually a lot of information on the website including a tasting video, tasting notes and good ingredient list.  Hopped with EKG and Fuggles, this beer's recipe looks like and English ale base with allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and actual pumpkin added.

Aroma: I get ginger, allspice and nutmeg in the aroma--all are distinct and I can pick them out at different times.  No hop aromas.  Has a light fruitiness--possibly yeast driven.  Malt sweetness is present.
Appearance: A reddish coppery hue with excellent clarity.  The beer has a thick white head and is quite pretty to look at.
Flavor: Malty up front, but not especially sweet.  Has a lighter body than expected but still has some malt going for it.  Cinnamon and allspice in the middle, but I don't get as much of the nutmeg that came out in the aroma.  Has a dry finish with a somewhat woodsy tang--but not overly astringent. 
Lingering notes of ginger after the sip is done. 
Overall: A well balanced beer, that has all the necessary ingredients and flavors needed for the style.  My only gripe is the light body.  This would improve with a bit more malt complexity and mouthfeel.  Like many of Sam Adams' beers this is a decent beer, but doesn't take any risks.  I will be trying the Fat Jack (their Imperial pumpkin ale) soon and it will be interesting to see how that one stacks up.  3.5 of 5.

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