Monday, November 18, 2013

Pumpkin Beers: Imperial Punk!

In this issue I continue my slow slog through all the pumpkin beers I can get my hands on!  I've made my way through a large portion of my stash and will continue to chip away at it.  I'm getting to the tail end of the pumpkin beer season and some of these are no longer available at the store, (and some are from outside our distribution area anyway,) but keep these reviews in mind for next year's batch!  First up a couple of Imperial pumpkin beers!

Sam Adams Fat Jack: This is Samuel Adams' Imperial pumpkin beer, clocking in at 8.5% ABV.  Made with 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.  They make note of smoked malt in the recipe as well.  This is unusual in that the brewery makes a regular pumpkin beer as well: check out my review of Harvest Pumpkin ale here.

Aroma: This beer has a strong malty aroma with a hint of nutmeg.  There is a subtle smoky note melded with a mild cinnamon.  Overall not as aromatic as many of the pumpkin beers I've tried.
Appearance: A deep ruby color with excellent clarity.  Pours with a huge off-white head that seems to last forever. 
Flavor: A pleasant malty sweetness at the start that settles into an off-dry, almost roasty finish.  I get some nutmeg and a bit of ginger, but pretty subtle.  There is a somewhat creamy mouthfeel.  I also get a bit of alcohol warming down the back of the throat.  Light cinnamon and smoky notes as it warms. 
Overall: This was much better than expected.  I don't pick up much pumpkin, but the malty backbone and creaminess of this beer is very nice.  The spices, dark malts and smokiness add a lot of complexity to this beer and makes you want to keep trying it.  I know you will be shocked by this, but it goes very well with pumpkin bisque (I used the last of my organic CSA pumpkins for this!) 4 of 5 rating.

Southern Tier Pumking: Another Imperial pumpkin ale at 8.6% ABV, probably the first of the style that I ever tried.  I have noted some variation year to year-with last year's being overly bitter and hoppy for my tastes. The bottle verbiage makes a big deal about the pagan roots of this Halloween and pumpkins, and is a fun read.  No mention of spices on the website or the bottle, but I can sure taste some in there!

Aroma: Powerful malty nose with a perfume-like vanilla and pumpkin-flesh aroma intertwined.  I actually smell pie crust!  Perfumy fruity esters present and a whiff of alcohol.  Possibly some nutmeg as it warms. 
Appearance: Light orange in color with crystal clarity.  Large white head with fine bubbles that lasts for some time.
Flavor: Strong malt that was noted in aroma, but not cloyingly sweet.  I get some hop flavor and bitterness in this beer.  The mouthfeel is medium, but the taste ends with a slight astringency from pumpkin and hop.  I do taste vanilla, nutmeg and cooked pumpkin.  Some alcohol warming as it goes down. 
Overall: Probably the best showcasing of the actual pumpkin flavor I've tasted.  The pie crust flavor really takes this to the next level.  The sweet flavors are well balanced by bitterness.  I really like this one!  4 of 5.

O' Fallon Pumpkin Beer: We used to find O' Fallon on our store shelves in Minnesota, but I haven't seen them in a long time.  I can't say I ever loved the one I tried, but they had a ton of unusual fruit beers.   I picked this up along our trip to Alabama.  5.6% ABV, and uses pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves per the website.  Interestingly also uses white wheat in the grain bill.

Aroma: Sweetness with a cooked corn aroma.  Smells creamy.  Hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.  Green apple as it warms.
Appearance: Dark gold in color, but not quite orange.  Large and fine lacy white head.  Slight haze.  Head does not persist long.
Flavor: Very sweet start.  Strong apples and cinnamon like old fashioned baked apple sauce.  Nutmeg trails after the apple pie flavor.  Light body but has a strange mouth-coating effect.  I taste corn in the flavor as it warms.
Overall: This beer tastes very corny, which combined with the slick mouthfeel is likely DMS from poor fermentation or incomplete boil.  My wife said it best: "This tastes more like a cider than a beer."  2.5 of 5, and both of us dumped it after it warmed up a bit.

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