Well folks, here it is. Our last review for the 2011 season (albeit a little later than we expected to be done). It’s been a great run, and we’ve had a lot of fun, and a good bit of lost sleep and learning in the past few months. Hopefully you’ve had fun following us well, and have received some good suggestions and feedback from our efforts. We certainly appreciate your loyal readership, and have been overwhelmed by the fantastic response of this little idea of ours blowing up so much and so fast in a 90 day period.

In case you’re wondering, we’ll definitely be picking up the blog next season as well, with a focus on what we just couldn’t get, cover in time, and the rarer seasonal batches that change from year to year. So please keep spreading the word, and keep an eye out mid august for this page to light back up again. Thanks again for all your support, and please check back for our next post totaling our top 10 beers , and our individual favorites!


Name:  Boxcar Pumpkin Porter

Place of Origin / Brewer: Virginia, USA / Starr Hill Brewery, LLC

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Porter / 5.2%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Boxcar Pumpkin Porter is a traditional English-style Brown Porter with pumpkin added to the mash. It features two-row, caramel, chocolate, and wheat malt, East Kent Golding hops, and top fermenting ale yeast. Light spicing allows the subtle flavors of pumpkin and roasty porter to shine through.



I’m not really sure why they decided to call it Boxcar, but I like it.  The image of the namesake on the label makes me want to grab a six pack hitch a ride and take off to a far a way place, maybe a place like Charlottesville, VA were this brew is born.  The only other image we have is a pumpkin with the Starr Hill star carved in it and a quick “Ale brewed with Pumpkin and Spice.” – Brittney

A pleasant Rockwellian water color vibe brought into the digital age with sharper and more photo realistic images, Starr Hill sports a trademark branded pentacle jack o’lantern resting neatly in it’s batch, with a train car sliding gently through the Appalachian mountains as the shift hues from summer green to fall colors. – Mike


Color:  7.5

I really like the dark brown, almost black, appearance that is totally opaque like you would expect from a porter. It holds a thick smoky brown head that slowly dissolves leaving behind some decent lacing that follows the beer down the glass.  I’ll admit, it is a strange color for a pumpkin beer at first.

A welcoming dense and dark cherry wood body with the classic thin ring of antique lace for a head. – Mike

This is one of the darkest pumpkin beers we’ve come across and especially so for a porter (our browns are almost black).  It held a tan head for a brief bit but then faltered to medium lacing around the edge and a thin layer across the top.  – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 6.5 / R- 7


Aroma:  6

Aroma is light with traces of coffee and spice but no pumpkin to speak of.  Bready malts and a linger of leather on the close, but overall this beer seems lacking in bouquet. – Tim

Malty toffee pumpkin and pie spices teasing along with a slight touch of hop fueled bite on the exit. Notes of nutmeg, clove, and ginger sit back in the mix nicely, but are a little stronger than “subtle”. There’s also a deep smokiness here that takes me back to autumn nights in Appalachia, and appropriately, reflects the mountain’s nickname themselves. – Mike

The aroma is pretty light for such a bold looking beer.  There is a subtle spicing of nutmeg and maybe some cinnamon to round out the pumpkin scents.  It also has a smoky quality to it as well, but that could just be the malts and the appearance playing tricks on my nose. – Rick

M- 6 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 5.5


Mouth feel:  5

This is probably the most surprising aspect of this beer.  It has an unusually light body and a pretty active carbonation.  With the color of the brew I assumed that this would be thick and syrupy but it’s quite the opposite and almost on the watery side. – Brittney

On the light end of medium, and this shocked me a bit, as the brew looks a lot heavier, and I was expecting to chew through it. – Mike

Unexpectedly, this brew feels very light and almost watery making it super smooth.  It feels weak and over carbonated lacking any strong flavor definition.- Rick

M- 4.5 / T- 7 / B- 5.5 / R- 3


Tasting notes:  5.5

Notes of coffee, chocolate and beef jerky with a vegetal sweetness that is somewhere between roasted pumpkin and barley stew–and if that sounds like a strange combination on paper you should just taste it on the palate. Roasty malts and molasses close out, but I feel like the spice is an afterthought on this.  It’s in the back but nothing jumps out beyond a slight savory note.  I’d be interested to know what their spice mix was, because with perhaps the exception of cumin, I’m at a loss for the more traditional ‘pumpkin pie’ blend. – Tim

Less smoky than I thought it would be, it still retains some pumpkin aspects, although these are barely registering.  It’s light and watery body makes it very smooth and easy to drink.  The flavoring seems dull and lacks something bold to really be able to stand out. – Rick

Very malt forward with a dark chocolate bitterness close behind bringing in the spice notes.  The pumpkin is buried a bit at the end but follows up nicely. Overall the pumpkin aspects of this porter are subtle and the porter aspects are more pronounced. – Brittney

The smoke here is right up front, giving the bitter interplay of the hops and the heavily malted body and almost peanut butter blend. The spicing turns out to be as subtle as they suggested after all, where the nose gave you a solid and defined hit, the body blends them more into the complex array of flavors here. The pumpkin arrives solidly, if discriminatingly, in the finish, very reminiscent of a certain popular Irish stout, if it took on a slightly fruitier seasonal hue. – Mike

M- 6 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 4.5


Finish:  5

Finish is actually rather curt and unexpected, with bitterness  lingering for only a brief moment. – Tim

This finishes mild mostly because of the body and lack of any real obvious concentration.  It’s a solid combination of flavors throughout but it doesn’t really leave you with more than a small twinge of clove and nutmeg after burn. – Brittney

M- 6 / T- 5 / B- 6.5 / R- 2.5


Flavor balance:  5.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

More discernable pumpkin than spice on display here, but that’s not necessary a good thing in this ale, because the spice that is on exhibition is vexing in its ineffectuality.  – Tim

This is one of those beers I don’t like to rate here, as the pumpkin and spice are relatively in check with each other, but they take a back seat to the true character of the brew. But since I have to pick one, I’ll have to say the pumpkin is more notable to me in the finish, whereas the spices become a bit undefined in the murk of smoke and malt. – Mike

M- 5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 2.5


–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s mostly a dry brew, but there is a bit of sweetness hiding in there. – Rick

No hoppy goodness to speak of here, this is porter territory, it’s sweet but not too much so. Sadly, the underlying base porter here shows more problems here than a balance issue. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 3.5


–         Multiple Drinkability?

For a porter this lighter bodied beer is super easy to drink and it’s tendency to not lean too far in any extreme direction taste wise would make this one easier on the taste buds to have a few. – Brittney

What we have here is an attempt to break the pumpkin mold, and I’m always for that. It’s interesting enough to come back for more, and in the box(car) enough not to shake things up too much. I’d certainly suggest this beer to patrons looking to mix up the pumpkin equation, or fans of canny craft beers with a slight pumpkin slant. – Mike

Boxcar is a decent try at a pumpkin porter, but I think I would get bored with this one and move on to something more dynamic in flavor.  Although, it is an unoffending porter with some pumpkin aspects that many may find easily accessible. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 4 / B- 7 / R- 4.5


Overall:  5.75

M- 6.25 / T- 5.58 / B- 6.58 / R- 4.33