Posts tagged ‘Brewers’

Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.


If our first two reviews this month are any indication, California is killing it when it comes to craft beer and the farm to table movement. Further, if this beer is par for the course, Almanac Beer Co. is poised to quickly rise to the forefront of said movements. A pair of “gypsy” brewers (or for the uninitiated, brewers who don’t own their own brewery), Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan brew through the good faith of using other local brewing equipment. As a result, Almanac is the definition of “small batch”, creating exclusive seasonal releases that incorporate local ingredients, and flies off the shelves in no time. Already well decorated in accolades, we weren’t surprised that this was a good one. We were surprised at just how good it was though, and just how hard it was to get our hands on it!


Name:  Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Table Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: San Jose, California / Almanac Beer Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Barley Wine / 12.8%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Almanac Pumpkin Barleywine is made with 500lbs of hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins from La Tercera Farms in Bodega Bay. The caramelized gourds were added to their American Barleywine and aged in brandy barrels for a year, then the resulting concoction was blended with a freshly brewed spiced barleywine.



The design on this bottle is amazing. Well thought out from top to bottom, informative, clean, and simply breathtaking. From farm to anything seems to be on everyone tongues lately, and with good reason. Farm to Barrel is proudly expressed on the side of this bottle as well as a gorgeous sketch of a tree I would gladly enjoy a pint under any day. – Brittney

My favorite label to date. This one balances beauty and professionalism with charm. Maybe a bit of design porn, what with all the sexy type, but the label just enhances the experience of this great beer and shows the level of appreciation that went into making it. – Rick

A gorgeous postage stamp visage which shows careful consideration on the part of the brewers to impart both information and aesthetic appeal in a design so cool, I would consider framing it.  I hear they grow these pumpkins in Bodega Bay…I was half-expecting some “Birds” on the label.  You Hitchcock fans will understand what I’m talking about. – Tim

Perhaps the sexiest beer bottle I’ve ever seen, this baby features detailed wood cut hop bines accented by metallic gold and ivory lettering a font designer would die for. A sleek and narrow lower paper trailer label encircles with details about the specific bottling, and a giant tree mandala, tractors, and the state silhouette remind you that this is California, Farm to Table and “Beer is Agriculture”. (Also, it says that on the bottle.) – Mike


Color:  8

            This takes your Belgian dark and adds gorgeous red undertones. It looks thick, decadent, and overtly autumnal. –    Mike

            Nearly opaque, the body is full and inviting. It’s awesome copper and burnt umber coloring is accentuated with a light fuzzy head on top that leaves behind a bit of legging as well. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 8 / R- 7


Aroma:  8.5

Wow, this is a sensory overload of the highest order, with black fruit, brandy, molasses followed by intense malt and vanilla notes.  I want to live inside this…I’m trying to imagine how amazing this would smell if you warmed it up. – Tim

Smells just as it states, very much like barley wine & barrel aged beer would smell, high in alcohol and earthly. Although like any good fall vegetable should, the sweetness is brought forward from being caramelized just a touch. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 9.5 / B- 8 / R- 8


Mouth feel:  8.5

            Creamy. At 13% that should read boozy, but it’s lush and gorgeous, and the only hint of fire is on the swallow. – Mike

It has a full body, but it stays smooth as each sip spills a plethora of flavor over my tongue. It doesn’t burn too much at first, slowly giving way to the inevitable bite of a strong beer. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 8 / R- 9


Tasting notes:  9

            Warm brown sugar, caramel, an explosion of malt, pumpkin, and spice tamed only by wood, and a finish of vanilla, apricots, violets, and cognac. This is what the flame on the tea light inside your jack o’lantern must taste like after a round of Brandy Alexanders. – Mike

Boozy and sweet, rich with raisins and prunes, caramelized pumpkin, dark molasses and brown butter, vanilla and clove, it dances across the palate with waves of flavor, this is a meal, dessert, and after-dinner drinks in a single glass.  It’s like drinking pumpkin pie. – Tim

I like to believe that our palettes are ever changing.  There was a time that I didn’t really have a taste for anything that mentioned barrel aged or barley wine. This has nothing to do with a lack of love for things that come from barrels. Trust me.  For it’s style, this one does it well, it doesn’t feel or taste too heavy and it allows for the earthy elements as well as the care in brewing and aging to shine though.   – Brittney

As expected, the style really dominates the backbone of the profile with some awesome pumpkin qualities to make this brew shine. I’m almost overwhelmed by the nutty vanilla bean that introduces me to a cinnamon topped buttery crust, there’s so much going on here! – Rick

M- 10 / T- 9 / B- 8.5 / R- 9


Finish:  8.5

The finish is the reminder that this beer has spent some time in barrels; the oak and smoothness of the vanilla notes stay with you, as does the thickness of the mouth feel. Final reminder is the12.8%. – Brittney

Long and sweet, with bitter burnt caramel notes and linger of dried fruit and oaked brandy notes.  It doesn’t linger nearly as long as I would like it to, but to be fair I’d like it last forever, so grade that on whatever curve you want. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8.5


Flavor balance:  8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

As usual, anytime pumpkin in any state can shine through a spice presence, I call balance. Blending the ales is a genius move for the style. – Brittney

Everything meshes really well, and the pumpkin flavoring is grand. I’m starting to think that complex brews like this one really capture all the nuances of a pumpkin beer, and are the perfect vessel for this gourdy imbibement. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

It’s Barleywine, it’s not meant to be dry.  The high ABV and bitter burnt sugar notes do less to curtail the sweetness and more to extend its enveloping character. – Tim

This is the only minor space for fault. It is pleasantly sweet, but so bold and luxuriant that it is almost overwhelming. Almost. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

         Multiple Drinkability?  9

If I could drink more I would. This beer alone warrants a trip to the west coast in search for more of Almanac’s offerings. – Rick

At 12.8% ABV the intensity of this ale is more than enough for a single 375ml serving.  That said, this is a stockpile-level spirit and I would gladly cellar as many of them as I could get my hands on.  In fact, if I see it at a store, you better get out of my way. – Tim

M- 8.5 / T- 10 / B- 8 / R- 8.5


Overall:  8.50

M- 9.00 / T- 8.67 / B- 7.92 / R- 8.42


Pumple Drumkin – Cisco Brewers

In the spirit of our recurring rhyme scheme pumpkin beer labels, we give you an ode to Pumple Drumkin:

Once in awhile you acquire a beer,

That decides it should drop it’s Halloween sneer,

But as cute as it is with it’s pumpkin faced critter,

It’ll knock your teeth in, ’cause those hops, man, they’re bitter.

Also, keep checking back frequently, because with Samhain just a little more than a week away, we’re gonna be getting hammered and hammering out a number of our more devious looking pumpkin beers, and saving the rest for turkey time.  That means more updates for you, and less sleep for me. But hey, you’ve earned it, right? Right?!?!


Name:  Pumple Drumkin

Place of Origin / Brewer: Massachusetts, USA / Cisco Brewers

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 6.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Brewed in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Pumple Drumkin is a hop forward ale brewed with pumpkin and spices, dreamed up by a former baker to resemble pie crust. Cisco also has a great craft beer slogan worth noting, self proclaiming “Nice beer, if you can get it”.



Complete with rhyming couplets and a pumpkin headed toddler looking thing, Pumple Drumkin wins points in my books for either great whimsy, or at least the best drunk slur inspired name to date. – Mike

This handicraft DIY label makes me smile.  It’s like a kid friendly beer, or rather I should more correctly say it makes me feel like a kid again.  A kid with beer!  – Tim

I’m not going to lie; the cute cartoon-ish imaging initially caught my eye.  Label me now, I don’t mind.  Part of the reason I love fall is Halloween, most of the reason I love Halloween is costumes and candy, kid stuff.  This label and silly name make me feel like a kid again.  It also has a cute little story about a Pumple named Drumkin to try and convince you that this beer wasn’t named by someone who had had one too many.  Also, beer is not kid stuff.  Please drink responsibly. – Brittney


Color:  8

This ale is a sweet looking dark amber that glows in the light.  There’s a fair head on top that is almost creamy and very appetizing with decent lacing. – Rick

This has a gorgeous dark apricot color–the kind you see when you cut dried fruit in half.  I think the more that we review these pumpkin beers the more enamored I’ve become with foggy, unfiltered-esque ales.  There is mystery in there, like staring into a crystal ball awaiting the magical first sips to make everything clear again. – Tim

Slightly cloudy and amber to copper colored with a dull clarity and a head that stays put. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 7.5 / B– 8 / R- 8


Aroma:  7

Cinnamon and clove waft over a malty toffee pond, with a deep rooting earthen cloister of nutmeg and peaches. – Mike

In something of a rarity, the sweet herbaceousness of freshly cut pumpkin leads the pack, followed closely by the zip of allspice, earthy cumin and a touch of cinnamon on the close.  – Tim

The aroma is pretty faint.  I’m getting a creamy vanilla initially, pumpkin, and then some ale with a little spice at the end.  The aroma is setting the tone for a creamy well balanced brew.  – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T– 7.5 / B– 7.5 / R– 7.5


Mouth feel:  6

Very light, pretty watery.  The intense tingle from the carbonation really stands out here making each sip force you to take notice of this great brew. – Rick

It’s a pretty medium bodied beer with lively carbonation.  Each sip really expands in your mouth and then leaves with an almost dry moment after you swallow.  I wouldn’t consider this smooth; every moment it’s in your mouth it’s reminding you that it’s there. – Brittney

Its got a nice bit of body to it, that’s for sure. There seems to be a solid bit of astringency to it as well though, and while it doesn’t detract a whole lot, I feel like it’s distracting to the palate providing a bit more bite, than definition. – Mike

M- 4 / T- 6.5 /  T- 7 / R- 7.5


Tasting notes:  6.5

The hops really spring to life in this one, giving it a nice bitterness. There’s a notable smoky quality as well, with a fruited pumpkin that comes out in the back-end. Not unsurprising, the clove tends to take over the spices a bit as we’ve seen with other brews, but I can pick out a bit of the cinnamon in particular. The rest seem a bit masked in the slightly sour foundation. – Mike

Pumple Drumkin has a great sweet aroma at first, then it really smacks you in the face with it’s spicy profile and dominant hops.  I think it’s a great combination that works well in tandem to balance this brew. – Rick

Pumple Drumkin is at its heart a simple beer, and that works both in favor of the ale and against it.  The bite from the bitter hops and floral notes make it a damn good brown ale, but the pumpkin and spice are swallowed up in the body and lost completely in the mix.  I struggled to find them, but in the end, I just had to determine that this appears to be a beer for people that like the smell of pumpkin beer but the taste of a brown ale.  Sort of a non-committal beer for a non-committal patron. – Tim

M- 6 / T- 4.5 / B- 8 / R- 8


Finish:  6.5

There is brightness at the finish that is hard to describe.  I’m sure it has to do with the carbonation that sticks around and the spice that kicks into overdrive at the end.  Finally you are left with a slight dryness asking for another sip. – Brittney

Being an IPA fan I’m really loving the bite on this pumpkin ale.  That, combined with the great use of hops and spices really propels this beer to front of the pack for me.  The only thing I’m missing here is a little more sweetness. – Rick

Long bitter finish, the way a good brown ale gives you time to savor it, but for pleasant pumpkin spices settling into your throat on the way down, this one misses the mark.  – Tim

M- 5.5 / T- 5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8


Flavor balance:  5.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

It’s a nice difference from sweeter brews, but it seems to let the spice run free with only a note of pumpkin in the finish blended with a tobacco note. – Mike

The bouquet on this pretty great smelling of pumpkin and spice, but the body is almost completely lacking in both.  So, I’d give it a 9 on promise and a 2 on execution. We’ll just call it a 4.5 for all-around. – Tim

This beer is very spicy but I like that it’s not too overwhelming on the palate.  Sadly, I don’t think there is enough pumpkin here to really stand out and is lacking a little sweet kick. – Rick

M- 4 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 5.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

This is definitely a drier option than a lot of the dessert styled beers we’ve reviewed but I think that’s the point. It’s not parching, but really rather adult and the more particular drinker may find this a nice option for pumpkin beer without hammering the sugar. – Mike

The ale seems to have a tiny bit of sweetness on the initial sip, but it finishes pretty bitter and dry.  There’s no tackiness or cloying aftertaste with this one. – Rick

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Nothing is overpowering to the point of holding you back from enjoying a couple of these. – Brittney

I’m a big fan of this ale.  The way the hops commingle with the sweet aroma is very tasty, and makes for a unique experience. – Rick

If I liked it more than my usual assortments of Brown Ales I might consider giving this one another shot, but those of you that haven’t found a good brown might want to take a stab at this.  Otherwise, I think it kinds of fails as a pumpkin beer, so that diminishes my excitement about drinking more than one. – Tim

M- 3.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 8 / R- 6


Overall:  6.58

M- 5.75 / T- 5.92 / B- 7.58 / R- 7.50