Posts tagged ‘fall’

Punkuccino – Elysian Brewing Company

Elysian Punkachino

 

The fine folks over at Elysian brewing, if not the de-facto kinds of pumpkin beer, certainly are one of it’s most prolific producers. Between their ever expanding seasonal releases, extremely creative recipe twists, and an ever expanding pumpkin beer festival now entering it’s 10th year running with over 70 unique pumpkin brews, it’s hard to deny that these folks are as serious about pumpkin as we are. Obviously, we were more than hyped to dive into this years new mass bottle release offering (and extremely sad when we saw all the fest only beers we’d be missing on their website)!

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Name: Punkuccino

Place of Origin / Brewer: Seattle, WA / Elysian Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%: Coffee Pumpkin Ale / 5.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Punkuccino is lightly bittered with German Northern Brewer hops, and features a mash bill of Pale, Brown, Biscuit, C-77, Crystal, Chocolate, and Kiln coffee malt. It then receives a shot of Stumptown coffee toddy, lactose, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and follows Elysian’s trademark method of adding pumpkin to the mash, kettle, and fermenter.

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Packaging:

Elysian continues its winning streak for delivering fantastically spooky graphics to accompany their barrage of Pumpkin beers. Considering how many they produce it’s amazing they are all are so damn good, while other breweries that only manage one Halloween ale, can’t seem to get a solid label on the bottle at all. – Tim

Very cool and festive. I love the art for this one. It’s playful and bold and really sells the brand as well. – Rick

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Color: 8

Porter -like darkness with nut brown and ruby notes, and just a smidge less opacity, all crowned by a latte art worthy head. – Brittney

Significantly darker than to be expected for a traditional ale, bordering on a crossover between a hearty brown ale and a porter–perhaps a not-so-subtle reminder of the coffee appeal of this ale. – Tim

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

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Aroma: 9

This smells amazing; everything smells fresh! The coffee could have just been ground, the cinnamon and nutmeg recently grated. It’s delicate and balanced and extremely appetizing. – Brittney

Cinnamon Dolce cold brew meets toast. Giant malt breadiness. I really get the biscuit malt here and it plays very nicely with the cinnamon. So much so I want to go make cinnamon toast now. – Mike

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

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Mouth feel: 7.5

The mouthfeel on this ale is comparable to a full bodied stout. It’s super smooth, somewhat creamy, and just bursting with flavor. – Rick

The addition of lactose gives the ale a silky smooth body with soft carbonation, we are bordering on Latte levels here. – Tim

Medium to full bodied and very creamy. Almost too creamy in my opinion. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 9 / B- 4 / R- 8

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Tasting notes: 9

Move over corporate spice latte, this is my new favorite hangover drink. The squashed based breakfast food you never knew you wanted. Pumpkin, cinnamon, and cafe latte blended against a pancake batter and fresh biscuit body. It’s epic. – Mike

The pumpkin presence is subtle in the body with toasty roasted malts and coffee providing a mild bittering agent. The cinnamon in the nose is pronounced in the body along with a nice medley of pie spice. The fullness of the ale verges on stout levels of creaminess making this the closest any ale has ever come to replicating a pumpkin spiced latte. Elysian has consistently crafted superior pumpkin ales, however due to my near obsessive compulsion for pumpkin coffee, this may stand as their single greatest alcoholic achievement. – Tim

Cold brewing in the toddy helps to bring out the essence of the coffee without the bitter notes. The Chocolate notes are more cocoa, the cinnamon and nutmeg really stand out as well as the creamy coffee goodness, but I don’t really get a lot of the pumpkin. – Brittney

The cinnamon and coffee flavors are the highlights here. A nice chocolate and coffee flavor is balanced well with a full dose of cinnamon that isn’t too hot. – Rick

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

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Finish: 8

The coffee and spice are the two touches that linger the most to me in flavor. The intense creamy mouth feel would be the second. The first I’m okay with the second I could live without. It feels like I just drank a pumpkin coffee milkshake. – Brittney

This ale finishes like a rich roasted espresso. The bitter coffee is great here with the dryness of the chocolate flavor adding finesse to the back end. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 9 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

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Flavor balance: 9

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

I’m really not sure how they pulled this one off but Elysian knocks it out of the park here. Balancing coffee with spice and having pumpkin show at all, let alone notably, is quite an achievement. To have them play this well together is a downright miracle. – Mike

I really can’t find any fault whatsoever in this from the perspective of pumpkin pie. The title promises a Pumpkin Pie Cappuccino and (even though it’s probably the only one in existence) this is as good as it gets. – Tim

M- 10 / T- 10 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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  • Sweet / Dry balance: 9.5

Sweet pumpkin and spice up front with a touch of bitter black and hops on the back. This could have easily been a syrupy mess of a palate wrecker, but we’re far in the clear here. It’s damn near flawless, unless of course, you hate coffee. – Mike

The way the coffee and chocolate flavors work together to balance this beer is excellent. I’m really impressed. – Rick

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

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  • Multiple Drinkability? 9.5

When it comes to the morning after a night of hard drinking, sometimes your stomach just needs a light roast coffee and soon after, a lighter brew to get back in the game. Punkuccino offers both in spades, and offers a refreshing touch for intense, heavy coffee imperials, bringing all your favorite flavors to an extremely sessionable brew. This should definitely please seasoned beardo’s and sorority sisters alike. – Mike

This beer is so good you’ll be surprised that it’s only 5% ABV. Full flavored, full bodied, a good pumpkin flavor, and with a low ABV it’s not too easy to avoid drinking them all. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 9.5 / B- 9 / R- 10

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Overall: 8.42

M- 9.33 / T- 9.08 / B- 7.25 / R- 8.42

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Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.

Almanac Scaled Edit

 

One of the styles we don’t see to often in the pumpkin category is the elusive, and often divisive, sour ale. Leave it to the good folks at Almanac Beer Co to follow up last years (and coincidentally one of our highest ranking beers to date) Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine with a new entry, Dark Pumpkin Sour. Though they share the same humble roots, gorgeous artwork, and barrel times, they couldn’t stylistically be any further apart! So, if you can find one, crack it open and compare notes with us, and if you can’t, you’re probably going to want to find one – so keep trying!

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Name: Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Sam Jose, CA / Almanac Beer Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Dark Pumpkin Sour / 7.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Designed as a counterpoint to the sweet and savory items on a fall dinner table, Dark Pumpkin Sour is brewed with caramelized organic heirloom pumpkins from Bodega Bay, pie spices, and then aged in used red wine barrels for a year.

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Packaging:

Almanac should probably win the award for the most classically inspired bottling each year, with their wood carved motifs and calligraphic logo they inspire an old world appeal that really carries the legacy of colonial pumpkin ales into the new millennium. – Tim

There isn’t a lot more to say about Almanac’s design than it is simply a work of art. I would seriously hang both their iconic woodcut tree logo and the hop bine entwined “Farm to Barrel” designs on my wall proudly. They must really like it too because there isn’t a whole lot differentiating this from their other Pumpkin Barleywine offering appearance wise. A quick color change from orange to deep turquoise on the inch wide bottom label is the only major difference. But then, why fix what ain’t broke?

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Color: 7.5

Rich, deep mahogany and plum with glinting copper highlights where the light happens to pierce the shadows, and a tan head that fights to stick around. Murky like a bog. – Brittney

This sour ale pours a fluffy light brown head that billows over an opaque body. Root beer brown with some earthy tones. Looks quite impressive. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

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Aroma: 7.5

Pronounced Brettanomyces barnyard funk, cereal grains, pinot noir grapes, and dark fruits, meet a smatter of perfumed wood and slight porter-y roast. – Mike

This definitely has a great barrel aged nose to it, imparting some nice woody elements amongst a musty roasted character. Red wine is another bold aroma that starts sour, but has an enticing sweetness to it, and I can’t wait to try this beer. – Rick

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

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Mouth feel: 7.5

A study in contradiction, the dark voluptuous body belies a crisp highly acidic sour ale, that explodes on the tongue causing your taste buds to detonate with the shock of an atomic warhead. – Tim

Instant pucker on the first sip. It’s like a barrage on the senses, but it’s a light sour tartness that envelopes the tongue while a wisp of sweetness tickles it. Interestingly, the medium body contains a full flavored punch that’s easy to drink. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 7.5 / B- 5 / R- 8.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

Intense citric acidity with pepper, wood, and a zesty spice on the fringes. As it warms dry, dark wine qualities appear alongside notes of pine, vegetal summer squash, and touches of caramel and cinnamon. – Mike

Crisp and bright, the pumpkin is tamed and even lost a bit in the bright lemon pucker notes. As a complement to a thick, rich pumpkin pie with a dense homemade whipped cream this ale would cut right though the gluttony and refresh your palate between each bite. Hint of allspice carries the ale slightly into the holiday season, but as a drink designed to complement a dessert rather than replicate, it gets high marks for contrasting tendencies. – Tim

There are moments where the pumpkin is fighting to show through, but for the most part all I’m tasting is sour. As it warms the spices begin to appear along side roasted pumpkin seed and wood and I can see why they recommend having this with pie. It needs the savory sweetness as an accompaniment. – Brittney

It’s like a sweet and sour pumpkin with a light watery red wine swirl. Great compliments, but is very atypical for a pumpkin offering. As it warms towards room temperature, the beer mellows and I’m starting to discover more elements of sweet cinnamon within the oaken melange. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 9

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Finish: 8

The finish is really were you get most of the flavor. The acidity begins to withdraw and pumpkin really comes through, almost as an afterthought. Roast and touches of caramel qualities as well as some woody vanilla. – Brittney

Blade mace and resinous cedar wood give way to a long, long, tart decay that settles out with echoes of the fork full of pumpkin pie that I never actually ate. Why, oh why do you elude me you devious phantom pastry? – Mike

M- 9.5 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 7

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

While the pumpkin takes a backseat to the sour’s peacock levels of non-subtlety, the notes on the nose and the color imparted in the ale are not to be missed. The spice on display is mainly a function of the wine barrel aging and as such adds tremendous depth to proceedings. – Tim

The pumpkin here is less of a defined quality than it is a referential. This brew begs to be set alongside your dessert course at Thanksgiving, and the spice is far more, but still subtly, notable. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 6

 

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7

Tart, dry, and definitively sour. How dry and sour? The balance to the cabernet-sour is roast and wood. Sucka’s dryyy. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

 

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7

This is a fantastic and complex sour. I only wish there was more to get better acquainted with. – Rick

Cutting though a turkey weighted, gravy laden and desert friendly feast, this ale would do well at your next family gathering. – Tim

M- 10 / T- 7 / B- 4 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.67

M- 9.00 / T- 7.67 / B- 5.92 / R- 8.08

O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer – O’Fallon Brewery

OFallon

We had a brief lull in events there for a moment, but now that it’s a stones throw to October, we are back and kicking into full steam. Today’s competitor is a cult classic in some parts, and a major competitor for pumpkin party beer across the country. So with out further ado, lets dig into it!

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Name: O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer

Place of Origin / Brewer: O’Fallon, MO / O’Fallon Brewery

Beer style / ABV%: Pumpkin Ale / 5.60%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer is brewed by adding 136 pounds of real pumpkin to a mash of pale malt, caramel 90, and white wheat, which is lightly hopped with Cluster hops. Once finished it is spiced with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

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Packaging:

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and O’Fallon, with its Baseball Team-styled brewery logo, delivers. Featuring a skewed Jack O’Lantern and a few fall leaves floating against a black backdrop, the label is clear and concise but sadly lacking any expansion on the style, spice content, or even the ABV. – Tim

I’m gonna be honest here, this label -while unfailingly communicating it’s contents- ain’t sexy. I’m sure it’s tradition, but it might be time for an update. – Mike

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Color: 5.5

Lots of action right away from the carbonation, leaving a nice billowing head. It’s a super clean transparent ale that gives light to a reddish pale and golden malt glow. – Rick

This looks quite a bit more appealing than the label. Gorgeous clarity, nice carbonation levels, and a pillow top ivory head that sticks around for a good bit. An autumn amber the color of turning leaves. Now if only it wasn’t 97 degrees outside… – Mike

M- 7 / T- 6 / B- 5 / R- 4

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Aroma: 6.5

Musty, earthy pumpkin at first whiff, followed by the sweetness of sugar and touch of cinnamon spice. There’s a slight roasted caramel malt quality as well. – Brittney

A bit of brown sugar and some cinnamon really blend well to concoct a nice sense of homemade apple pie crust. A touch of raisin is fairly detectable as well as some toffee. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 7 / R- 6

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Mouth feel: 5

Light and slightly slick but not as snappy as I would have guessed from the amount of carbonation when poured. Definitely settles into almost a flatness. – Brittney

Tongue burn from the high carbonation gives way to crisp ale with a bright but slightly thin body. – Tim

M- 6.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 5 / R- 5

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Tasting notes: 6

Cinnamon and Nutmeg soar to the forefront with sweet cream and pumpkin following shortly behind. It’s a pretty spot on semblance of canned pumpkin pie that’s been topped with a dollop of whipped creams, and has a biscuity – graham cracker crusty back. – Mike

With an overall pumpkin pie profile of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove the mixture lacks any real substance which unfortunately matches up with the body. Toasted malt and some hop bitters try to work their complex magic but the lack of any real presence gives the ale more of a late-summer lager profile and not enough fall goodness. – Tim

This one is not overwhelming in any category. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove are all there but only the cinnamon really lingers making it fairly dominating. There is a bit of pumpkin serving as a solid foundation for the spices, but it’s a bit sweet for my tastes. – Brittney

I enjoy the subdued mix of flavors here. This beer has some nice qualities but it seems closer to a fruit beer or a cider than a pumpkin ale. The minimal pumpkin allows for some cinnamon, apple, and raisin flavors to take front row. It isn’t too exciting, but I find this beer could make a nice introduction to the style and broaden ones appreciation for pumpkin ales. – Rick

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

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Finish: 6

Lingering pumpkin sweetness as the spice fades and a touch of the more bitter side of molasses roast and clove give it a drying quality. Fairly lengthy, but pleasing enough. – Mike

This is a very smooth and watery beer with a slightly bitter finish that caps each sip well. It’s easy to drink and light on the palate making it very session-able. – Rick

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

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Flavor balance: 7

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

The pumpkin is MIA but for the illusion presented in the spice profile. Which, while on paper seems like a fine balance of pie spices, sadly it just doesn’t amount to enough overall bang for your buck. – Tim

There is a solid presence of malt, which lends some presence to the pumpkin, but the spice is very prominent here, making it feel a bit out of check. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 4 / B- 8 / R- 7

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

It seems to start with unced sweetnesss, but as the glass warms a pleasant, subtle complexity begins to emerge along with breadier malts and a spicy bite. – Mike

Well done. This beer seems like it could lean towards cloying at any moment and completely ruin it for me, but there’s a nice balance here akin to dry apple juice. The watery body and mouthfeel play a big part in keeping the sweetness at bay. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 6.5 / B- 6.5 / R- 8

  • Multiple Drinkability? 6

While you’re still waiting for the mercury to drop below the boiling point, you could easily put away a few of these ales. The inoffensive 5.5% ABV won’t wreck your afternoon, but with so many other great pumpkin beers on the market, this one is hardly worth running out and stockpiling. – Tim

In a world of gigantic cloying imperial pumpkins, this is a pretty respectable session brew. Not too heavy for milder autumns and enough weight for cooler climates, it plays to both the refreshing and pleasantly boozy crowd. Compared to others in it’s class, it’s nicely balanced and has some notable pumpkin which is a change of pace for anything under 10%. This is an excellent gateway beer to the style. – Mike

M- 8.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 4 / R- 6

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Overall: 6.00

M- 7.16 / T- 5.42 / B- 5.66 / R- 5.58

Pumpkin Roll Ale – Penn Brewing (Pennsylvania Brewing Co.)

Pumpkin Roll

 

Lets clear one thing up before I get accosted with a pitchfork and torches by my mother in law. We were all raised in the south, and most of us have never eaten, or frankly, heard of Pumpkin Roll before (Except for Tim, because Tim has literally eaten anything you have ever heard of, except maybe a Century Egg). It is not much like pumpkin pie as it centers around a cream cheese frosting. So there is a decent chance that if you are a fan of Pumpkin Roll, you may disagree with our initial reaction to the beer before the dessert. That said, the dessert sounds fantastic, and we’ve included a video below to teach you how to make it yourself.

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Name: Pumpkin Roll Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Pittsburgh, PA / Pennslvania Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Pumpkin Ale / 6.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Pumpkin Roll Ale is modeled after the popular Northern U.S.A. dessert and includes real pumpkin puree, lactose sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger.

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Packaging:

The tradition of pumpkin orange and green adds a nice rustic background to a red barn in the fall with a pumpkin patch and bales of wheat, it reminds me of the barn raising scene in Witness if there was drinking involved. – Tim

A green and gold harlequin border over a bright orange field with folksy fall accoutrement, including a pumpkin patch, barn, and corn stalks a plenty. Looks like a Quaker fall to me! A suitable homage to their home state founder, William Penn. – Mike

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Color: 5.5

The appearance is slightly hazy with just a trickle of bubbles, thin dissipating head, with the sticky lacing glowing yellow-orange. -Brittney

I find this to be your typical copper colored pumpkin ale color, but with a cloudy twist. Light and semi transparent, it appears to be medium bodied with a frothy white head. – Rick

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

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Aroma: 5

The aroma on this one is fairly vegetal, with a sweet and sour twist. The sourness I am assuming comes from the cream cheese aspect of the pumpkin roll. – Brittney

Kids bubblegum toothpaste and the icing packet that comes in a pack of prefab cinnamon buns with a green grape and yogurt smoothie to wash it all down. – Mike

M- 4 / T- 5 / B- 5 / R- 7

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Mouth feel: 5.5

Medium bodied, the ale is smooth on the palate, but a notable burn on the tongue and the in the back of the throat could be tamed by bringing the carbonation level a little further into check. – Tim

There’s a bit of a bite on the palate. It’s light though which makes it an easy drinker, while being capped by a nice sourness to finish it all off. – Rick

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

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Tasting notes: 4.5

Birthday cake with cream cheese icing and lots of vanilla. A pecan nuttiness is trying to poke through, but pumpkin and powdered sugar are ruling the dat. I’ve never had pumpkin roll myself, but if this is accurate, it must destroy any notion of a diet. – Mike

For the uninitiated, a pumpkin roll is essentially pumpkin spiced cake wrapped around a pinwheel of cream cheese frosting. It’s insanely decadent, and the ones I have from Amish bakery’s are mind-blowingly addictive. This ale is for all intents and purposes trying its best to recreate that in liquid format, but it’s hang up is a primary character of Cool Whip that is so prevalent that I feel like my tongue is coated in wax after every sip. The spice notes are the same as the nose, with allspice and nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla prominent. It’s all very strange but not entirely unappealing. Lets just say a little bit goes a long way. – Tim

Big dollops of candy wax, creamy vanilla, butter, and cream cheese. It’s slighty sour with a good bit of spice poking through the end, like a bowl of milk after you ate all the cinnamon cereal. There’s not a lot of pumpkin in there though. – Brittney

Very unique and interesting. Lots of different flavors combining to mimic an almost artificial cream cheese flavor. Raisins and grapes stand out, and if cinnamon whipped cream hasn’t been created yet, it should be. All these elements are united by a slight pumpkin flavor. – Rick

M- 5 / T- 4.5 / B- 3.5 / R- 5.5

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Finish: 4.5

There is a mace like quality to this finish with a raisin aftertaste. Very clean and nicely juxtaposed with the fruity sweet profile. It is a tad on the bitter side though, and a little too harsh with the cinnamon. – Rick

Buttery, confectioners sugar, allspice, and intense amounts of dry hopped cream cheese. It’s bittersweet both in form and function. – Brittney

M- 5 / T- 5 / B- 3 / R- 4.5

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Flavor balance: 4

 

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 4

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the pumpkin is present as much as the idea of the pumpkin is conveyed, this once again falls much further on the scale of spiced ale than a true pumpkin beer. – Tim

The pumpkin is clearly an afterthought with cinnamon and nutmeg dominating the spicing. The finish hurts this one being overly spiced and bitter. – Rick

M- 3 / T- 4.5 / B- 4.5 / R- 3.5

 

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 4.5

Probably the most baffling thing about this beer is that it isn’t half as sweet as it smells. It’s still sweet, but it finishes on a fairly dry and spicy note, which is the only thing keeping it from being too intense. – Mike

I do enjoy the fruity elements and raisin aftertaste, but it ends up being too cloying for me. The dessert aspects of this concept are pushed too far and don’t allow the pumpkin to flourish. – Rick

M- 5 / T- 4.5 / B- 4 / R- 4.5

 

  • Multiple Drinkability? 4

I think you have to look at this in the perspective of; “Are you going to get the experience of having an amazing pumpkin roll in beer format?” The simple answer is no. So, save your calories and go get the real thing. Then wash it down with a nice pumpkin porter instead. – Tim

I can drink an occasional pumpkin pie, I can’t drink a pumpkin roll. – Brittney

M- 5 / T- 3.5 / B- 4 / R- 4

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Overall: 4.83

M- 4.92 / T- 4.83 / B- 4.42 / R- 5.33

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale – Alltech Lexington Brewing Co.

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel

First review of the season, everyone take a deep breathe! Sometimes things get a little divisive over here at the GPBR, but usually we have to be a few brews in first. This time it only took one! Fortunately, we have what we think is a pretty cool four – reviewer format to more closely represent the tastes of all our readership, so if you find yourself agreeing with a certain person more than others, you may want to keep your eyes more specifically on how they scored our many various offerings. After all, that’s one of the best parts about craft beer: We can always agree to disagree as long as there’s something else in the fridge!

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Name: Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Lexington, KY / Alltech Lexington Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale / 10.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale is a barrel-aged ale brewed with Kentucky-sourced pumpkin, and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

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Packaging:

A play on Kentucky Bourbon Barrel’s standard packaging this bottling delivers a copper backdrop to accent the barrel face and the traditional thoroughbred visage. Of note, the ABV is missing from the label (which at 10%) is slightly dangerous if you don’t know what you’re getting into. – Tim

This bottle/label is pretty much what you would expect from the name. An image of a barrel on its side with a horse head and Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale displayed proudly. I’ll let the fact that Pumpkin Barrel makes absolutely no sense slide. – Brittney

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Color: 5

Pale golden orange in color with a thin line of pure white lacing around the rim. There is a small amount of carbonation slowly floating to the surface. – Brittney

Thin and very light looking, with a queasy yellow pallor that lacks any defining red-orange hues we so typically see in this beer style. Closer to a slightly scorched pilsner / old hay of a young whiskey. If this were pumpkin beer personified, I’d say they looked a little sick. – Mike

M- 3.5 / T- 7 / B- 5 / R- 4.5

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Aroma: 6.5

This smells amazing, working my tongue into a frenzy for the first sip. Predominant notes of squash notes on the nose with hints of cinnamon and clove in the heady bouquet and a touch of bourbon sweetness. – Tim

This is where the beer gets you. Super sweet candy like bourbon just wafts off this bad boy. The bourbon draws you in, but the pumpkin and vanilla (maybe even some banana notes) seal the deal and entice that first sip. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 5 / R- 7.5

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Mouth feel: 4.5

To my surprise the mouth feel on this one is very thin and mellow. For a barrel aged beer it’s unusually light. – Brittney

It’s somewhat interesting, or even perplexing that such a bold flavored ale can have such a watery mouthfeel. It seems a lot lighter than it should, but it’s all masked fairly well by a bitterness and a bit of pepper on the tongue. The heat from the alcohol doesn’t help matters either. – Rick
M- 3.5 / T- 7 / B- 3.5 / R- 5

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Tasting notes: 6

An assertive amount of cinnamon sugar with fruity bubblegum and fruity pumpkin following. Surprisingly, I get very few actual barrel notes – no real woodiness, tannins, or toast. Without the huge slap of ethanol I would be hard pressed to pick this out as a barrel offering at all. I’d like to say it’s all there somehow, but really, it’s kind of a mess. – Mike

Rich roasted pumpkin notes and spice at the forefront, with candied fruit and vanilla set against oak, spicy pepper and toffee. At 10% ABV it’s got a boozy back end that reminds you of after dinner cocktails chasing homemade pie. – Tim

Other than the hint of heaviness at the end of the aroma this is the only area that this beer tends to feel like it is barrel aged at all. You could say that this beer is a little confused. It looks like a light beer, it smells for the most part like a plain pumpkin ale, it feels unassuming but when you taste this, it goes straight to your head. You still taste the pumpkin and spices but the bourbon and alcohol quickly take center stage. – Brittney

Barrel aging treats this one well, although the weak mouthfeel throws the dynamic here, confusing the senses. The bourbon is the forerunner here, taking center stage while the rest of the flavors mingle in the background just enough to call it pumpkin. – Rick

M- 4 / T- 8.5 / B- 4 / R- 7

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Finish: 4.5

A bit of nutmeg and bread crust attempt to dry things out here, but it just proves too big of a job. – Mike

A little heat from the bourbon and some cinnamon as well. Goes down smooth though, which is befitting of the lighter mouthfeel. A tad too cloying by the first third though, so I’m a bit worried I wont make it through. A little woody but maintains it’s sweetness throughout. – Rick

M- 3 / T- 7 / B- 3 / R- 5

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Flavor balance: 4.5

 

Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

Artificial pumpkin and cinnamon whiskey shots fight for dominance. You could technically say that they were fairly well balanced with each other, but they never really feel harmonious. – Brittney

M- 3.5 / T- 9 / B- 4 / R- 6.5

 

Sweet / Dry balance: 4

Sweetness in the nose and body is precisely off-set by the prompt finish and breathy alcohol. It’s not dry but since it never lingers, it avoids becoming cloying and rather winds up very clean. – Tim

I think this gave me diabetes. Someone check my insulin, I’d like to keep my foot. – Mike

M- 2 / T- 8 / B- 3 / R- 4

 

Multiple Drinkability? 4

Town Branch Bourbon and pumpkin pie sounds like my ideal kind of finishing course for an autumn meal. The liquid form here however, proves less appealing than the real thing. As far as session-able brews goes, that clearly isn’t the intention here, so the body and alcohol prevalence are generally baffling. In the end it equates to a valiant try, but I don’t really care for flavored whiskey, so I definitely don’t enjoy it watered down. – Mike

It’s a decent pumpkin ale but it is a serious assault on the senses. For me it’s too sweet and with a maxed out ABV at 10% it just seems overdone and too cliché. – Rick

M- 2 / T- 8 / B- 3 / R- 3

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Overall: 5.16

M- 3.00 / T- 7.75 / B- 3.50 / R- 5.5.

Kentucky

Doc’s Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider – Warwick Valley Wine Co.

Docs Draft copy

It’s fairly obvious to anyone with a taste for alcohol that the years of craft beer are in a new renaissance. Everywhere you turn, from the swankiest taprooms, to the lowliest dives, you’re going to be able to get your hands on at least a few solid alternatives to mass manufactured lagers. Something we’ve noticed in the last two years however, is among the beer ranks, there are plenty of fermented fruit options popping up as well. With ciders swelling in popularity, it’s not uncommon to find lists of flavor variations floating around, and pumpkin is fresh on the table to join its ranks. So if you just want some easy drinking along with your autumn offerings, here’s another option for your fridge.

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Name:  Doc’s Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: Warwick, New York / Warwick Valley Wine Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Hard Cider / 6.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Doc’s Pumpkin Cider is pressed from New York state apples and fresh roasted pumpkins in the fermenter. It features champagne yeast and malic acid, and is spiced with cinnamon, allspice, fresh ginger, and nutmeg. It is naturally gluten free.

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Packaging:

A simple yet classic design, this label has an old world appeal. Nice touch with the gold foil wrap, and the artwork makes it very apparent that this is a pumpkin cider. – Rick

With a very Revolutionary War-era vibe, this label reminds me of a hanging shingle outside a pub circa the late 18th century.  A quote from Thoreau rounds things out – adding a very classy air to this cider. – Tim

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Color:  6

Golden straw in the fall sunset. There’s a quick fizzy head and a ton of carbonation from the bottom of the glass, which is tinted eyeglasses clear. – Mike

Golden, almost like champagne in appearance. There are so many bubbles due to carbonation. The only inkling of haze is the condensation on the cold glass; this cider is super clear and glowing. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 4

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Aroma:  6

An unexpected amount of pie spice on the nose with cinnamon as the dominate flavor profile – after that it’s all apples for as far as the eye can see—or rather—the nose can smell. – Tim

Cinnamon, ginger, and clove apper quite bold over a slight touch of fruity pumpkin, but mostly the glass gives an impression of baked cinnamon apples, rather than pumpkin pie. – Mike

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

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Mouth feel:  5.5

Mellow apple and pumpkin flavoring washes over the tongue, and as expected there is a strong tart presence. Overall, this cider is clean, light bodied, and watery. – Rick

The carbonation is there visually but surprisingly not in the amount that you would expect in the mouth feel, obviously light bodied, no where near as syrupy as I would have expected. – Brittney

M- 4 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 6

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Tasting notes:  6.5

This is not your European dry cider. It’s sour-sweet, with a one-two punch of cinnamon and clove. There is a bit of creaminess that I would suspect is contributed by he pumpkin, but a big spike of acid makes this more of a warm weather version of a mulled cider than a stomach warming pumpkin treat. – Mike

A touch dry on the initial sip with an explosion of pure apple juice that’s been spiked with a cinnamon swizzle stick, but immediate the sweetness kicks in and man it does not let up – reaching apple soda levels.  It’s far too much of a candy beverage for me – like those sparkling ciders that the parents would serve the kids table during Thanksgiving. – Tim

This is refreshing, it is first and foremost a hard apple cider (so keep that in mind you hearty dark beer drinkers) with notes of cinnamon and ginger and a touch of pumpkin gently found throughout. Tastes like an apple/ginger/pumpkin pie with great notes of brown sugar and butter. – Brittney

Nice tart red apples mixed with sweet pumpkin and spice balance well to make this a tasty imbibement. The pumpkin is just the right amount to compliment the pleasant apple flavor. The best aspect that I take from this brew is it’s pretty refreshing and light on the palate. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Finish:  5

The finish is basic mulled apple cider.  You tend to loose the nuances of specific flavors in a barrage of spices, but it’s that sort of finish that keeps you coming back to try and figure it out. – Brittney

It’s a little too much like juice for me, but the carbonation does help put a bit of a bite on the end. The body finishes nice and tart as expected from a cider, but that doesn’t keep it from being too cloying after each sip. – Rick

M- 3.5 / T- 5 / B- 5 / R- 5.5

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Flavor balance:  5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 4.5

If it didn’t have a pumpkin on the label, I wouldn’t suspect it might be in there at all. The spice, however, you can smell three feet from the glass. – Mike

It’s almost unfair to scale this.  The spice is prominently cinnamon, touches of nutmeg and allspice are in there but there is no pumpkin to be had.  It’s more like pumpkin spiced apple pie – and about the same level of sweetness too. – Tim

M- 1 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 4.5

This one is hit and miss for me. The sweetness fits the overall cider style, but I feel it’s too pronounced. However, there is a bit of dry apple on the finish, but it’s just not enough to reel in this sugary drink.- Rick

Given the champagne yeast, I would have thought this might sneak in a dry finish, but it proves to be tongue coating sugar sweet one the bubbles have faded. – Mike

M- 3 / T- 4 / B- 6 / R- 4

         Multiple Drinkability?  5.5

Very light and easy to drink and, for the most part, complex enough to keep you interested. – Brittney

If I wanted to substitute soda for alcohol then this would probably hit the mark. It’s definitely more of a summer drink, but with the fall flavor profile it actually seems schizophrenic at best. – Tim

M- 5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Overall:  5.67

M- 4.67 / T- 5.25 / B- 6.75 / R- 5.67

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

Almanac

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!

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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.

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Packaging:

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Overall:  8.50

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