Posts tagged ‘harvest’

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

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Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Uinta Brewing Co.

Having already reviewed it’s big brother, we’re delving into Uinta’s more everyday, devil may care offering. Let’s cue the Pogues, dial into Matthew Lilliard circa 1998, and see how it stacks up.

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Name:  Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Utah, USA / Uinta Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 4.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Malt and hops accented with organic roasted pumpkin and organic spices of the season including cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, and a  subtle hint of vanilla and honey. Try it with roasted turkey, squash or pumpkin ravioli, peach cobbler, or pumpkin cheesecake. It’s also brewed on the same renewable power system as Uinta’s other beers, as we touched on in our review of their Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

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Packaging:

I love this label. It’s simple and clean and lovely. It’s got an iconic pumpkin that’s already popped it’s top and ready for carving, a compass embossed into the bottle itself, and a well thought out font selection for the description on the side. – Brittney

I love the craft nature of this label, with the graphic intense artwork I’m reminded of letterpress printing styles from the early 20th century.  I also like the “Earth, Wind and Beer” motto which–other than bringing to mind disco–denotes a very artisian zen vibe and highlights the alternative power sources used to produce the ale.  I am, however, at least somewhat confused by the “3% Organic Ingredients” proclamation.  I’m not sure that conveys a ‘homemade’ vibe they must be going for.  Mostly it makes me wonder where the other 97% came from. – Tim

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Color:  7

A fizzy amber ale with nice hay yellow highlights, great clarity, and solid staying power on the fluffy head. – Mike

Wonderful pumpkin-orange copper coloration makes for a very appetizing brew. The thick cream colored head lasts for a bit and leaves nice amounts of lacing behind. – Rick

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

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Aroma:  6.5

I’m immediately struck by the bready notes and fresh vegetal pumpkin on the bouquet. Curiously the aroma on this beer is very understated–which for a pumpkin ale (that generally assaults your senses) is both a welcome change and a puzzling curiosity. – Tim

Funky vegetal greenery and grains with extreme amounts of squashy pumpkin. Some Oat and caramel notes underlay, with dry nutmeg, and ten tons of pumpkin puree. – Mike

M- 7.5 / T- 5 / B- 8 / R- 6.5

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Mouth feel:  6

Smooth velvet washes over the tongue making it easy to drink. Each sip starts with a bold splash, but quickly falls flat over the tongue. – Rick

After a slight fight through the remaining head, this one is light bodied and very active. The carbonation masks most anything else you could find in this as far as mouth feel goes. – Brittney

M- 7.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 5.5

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Tasting notes:  6

If individuality is a virtue, this sucker has it. The gourd presence from the nose stays firmly dominant, and yields both rye and heavy barley with under played nutmeg that tastes as though it’s been freshly ground. – Mike

Earthy like fresh pumpkin guts, sweet breadiness from the malts but light on the spicing with only a touch of cinnamon sneaking in.  The light aroma should have been a tell-tale sign, but I find this ale to be somewhat weak and far too mellow to really stand out. – Tim

Slightly disappointed that the flavor sort of fades away on this one.  The aroma really had me excited for something great but all of the sweet pumpkin you could smell up front gets lost becoming just a slight vegetal taste with a tiny bit of spice.  If you are looking for a less sweet option for an introduction pumpkin beer this is the way to go. – Brittney

Not too much happening with the sweet pumpkin aspect unfortunately. What was captured in the aroma is lost here in the flavor. The gourdy profile turns out to be bitter and a tad souring leaving some sweet spices to be desired. – Rick

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

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Finish:  6

Peppery and bitter, the finish was unexpected. I have a feeling that this brew might be indicative of a more traditional or authentic pumpkin ale than what we are used to today, with less spicing and relying on the vegetal quality of the gourd to round out the flavor. – Rick

Short-mid-range finish with a touch of hoppy bitterness and tang, coupled with more bready malts and a hit of caramel-esque sweetness.  I’m actually more of a fan of the finish of this beer than I am of the bouquet and the body.  I guess it’s beneficial to make your last impression a good one. – Tim

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

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Flavor balance:  6

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

As understated as this beer is, it almost feels unfair to nitpick the harmony on display here.  I think it needs to get amped way up in both departments–but, as it stands, it’s unquestionably more pumpkin than pie.  And that’d be fine, but it’s not balanced if you’re aiming the entire beer below median level.  – Tim

I’m starting to appreciate this ale more as the glass nears empty. The pumpkin dominant profile is subtly accented by a light addition of spices, which seems to go against the grain of other pumpkin ales. – Rick

M- 6.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 5

–         Sweet / Dry balance: 6

It tips ever so slightly dry, with grain and spice complimenting a very clean and easy drinking vegetal pumpkin. – Mike

A little on the bitter dry side of the spectrum, but decently well rounded. Worth noting here is a slight sourness of a vegetal quality which knocks back any sweetness as well as helping dry it out. – Rick

M- 6 / T- 5.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

–         Multiple Drinkability?  6.5

If you could judge a beer by it’s bottle I would drink this one all night long.  It’s subtlety in flavor makes it a simple one to return to for more than one bottle. – Brittney

While there is a relative lack of complexity to this ale, I think it hollow’s out a comfortable and approachable niche, particularly appealing to the drinker that is turned off by sucrose laden pints, and not yet ready for sour funk or a spice beat down. It’s a simple session, but sometimes that’s what the doctor ordered. – Mike

M- 7 / T- 4 / B- 8 / R- 6

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Overall:  6.25

M- 6.67 / T- 5.33 / B- 7.50 / R- 5.67

Spiced Harvest Ale – Fordham Brewing Co.

Sorry again for the publishing delays, hopefully that will be the last of them for this year. We had some technical difficulties for Friday’s review, and then we had no technology at all until today (but we’re finally in the new house).

Today’s selection is best paired with AMC hit series premieres.

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Name:  Spiced Harvest Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Delaware, USA / Fordham Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Spiced Ale / 6.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Released for the first time in six packs this year, Fordham Spiced ale is brewed with Pumpkin and Honey, with spices added (allspice, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin).

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Packaging:

Replete with one of those great “Americana” labels featuring a tractor, pumpkins and a fields of grain as far as the eye can see, Spiced Harvest Ale reminds me of holidays spent visiting my Mamaw in Western Kentucky when the sun was setting, when fireflies came out, and that warm amber glow everything had at Magic Hour.  It seems silly to think of a beer bottle as comforting—without immediately wondering if I’m an alcoholic.  But, hey…I find it soothing. – Tim

The wit here is to be admired. Clearly Fordham is counting on 2012 to be legit, or for GMO corn to start the zombie apocalypse. Couple the caption with the rusted out silo and tractor on the label, and you’ll probably need a shotgun when you go hunting for some twinkies and a six pack. – Mike

I could get lost in photograph on this label.  A rusted old tractor, a pile of pumpkins and the overgrown hills of a farm at harvest time or during the apocalypse as the label seems to imply. – Brittney

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Color:  6.5

An amber ale leaning a bit on the Pilsen side, this has a slight unfiltered haziness that prevents it from being the sparkling ale I wanted it to be. Initial pour yields a healthy head that quickly flits off leaving a touch of foam on the top, and zero lacing. – Mike

It’s your basic burnt umber coloring, kind of bland in it’s appearance. The head disappears quickly and leaves no trace behind as far as lacing is concerned. It’s mostly opaque, but mix that quality with it’s unappealing brownish orange color and it could start to make you nervous. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 5.5

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Aroma:  7

Ale and honey and then pumpkin and spice.  All very present and in that order. – Brittney

Nutmeg and cinnamon are here in a substantial dose, with allspice and ginger coming in as a firm secondary. There is a light caramel malt backing it all up with a solid hay / grain smell that brings images of a farm at harvest time. Spice. Check. Harvest. Check. Ale. Check. Gotta give a few points for transparency. – Mike

Smells exactly like Costco pumpkin pie I have in my refrigerator right now—a harmonious blend of clove, allspice and cinnamon. It’s so delicious, I want to eat it—not drink it. – Tim

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

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Mouth feel:  5.5

A bit watery of a mouth feel on this one. It’s really bubbly over the tongue and you get a strong presence of ginger here. A sting of clove and a touch of cinnamon rounds out the body nicely here. – Rick

High carbonation levels leave the tell-tale “bubble burn” on my tongue.  With a light to medium body this ale isn’t gonna take home any prizes for mouth feel, but it’s passable.  I just prefer my beer a little less ‘bouncy’. – Tim

Light and bubbly, crisp and clean. A slight bite that reminds me sensationally of tart cider. There’s ample fizz to boot, keeping it nice and lively, if not particularly on the smooth side. – Brittney

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

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Tasting notes:  6

A nice sweet pumpkin body really grounds this brew well. The spicing is decent with allspice being dominant and the ginger aspect really helps clean the finish. Focusing on the ginger, I come to find it may be a bit overdone, kind of wrecking the sweetness for me. – Rick

I love that I get so much honey from this.  It’s something that we don’t have much of a presence of very often.  I also love the earthiness of the pumpkin and spice.  The honey provides most of the sweetness so it’s not too overwhelming.  It’s as though each of the flavors have their moment and then settles. – Brittney

There’s definitely a bit more going on here than initial factors would indicate, which is nice, as frankly, I was expecting less. There’s a nice oatiness to the grain bill, and in tandem with the honey, instantly reminds me of a certain circular, cholesterol reducing cereal. The spice profile still leans heavily nutmeg for me, but in such a way that is complimentary to this, and, I have to say, I am glad to find it much more subdued that I was expecting from the first whiff. – Mike

Fully anticipating a pumpkin pie orgy of pallet bursting goodness on this one, I have to say, I’m a little vexed.  The flavor is muted and a very interesting thing has happened to the wonderful pumpkin pie aroma in the bouquet—once I took a swallow of this ale, the aroma has morphed into something resembling a spiced white wine, with disconcerting notes of plastic, paper and gingerbread.  I can pull some spices and some pumpkin but the ‘off flavors’ are overwhelming. – Tim

M- 6.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 8 / R- 5

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Finish:  5.5

The finish is dry and spicy, with that same crisp bite of the mouthfeel lingering almost to the point of astringency.  If it lingered a bit less, I might find it more appealing, but I feel like this could really blow the palate if you intend on drinking anything else afterwards. – Mike

The honey is not only the first thing I taste but also the thing that stays with me at the finish.  The finish is crisp with a hint of that subtle spice. – Brittney

M- 4 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Flavor balance:  5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5

We’re dominantly spice and honey here, which is interesting, but definitely regulating the pumpkin aspect to the mash bill only, and bringing zero flavor to the table. Probably why they opted for leaving it out of the name. –  Mike

Before I take a swing, I’d give this a near perfect score, but the more the ale progressed, the more mystified I became and the more the bizarre elements started to present themselves.  – Tim

M- 4.5 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 4

–         Sweet / Dry balance: 5

A little on the dry side, this brew is heavily influenced by the ginger spicing that completely dominates my palate. A little more sweetness in this brew and I would be a big fan. – Rick

If the finish was a little more subtle, I would say this was balanced fairly well, but like so many elements of this ale, it seems to be disjointed and confused. – Tim

M- 5 / T- 5 / B- 8 / R- 3

–         Multiple Drinkability?  4.5

As much as I enjoy this beer I don’t think I could have another. In the words of Kris Delmhorst “maybe I’m just honey’d out”. – Brittney

Flavor intensity aside, this ale does prove pretty light on the belly, and that’s something to be said for throwing back a few.  So when you do drop that flavor intensity back in the equation, you’ll either want to stick around awhile, or abandon ship. Myself, I could probably stick out a session, but I can live with nutmeg morning breath. – Mike

There is only one chance I’d revisit this beer—and that’s the see if it was ‘just me’.  Otherwise, I’d keep searching for the perfect ale…because this teeters more on the precipice of failed promise. – Tim

M- 4.5 / T- 4 / B- 6 / R- 3

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Overall:  5.92

M- 5.25 / T- 5.58 / B- 7.33 / R- 5.92

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale (special release) – The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc.

You know you’re dealing with a class act when they’ve got Thoreau quoted on the bottle. And to celebrate Schlafly’s 20th anniversary, they seem to have spent some extra special attention on this year’s offerings. Without exception, of course, is their pumpkin ale, and we all seem to agree, that if you’re looking to “celebrate the bounty of harvest and season of plenty”, than you’ll find quite the opportunity in this bottle.

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Name:  Schlafly Pumpkin Ale (special release)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Missouri, USA / The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 8.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Schlafly is brewed with Pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove, and features the use of Marynka hops, 2-row and Crystal malted barley, Munich malt, wheat malt, chocolate malt, and American Ale yeast, for a malty and slightly bitter backbone.

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Packaging:

Taste and simplicity are embodied on this packaging, from it’s relaxed autumnal color scheme, it’s clear pumpkin marking, and poignant quote, it both recalls the spirit of the season, and a boastful-yet-understated reflection of the spirit within. – Mike

Very monochromatic color scheme works well with the simple design elements.  A pumpkin centered quote by Thoreau is a nice touch while staying unobtrusive. – Rick

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Color:  7

Pours a stunning deep pumpkin pie color with noticeable sediment and  a fizzy cream head that diffuses pretty rapidly leaving zero lacing but keeps sending sheets of carbonation bubbles dancing to the surface. – Tim

Pours a murky golden brown with pretty active carbonation.  An initially pretty decent tan head had respectable staying power. – Brittney

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

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Aroma:  7.5

This suckers smells like liquid pumpkin pie, putting that sweet roasted pumpkin flavor together with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.   It has a thick, almost dense, bouquet that rumors of a very bold beer. – Tim

Dirty raw pumpkin all up front.  As the beer warmed up a bit the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg became quite apparent and pretty intense. – Brittney

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

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Mouth feel:  7

On the heavier end of medium bodied, the malts seem to lend a creamy smoothness here that is velvety and slick on the tongue, while the subdued carbonation invite you to swish it around a bit to unlock the flavor hidden just beneath the surface. – Mike

Medium bodied with a tendency toward the heavier spectrum, it feels weighty on the tongue with a soft carbonation that belies all the dancing bubbles the beer exhibited on the pour. – Tim

The bite from the 8.0% ABV is small but noticeable.  Otherwise it’s smooth and foamy over the tongue with a medium body.  My lips are left slightly tacky reinforcing the sweet nature of this ale. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 7 / B- 7.5 / R- 6

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Tasting notes:  8.5

There are really nice sweet malts here that are complimented by the allspice and nutmeg.  It’s a good strong tasting ale without being too heavy. – Rick

The pumpkin at the front of this lulls you into a false ideal that this is a good representation of a pumpkin beer but nothing special. They then use the spice as their ace in the hole.  It’s slightly over-whelming to the palate, but in a good way.  This beer has just enough earthy pumpkin up front and an assault of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon at the end. – Brittney

So many pumpkin beers mask their flavor with overpowering noses while others craft ales so dense that the flavor struggles to escape the body.  Schlafly is the rare beer that tastes exactly like it smells. It’s concentrated with notes of brown sugar, clove, allspice and roasted pumpkin.  It’s sweet and malty but not overbearing or sticky.  It might be the closest thing to liquid pumpkin pie I’ve yet to taste.  – Tim

Smooth and creamy malt enters the palatial plane, and when allowed to warm on the tongue, transforms into an intensely full baked pumpkin, complete with brown sugar and toasty pie crust notes. But what really blows me away on this sucker is how nicely the spices separate, giving you that true pie experience, while still managing not to overwhelm the pumpkin, and in fact vanish cleanly and quickly on the finish. – Mike

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

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Finish:  8

In the realm of short and clean, this is a masterpiece. They’ve managed to take a full bodied swig of pumpkin and spice to the very crescendo of good taste, and pull it back to nothing at the end, so you can experience it again with every sip. – Mike

I’m left with a caramely sweetness and just a bit of a bite.  It’s fairly light though with an almost sour note from the pumpkin. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Flavor balance:  8

 

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

There is a fair amount of pumpkin in there but the spice dominates.  However I don’t find it any more distracting in there that I do in a rich pumpkin pie.  That is, this is not pumpkin puree or fresh cut pumpkin on display, this is mama’s homemade pie fresh out of the oven. – Tim

There is really a good pumpkin flavor here.  The spices are nice and sweet without becoming too spicy as some pumpkin ales can tend to be. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 6.5 / R- 7.5

 

–         Sweet / Dry balance: 

There’s an upfront sweetness that masterfully blends out to just a touch of dry finish, but ends so clean, you won’t even know it was there. Very impressive. – Mike

It’s not very dry at all, but there is a good sweetness that seems to be the backbone of this brew.  It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a noticeable undertone of sourness from the pumpkin elements, but in no way is this a bad thing. – Rick

M- 9 / T- 7 / B- 7.5 / R- 6

 

–         Multiple Drinkability?

I think there is way too much going on here to have many of these.  I would enjoy one maybe two very much but I think after that my palate would be blown. – Brittney

The 8% ABV is masked so well that I almost can’t believe this beer stacks up that high.  I don’t even get that ‘chest warmer’ vibe off this brew.  As tasty as this is, I could session this beer…and then call some friends to come drive me home afterward! – Tim

Looking for that perfect pumpkin session beer, but don’t dig the cloying sweet, or the choking spicy? This sucker is your new go to ale. With an emphatic approach of moderation, but simultaneously not being gun shy, I can hardily applaud Schlafly for creating a smooth and delicious brew, that’s not only easy, but all too tempting to return to again and again. – Mike

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

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Overall:  7.67

M- 8.17 / T- 7.75 / B- 7.33 / R- 6.91

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Blue Moon Brewing Co.

Whether or not you’re a fan of some of the larger produced seasonal ales, I have to take a minute to give them a little bit of credit where credit is due. While I understand that the smaller brewer has to rush and struggle to get the product out there in time for a season, and then quickly move on to the next, it’s certainly nice to be able to walk into a store around the end of the fall season and find the seasonal beers that were meant to celebrate the associated holidays. We’re more than aware that there’s been a lot of hub-bub on this topic, and it’s a tough call for us, particularly since we have limited resources to cover so much ground when the beers are released. Still, it’s nice to know you have a fall back to go with that pumpkin pie when you walk in the weekend before Thanksgiving, and for that, we have to say kudos.

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Name:  Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Colorado, USA / Blue Moon Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Wheat Ale / 5.7%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Crafted with autumns bounty of vine ripened pumpkin and flavors of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Then brewed with a touch of wheat for a smooth, lightly spiced finish.

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Packaging:

Maintaining the traditional Blue Moon label with its wood-cut styling, this seasonal bottle adds a burnt orange color to the mix and replaces the standard pine trees from the ubiquitous ‘Belgian White’ brew with a field of harvested pumpkins under a soft baby-blue sky.  Once again as a mass produced ale, branding doesn’t stray far from what the good folks at Coors have been pushing for the better part of a decade and a half. – Tim

It seems that once a brewery reaches a certain amount of popularity, the labels all tend to read the same and look very similar, throughout styles and even between different brewers.  This is no exception.  It’s just a quick color scheme change with a pumpkin thrown in for good measure. – Rick

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Color:  6.5

A decadent orange – brown that brings the word MALTY to mind for me immediately, with a gently bubbling base that keeps an eternal hairline head on it. However, it does seem to be quite on the clear side, contrary to it’s non seasonal heritage. – Mike

My pint poured crystal clear, glowing amber in color and mildly bubbly. An initially airy head started heavy, and quickly dissolved away to no more than a thin layer of lacing. – Brittney

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

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Aroma:  4.5

Rich gourd on a spicy bouquet carry over to a malty sweetness and add a definite fall air to this brew.  – Tim

Light on aroma, an earthy pumpkin is almost noticeable beyond a strongly present waxy malted wheat beer. – Brittney

Nutmeg defines the olfactory profile of the spices here, along with a touch of floral wheat and barely perceivable perfumed clove. – Mike

M- 4 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 3.5

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Mouth feel:  5

At first it’s light, crisp, and refreshing.  There’s a foamy tingle over the tongue.  But, after a few more sips it becomes dull and uninspired. – Rick

Smooth with middling carbonation, a slight medium body that could be a little thin for some–compared to more robust fall ales–but I found it unexpectedly fuller than I was anticipating considering I’ve drank a couple hundred Blue Moon’s in my day. – Tim

It’s medium bodied as can be, with a citric acid astringency that doesn’t seem to be as downplayed as I would expect of the branding’s other offerings. – Mike

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

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Tasting notes:  5

Actually, not nearly as sweet as I had expected, this ale seems to focus primarily on the dominance of the earthy gourd quality of the pumpkin, which is nicely complimented by the wheat, though doesn’t appear to be as floral as the nose would imply until much later on the tongue. This seems to create a bit of a beer chameleon effect for me though, as it’s hard to peg the shifting palate. Some might call it complex, but to me it’s a bit more clash. – Mike

I’m struck by how different this beer is from a archetypal Blue Moon beer. With bready malts, a blast of caramel and a lot (and by that I mean, too much) allspice in the mix it’s really not what you’d expect when you see an established label pop into the marketplace and take on a micro brew challenge.  And while I appreciate deviating from the norm, I still feel like it’s also missing the floral/citrus notes and natural wheatiness that I want when the label says “Blue Moon”.  However, it is a brew that is generally trying to get your attention and wake your taste buds up and so they get bonus points for that. – Tim

To preface, I really, really wanted to like this one.  Blue Moon is my “grocery store” beer of choice.  Much to my dismay, I feel like they were trying to go for the “earthy pumpkin” end of things and not the “sweet spiced pumpkin pie”.  On one hand a smart move for a beer that is known for a clean crisp flavor and finish, on the other hand, it doesn’t end up well.  The spices are lost and the earthiness of the “vine-ripened” pumpkin is easily mistaken for the malt of the wheat beer. – Brittney

It has a good wheat profile, but that is the most dominant aspect here, leaving no room for any spices to really stand out, except maybe the clove.  It may be a good fall “harvest” beer, but it fails to capture the essence of pumpkin. – Rick

M- 5 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 3

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Finish:  5

I’m left with a small bite and overall lackluster pumpkin flavor.  It does go down smooth, but becomes a little too cloying about halfway through the beer. – Rick

The allspice and clove seem to play in a way that comes across unpleasantly sour to me , more like something has spoiled, than something intentionally brusque on the senses. It does eventually resolve to a more classical dry wheat finish though, which helps a little. – Mike

M- 4 / T- 5 / B- 6 / R- 4.5

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Flavor balance:  4.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

There is no hiding that pumpkin takes precedence over spice here.  It’s even implied in the description on the bottle. – Brittney

Blue Moon gives some good gourd, and I welcome that the pumpkin is distinct enough in the mash to be notable.  But, the allspice dominance pretty much nuked my palate leaving very little room to identify any other players in the game. – Tim

M- 5.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 6.5 / R- 2.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s dry and tartly like an English prostitute. – Mike

It leans on the dry side and shies away from being sweet at all, which is not appealing here. – Rick

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Sadly, this just makes me appreciate the better qualities of a regular Blue Moon a lot more, and comes off as a heavier offering with less appeal than it’s sister brew. – Mike

This is a good inoffensive beer, I’d kill a few off with some food or at a really smoky bar where I don’t care too much about really savoring a brew. – Tim

Only by the fact that there really isn’t anything to hate about it nor anything to like, and you’re probably sitting there with the rest of the six pack. – Brittney

M- 3 / T- 6 / B- 5.5 / R- 1.5

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Overall:  5.08

M- 4.83 / T- 5.83 / B- 5.83 / R- 3.83

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale – The Boston Beer Company

Available only in the Sam Adams Harvest Collection pack, you’re going to have to commit to drinking a few beers to get to the two included of these included. Ironically, this made this one of the most expensive beers we’ve acquired yet. Then again if you’re going to a Halloween or Thanksgiving party, you might be very happy to see that someone has sprung for this assortment, and not the usual cheap ass beer.

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Name:  Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer:  Massachusetts, USA / The Boston Beer Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Amber Ale /  5.7%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Deep roasted two row pale and caramel 60 malts, as well as special B and smoked malts compliment 11 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, along with the usual suspects of pie spices.

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Packaging:

Let’s face it gang.  Sam Adams is well branded and very colonial traditional and this rare pumpkin offering from the legendary Boston brew company is exactly what you’d expect with the traditional blue label offset with the contrasting tones of autumn orange.  – Tim

This definitely fits the standard Sam packaging style, which is tasteful if slightly boring. They’ve nicely altered the color scheme to a deep malty orange and true blue feel, but considering this should be one of the crowning items in their sought after harvest holiday pack, I would have liked to have seen it get a little bit of special treatment ala my favorite Sam one off from the Christmas package, “Old Fezziwig”.  – Mike

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Color:  7

A true amber so dark it’s almost garnet, and a thick whip cream head that didn’t dissipate for a number of minutes hugging the sides for dear life all the way down the glass. – Mike

Pours a clean, ruby amber that looks just like a….well…a Sam Adams.  Capping it off is a pretty enormous 2-finger head that lasts for what feels like an eternity leaving a gorgeous tapestry of lacing in it’s wake. – Tim

M- 6.5 / T- 6.5 / B- 7/ R- 5.5

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Aroma:  6

Bold nutmeg right off the bat hints at a sweet bouquet, then transitions to smoky cloves.  All of that and a touch of citrus-like fruity notes that lead me to believe that this brew is more complex than first meets the eye.  – Rick

Bready malt sweetness with notes of roasted pumpkin and the standard mix of spices, but a touch of smoke lingers just long enough to pique my interest. – Tim

M- 5 / T- 6 / B- 6.5 / R- 7

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Mouth feel:  5

Medium carbonation with light to medium body. It’s creamy without being syrupy.  Not obtrusive but not overly unique either. – Brittney

About as true to the term medium – bodied as you can come. It’s respectably full without trying to push into European territory, and a nice reminder of why Sam Adam’s has been a staple gateway beer to the craft beer world. – Mike

It’s got that high carbonation that I’d expect from a mass produced American beer, too watery and innocuous to be really interesting with a slight burn from the bubbles. – Tim

M- 6 / T- 4 / B- 7 / R- 3

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Tasting notes:  5.5

I like the basic mixture of spices in this brew.  It seems like there is a nice addition of brown sugar hiding under all that nutmeg and cinnamon, but just not enough to overshadow it’s lightness  Ultimately, the super light body is very disappointing. – Rick

There is no denying that this is a pumpkin beer done well.  But it seems like in order to create a really great pumpkin beer you’ve got to be willing to think outside the box.  What we have here is the Starbucks of pumpkin beers. – Brittney

I don’t generally go gaga over a Sam Adams and this one is no great exception.  Generations raised on Bud Light and Miller would probably be bowled over by any beer that didn’t adhere to those low standards and for me Sam is just one-upping a market that is competing at a Kindergarten level.  With that said, there’s some pumpkin in here and too much spice but most interestingly, there seems to be notes of Banana bread tossed into the mix. – Tim

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

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Finish:  5

I really enjoyed how this beer had so much bite up front and how pleasantly it mellowed into a gently sweet confectionery feel.  A bit of nut and spice comes at the very tail, and I could see it nicely complimenting a thanksgiving turkey. – Mike

Leaves at the same level it enters, pleasant and drinkable, one that I would use as a buffer mid season but probably not one that I would seek out to impress. – Brittney

The finish is watery smooth with indications of a bite from the spices.  I find it to be slightly sour as well as smoky at the very end.  There seems to be something missing from this one. – Rick

M- 7.5 / T- 3 / B- 6.5 / R- 4

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Flavor balance:  6

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

The roast on the nose is more pumpkiny than the meat in the body, the spice mix is large but very one note.  So, the brew favors the spice even though the spice is dull…that just speaks of fail in my book. – Tim

A nice amount of both pumpkin and spice.  Not too much, not too little, not too interesting. – Brittney

There is a bit of fruitiness in this one that can be attributed to the amount of pumpkin that was brewed with the ale, or the addition of ginger.  The spices are nice and subtle on this brew making it enjoyable on that level at least. – Rick

I’d say Sam is a particularly noteworthy brew in this category. Not only is there a nice pumpkin to spice ratio, but it doesn’t interfere with the beer leaning too malt or too hops. It’s a true combined effort, and I can definitely applaud that. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 4 / B- 6.5 / R- 6

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

If it wasn’t for the weird bitter finish that kind of sucked what little joy was in my mouth straight out into something that resembled the vacuum of space, this ale would have had a pretty descent balance on the palate, but that finish killed it quick. – Tim

I like the balance here between the sweet nutmeg and the light dryness offered by the underused hops. – Rick

M- 6.5 / T- 4 / B- 6 / R- 6.5

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Smooth and inoffensive, this would be an excellent thanksgiving game day run for the serious beer drinker that doesn’t want to shell out for the whole family. Of course, we found them two to a pack, so you’re going to have to bogart them in a private stash to even have a shot at getting them away from your uncle. – Mike

I’m gonna go with a no here.  And since Sam Adams actually makes the beer hard to acquire (maybe they know something we don’t about the quality) it really isn’t gonna matter anyway. – Tim

While it is definitely smooth and easy to drink with a nice pumpkin flavor, this brew just misses the mark where I want more body and complexity, I’m left with a simple and generic ale. – Rick

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

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Overall:  5.75

M- 6.83 / T- 4.50 / B- 6.78 / R- 5.08

Pumking – Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Hope you all had a great Halloween! Don’t forget to send in your pumpkin pics to greatpumpkinbeerreview@gmail.com for your shot at a free shirt!

Now then, many of you know November first as the beginning of the festival Dios de Los Muertos, but there is another tradition that is less familiar to those of us in the states. In the Gaelic tradition, this time signals a period where everything left in the fields after the harvest is “puka”, or fairy blasted, and thereby considered inedible. Not coincidentally, this is also the one time of year where the faery goblin spirit Pủca actually acts a civil beast, primarily because it comes in to finish off the what is left of the crops in tribute. This may sound vaguely familiar to what occurred on your door step last night…

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Name:  Pumking

Place of Origin / Brewer: New York, USA / Southern Tier

Beer style / ABV%:  Imperial Pumpkin Ale / 8.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Bewitched and brewed with pagan spirit, Pumking is brewed in tribute to Pủca, the benevolent Celtic goblin of fairy folk lore, who is both respected and feared, but notably a trickster of the highest degree. This beastly beer is brewed with 2-row pale malt, caramel malt, puréed pumpkin, and both magnum and sterling hops.

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Packaging:

I’ve always been a really big fan of the multiple textures in the design of Southern Tier’s labels and this one is no exception. Clean and gratifying, with a mischievous looking crowned Jack O’Lantern ( maybe in tribute to the one legendary rider of the Pủca, high King of Ireland Brian Boru?) and flitting bat motif. The addition of the story behind this beer is an exceptionally nice touch. – Mike

With it’s wicked crowned jack o lantern, Pumking heralds the season in true style, while the bottle delivers a plethora of information about the brew within.  Another solid bottle from the folks at Southern Tier. – Tim

A menacingly grinning jack o’ lantern greets you with bats gliding through the sky.  Along the side you are given a lesson in Celtic folklore readying you for this imperial ale “bewitched & brewed with pagan spirit”. – Brittney

The graphic is great on this one, truly standing up to it’s place as the king.  The brewing notes are a nice touch that I haven’t noticed on any other labels before.  – Rick

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Color:  7.5

Orange.  I could say ‘oh, it’s a brilliant golden straw appearance’ but my entire thought process is ‘that’s really orange, maybe pumpkin orange, or the orange in candy corn but it’s definitely orange.’  Also, it’s somewhat cloudy, with very minimal head and little to no lacing. – Brittney

Numismatists rejoice! This looks like an uncirculated wheat penny, slightly dulled copper from age, but still sparkling clear. Wait, what? – Mike

M- 8.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 6

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Aroma:  9

Now we’re talking.  It’s like buttery crumbly crust before the pie is added.  Super sweet brown sugar and nutmeg dominate the nose, and the caramel malts are a nice touch too.  Although, not the most pumpkiny, it’s one of the best smelling pumpkin beers, period. – Rick

In some pumpkin beer reviews you will get the occasional “It smells like pumpkin pie.”  Usually, that’s because of the spices and slight pumpkin aroma.  This one smells like pumpkin pie as well, but this time it’s because of the pumpkin and the crust.  A crust that is beautifully buttery and embraces baked pumpkin perfection with just a touch of whipped cream and caramel drizzle.  – Brittney

This sucker hops right out of the bottle with so much sweet pumpkin, you’d think you’d just been jammed inside one by your half wit husband Peter (anyone? Anyone?). Allspice and cinnamon also make their presence well known, with ginger and nutmeg simmering lightly on the back burner. – Mike

M- 10 / T- 7.5 / B- 9 / R- 9

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Mouth feel:  8

Smooth and creamy, medium-bodied but almost straddling the fence into heavy (but not chewy) territory–with a bouncy carbonation. – Tim

The first sip is like the one you keep trying to chase.  A melange of flavors bombard the tongue in a phosphoric dance that leaves your tongue tingling for more.  It feels watery but the bite from the 8.6% ABV reminds you that this is a serious brew. – Rick

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

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Tasting notes:  9

If they ever fall on hard times (which I seriously doubt will ever happen), Southern Tier could make perfumes, or air fresheners, or kick ass when we get back around to smell-o-vision.  If you’ve ever had any of their other creations you know they pack a serious punch…to your nose… and then to your taste buds.  They have perfected making something full of unique flavor.  Pumking is no different.  Crammed with notes of pumpkin, caramel, malts, butter, cream, and more pumpkin. Never having to use the spice as a crutch to get their point across but using just enough to let you know they haven’t forgotten the recipe.  – Brittney

Sweet, creamy, and absolutely delicious, this is almost an alcoholic pumpkin pie ice cream, that maintains a gratify hop fueled  nutmeg spice snap on the back end, perfectly complimenting the milky pervasion throughout. It’s what I’d expect the perfect pumpkin pie liqueur to taste like, and it’s dangerously smooth. – Mike

Huge vanilla cookie notes–that are liable to send neophyte pumpkin beer drinkers running for cover–pop out ahead of pronounced cinnamon, sweet caramel malts and roast pumpkin flavors.  It’s toasty and liquory with a background of clove, nutmeg and allspice. Tremendously complex, Southern Tier recommends serving at 40-degrees but as it warms up it displays cognac-like elements that are really unique to this beer. – Tim

This seems like the most complex of pumpkin ales, yet simple at the same time.  The heavy handed nutmeg adds a nutty smoky sweetness, while not going overboard.  It’s very light and smooth for an imperial ale. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 7.5 / B- 8.5 / R- 9.5

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Finish:  8

Long and complex, you first get the sweet pumpkin burst, then a bit of the 8.6%, and finally it settles in to a pleasantly spiced bitterness that serves to reset the palate for the next round of sweetness. – Mike

There are so many flavors going on that the finish is almost a relief, but only in so much that the actual relief is that you haven’t actually finished.  The ‘finish’ is bitter, dry and spicy, the perfect counter to the sweet and creamy start. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 6.5 / B- 8 / R- 9

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Flavor balance: 8

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

I have to applaud Southern Tier for putting the pumpkin up front here. It’s nuanced, and bold, and it shows that someone put a lot of effort into getting it right, rather than leaning on bitter hops and spice to jump the autumn beer train with pumpkin as an afterthought. That said, there’s definitely a solid chunk of spice here, that’s subtle only in it’s palatial choosing, and boisterous in presence. – Mike

It’s got a hold on the uniqueness of it’s spice profile.  While the spices stand out, there is still a tang from the pumpkin, which is more than a lot of pumpkin ales can say. – Rick

A positively unusual lean toward pumpkin here, it’s not balanced but bravo for not relying on spice flavor. – Brittney

Huge spice to pumpkin skew here will leave patrons of gourd friendly ales searching for more equilibrium than Pumking is serving. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 6 / B- 8.5 / R- 9.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

The hops are just noticeable under all the nutmeggy goodness and sweet caramel malts which lends to a great balance. – Rick

The caramel malts and bready vanilla cookie thrust move Pumking decidedly into the dessert category (I bet this would rock with some ice cream floating in it). Happily, the high alcohol content beats back an inherent nature in the ale that if not handled correctly could wind up as sickly sweet as a Lifetime movie. – Tim

At first it seems obvious that Pumking favors the sweet tooth, but that’s to shallow an evaluation. It’s really more of a pumpkin spice latte, with creamy elements, and that black coffee bitter on the end, and while it could have been easy to let sweet treats predominate, they’ve shown an exceptional sense of discrimination that keeps you coming back for more.

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

In the past I’ve personally killed a couple of pints of this but with food to break it up it was clearly more manageable.  For just a night of drinking, I fear Pumking would fill me up fast.  A treat to be sure, but like all those plastic pumpkin heads piled to the brim with candy confections, the key to surviving the season is moderation. – Tim

This pumpkin ale is like a breath of fresh air.  It seems to be evenly balanced in all the right places, while still presenting a great unique experience with each sip.  This is definitely the King of pumpkins. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 9

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Overall: 8.25

M- 8.92 / T- 7.08 / B- 8.17 / R- 8.42