Posts tagged ‘pumpkin ale’

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

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

Good Gourd Almighty – Cigar City Brewing

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First of all, we’d sincerely like to grant you our thanks and wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and whatever holidays you might celebrate in the coming months. Rounding out our third year of reviews you’ve made us popular enough that we are buried in beers to cover, and since they’re becoming more and more scare on the shelves, we have opted to cover them in advance for next years season in hopes of bringing you more consistent coverage and getting you a lot more info early on as these brews start to hit the shelves.

Today’s entry is not particularly concerning in that regard as, if you don’t have it by now, you’re probably not going to get it until next year. But we did feel it’s coveted status would be a great entry for today, and we thank the almighty that we got our hands on a bottle. So gather round your friends and family, or maybe just a good meal and a good brew, and dig into one last seasonal review. From us to you, we give our thanks.

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Name: Good Gourd Almighty

Place of Origin / Brewer: Tampa, Florida / Cigar City Brewing

Beer style / ABV%:  Imperial Pumpkin Ale / 8.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Almighty takes Cigar City’s ever popular Good Gourd (an imperial pumpkin ale that includes Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, Zanzibar cloves, and nutmeg) and finishes it out for some time in rum barrels.

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Packaging:

This is a special release barrel aged treatment beer, so the label is a bit derivative of it’s father brew, Good Gourd. It’s got some nice dark wood and autumn hues though, which certainly infer the bolder wood flavors I expect from this glass. – Mike

It’s not a far cry removed from the traditional Good Gourd packaging, but the “almighty’ stands out in a big way to help avoid confusion, settled against a backdrop of fall leaves, that even though CCB is in Tampa and probably never sees any ‘color’ still sets a festive mood. – Tim

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Color: 7

The way this beer sits in the glass demands omniscience. Fully opaque burnt caramel has fringes of an amber glow, with slim to no head. It is awesome and unassuming. – Rick

Cloudy brownish orange, with a perfect circle of thin semi sticky lacing and little to no carbonation. It looks like there is almost a freeze frame of sediment floating in the glass. – Brittney

M – 6.5 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 8.5

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Aroma:  7.5

A heady nose with massive rum notes, the likes of which I haven’t seen since we cracked the Avery Rumpkin back in 2011. Oak and vanilla finish out the bouquet which displays no remaining signs of pumpkin or spice.  It smells intense and I’m not anticipating a little ‘shiver me timbers’ to go with my rum and pumpkin ale. – Tim

Sweet and creamy caramel notes mingle with some intense buttery fruit flavors. This is getting pretty complex already. It has a hot aroma that singes with rum at the nose, rounding out dry and oaken for the finish. – Rick

M – 7.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 6.5 / R- 9

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Mouth feel: 8

Slick and thick, medium bodied with just enough carbonation to keep you interested without an overwhelming presence of it. – Brittney

Some time in the barrel actual seems to have lightened up the body here, moving away from the syrupy origin of Good Gourd, and becoming much more smooth bodied with a light carbonation tingle. – Mike

M – 8 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

Spiced Rum, treacle, dark fruits, and milk chocolate. This tastes a good bit like a Dale Degroff tropical pumpkin cocktail with a few extra dashes of Pimento Dram. It’s caramel coated pumpkin bread – beach side. – Mike

Welcome back pumpkin, what is lost on the nose is prevalent in the body, blending together with vanilla and cinnamon to deliver a drunken pumpkin pie extravaganza. With buttery crust notes and big malt flavors, the rum is held in check (but only barely) until the exhale permeates all my senses with full bodied flavor.  Pass the whip cream. – Tim

For as strong and intense as it smells it’s actually rather smooth in flavor.  You can tell that it’s got a Good Gourd foundation, but you can’t help but focus on the rum barrel aged accent and the alcohol. – Brittney

Based on the aroma alone I expected this to be super hot and over the top. It actually brings out complex flavors that really add to the experience going above and beyond the senses. It’s really accessible while boasting tons of flavor like banana, oak, cinnamon, rum, sugar, butter, all spice, and even bits of clove. – Rick

M – 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 9.5

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Finish: 8.5

The finish is all rum, but it is hardly abrasive. It reminds be heavily of Velvet Falernum. There is a lasting sweetness with a spicy nip, and a bite of citrus / lime. Definitely a Floridian pumpkin beer. A couple of these and I’ll be boarding ships. Forcibly. – Mike

The dry oak finish compliments the mouth feel so well, it removes any implication of being too hot due to a high alcohol content. There’s still a touch of heat on the back end and the rum is quite noticeable. – Rick

M – 9 / T- 8 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 8

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8

The pumpkin and spices in the base beer were already mixed really well, and the fact that they still stand out after the aging is impressive. I would add that the addition of oak and rum flavors accentuate the pumpkin profile and propel this beer into it’s final form. – Rick

The interplay of the spice / malt / pumpkin / wood / and rum here is powerfully complex and very enjoyable. You can spend long minutes over each sip musing on the different flavors that seem to pop out and retract into the recesses of this glass. The only thing that keeps me from declaring it truly divine is how very forward the rum qualities are at times. It’s not an unpleasant flavor, but as the drink goes on, I begin to lose a bit of the pumpkin as a result. – Mike

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

         Sweet / Dry balance: 8.5

Quite balanced in this respect as the syrupy slickness and pumpkin tend to be sweet but the alcohol/barrel aged aspect brings the dry finish. – Brittney

Pronounced toffee like sweetness lend this ale a significant dessert aspect with only dry components coming on the close from the high ABV and the oak. – Tim

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

 

         Multiple Drinkability?  7.5

While I can appreciate treatments on beers and a bit of barrel aging, I probably wouldn’t drink much more than a glass of this. It’s got a very mellow sweetness that is well tempered by tannic acid qualities and the heat of the rum, but the intensity and alcohol makes it quite potent on the senses. – Brittney

It’s too heady and boozy to be sessionable. I’d rather drive up to some mountains, kick off my shoes and sip this sucker in a brandy snifter beside a roaring fire after a long day of snowboarding.  – Tim

M- 9 / T- 7 / B- 4 / R- 10

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Overall: 7.92

M- 8.00 / T- 7.83 / B- 6.92 / R- 8.83

 

Dry Dock Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Dry Dock Brewing

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This unsuspecting brew came to us at the vocal suggestion of one of our blog followers and we’re glad that we listened. Announced just yesterday from The Great American Beer Festival, Dry Dock Brewing took home 5 medals, including two gold for their Wee Heavy and Mild entries. Add in the fact that they took home Brewer of the year in 2009 (and a heap of other accolades you can check out on their website), and you’ve got all the little details that make trying a brew for the first time pretty dang exciting. For our money, this entry held up to their reputation and then some. Our advice? Keep your eyes on these folks. They’re poised to become kings of Colorado’s craft brew scene.

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Name: Dry Dock Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Aurora, Colorado / Dry Dock Brewing

Beer style / ABV%: Imperial Pumpkin Ale / 9.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Dry Dock Imperial Pumpkin Ale is brewerd with pumpkins in the mash and spiced delicately with saigon and indonesian cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mace, and cloves.

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Packaging:

Very cool illustrative label, with a skeletal pirate holding out a pumpkin in Hamlet-esque fashion while a collection of wicked jack-o-lanterns grin manically in the background. Soppy Halloween vibes are plentiful. – Tim

Definitely one of the cooler labels we’ve seen. A spooky dead pirate with a jack-o-lantern makes a nice center piece and flows well with the brewery’s theme. – Rick

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Color: 6.5

The beer pours a glowing copper/orange hue. It’s a little hazy to look at but you can still see the gentle trickle of bubbles as they rise to the slightly soapy looking thin head. – Brittney

Mimicking the outer rind of a pumpkin, this coloration is a ripe orange hue. A slim head quickly fades to nothing and I’m left with a cloudy disconcerting orange color. – Rick

M – 7 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 5

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Aroma: 7.5

Pumpkin and malt punch through, adrift in a sea of spices. Ginger seems to poke out ahead of the others, followed by soapy nutmeg, piquant mace, and a hint of cinnamon. – Mike

Pumpkin and pie crust, with cinnamon, clove ginger and allspice, biscuit malt notes and a heady breath of alcohol. – Tim

M – 7.5 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Mouth feel: 7.5

Medium bodied and avoiding syrupy trappings. It’s actually rather dry. The carbonation breaks up slightly what would, otherwise, be still waters. – Mike

Pretty weighty and slick bringing a medium bodied beer to the heavier end. This is also one of those occasions where you can almost feel aspects of the spice open up in your mouth. – Brittney

M – 8 / T- 7 / B- 7.5 / R- 8

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Tasting notes: 8.5

Wow. This has a huge pumpkin presence. It’s got a fantastic grainy, creamy pumpkin pie body. The spices, though using everything in the cupboard, are totally reigned in and in check. It’s subtle, nuanced, and complete. It’s the opposite of big, in your face, pumpkin beer. It’s pumpkin, then beer, then spice; and it’s supremely balanced and executed. – Mike

Lots of caramel malt sweetness and a fair amount of cinnamon that overpowers the other spices in the brew. But clove, ginger and allspice all manage to peek though in the end. The pumpkin finally comes though on the body but it’s getting beaten into pie territory by the spice blend. That being said, I would rank this high on a level for what an pie spice aggressive Imperial Pumpkin Ale should taste like. – Tim

This plays the traditional pumpkin ale card well, if a little on the intense end. The spices are definitely on the forefront and the buttery malt you can smell in the aroma comes through nicely in the flavor. Being an Imperial, you have to expect to experience a good amount of alcohol but once your palate is acclimated to that it isn’t too offensive or overpowering. – Brittney

Nice pumpkin flavor is backed up by some impressive spicing. Mace and ginger work well together and stand out impressively here to dry and really crisp up the body. – Rick

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

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Finish: 7.5

A lot of the cinnamon sticks with you at the end as far as the flavor of the finish goes, but the thing that really stuck with me is the sweet slick syrupy mouth feel. – Brittney

Like the mouthfeel, the finish is super smooth for a 9% ABV brew, with just a little noticeable heat coming off it. It’s also really clean tasting as well. Mace and ginger are awesome here leaving a nice crisp finish. – Rick

M- 9 / T- 7 / B- 5.5 / R- 7

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Flavor balance: 7.5

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7.5

I’m saying this for the first time. It’s mostly pumpkin forward. The cavalcade of spices in this bottle must have been micro pipetted in. Astonishing balance of sweet malty pumpkin, whip cream and singed pie crust, with a spicy kiss of dryness. – Mike

Maybe a touch too heavy on the spice, but an overall great job for an imperial. Once again, I have to note my pleasure with the balance of ginger and mace on the finish. They do a great job of cooling off this imperial and keeps the sweetness in check. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 6.5

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

Sweet, but not cloying, with some heat from the Imperial ABV on the close. Cinnamon is prevalent but not harsh enough to completely dry this one it. – Tim

Usually higher amounts of alcohol can help balance out a super sweet beer but in this case not so much. Any dryness here is from the spicing. – Brittney

M – 10 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 7.5

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7.5

When I’m looking for a ‘kick back and relax’ pumpkin beer, my go-to brews tend to be Southern Tier’s Pumking and Dogfish’s Punkin. This one could settle tight into the groove with that set as a superior everyday Pumpkin Ale. – Tim

While I’m all for extreme brewing, it’s nice to have an entry just hit the nail on the head without any bells and whistles. You’re not going to get sick halfway through the bottle from a sugar bomb, and you’re still going to feel your tongue afterwards without feeling like you drank cinnamon mouthwash. This is perfect for a meal pairing. It glows in it’s own tempered radiance. At 9%, it still drinks like a session ale, and the pumpkin malt body give it a certain seriousness for the beer snob in us all. Simply put, it’s impressive in it’s humility, valuing balance and detail over loud flavors or obnoxious intensity. It’s real, and it’s really good.

M – 10 / T- 6.5 / B- 5.5 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.50

M – 8.50 / T- 6.92 / B- 6.67 / R- 7.25

Nøgne-Ø Pumpkin Ale – Nøgne-Ø

NOGNEO WEB

Today’s entry is pretty much the trifecta of metal-head excitement. A pumpkin ale from Norway offers all the dramatic promise of epic Norse battles, Halloween, and, naturally, BEER! It’s also a bit of a cultural milestone to be proud of for those of us stateside. Long (and for the most part, rightfully) have we suffered the slurs of our European counterparts of weak beer. But the tides are turning as craft brewer’s are on the rise, and we have the distinction of now having a few European brewers taking notes on what we are brewing as well.

That’s not to take the wind out of the sails of a brewery like Nøgne-Ø however. Head Brewer Kjetil Jikiun would look familiar to anyone preaching the craft beer gospel: the bearded hearty figure that’s half Viking raider, half mad scientist. And we’re certain that his mission is more than sympathetic with our own. Sporting the subtitle of “The Uncompromising Brewery”, Nøgne-Ø is in a battle against a Norwegian market more than 98% dominated by light, filtered, pasteurized lagers. They are major leaders of the Real Ale revolution taking place, and are the largest supplier of bottled conditioned ale in Norway. Fortunately for us, a few bottle find themselves across the Atlantic, and if you’ve ever had their Imperial Stout, you’ll know why we are grateful. So keep an eye on your shelves for anything from this brewery, and in the meantime, let’s get to sizing up this seasonal offering.

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Name:  Nøgne-Ø Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Grimstad, Norway / Nøgne-Ø

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 6.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  This live ale is brewed with dried pumpkin, wheat, oats, rye, and barley malt. It also features English ale yeast as well as Columbus and Summit hops. In our correspondence with Kjetil, he told us that this ale was unspiced, and that his vision was to was to generate the illusion of a spicy beer through his choice of hops, grains, and his brewing process.

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Packaging:

Nøgne-Ø beers all have that very stark minimalist design that Scandinavians have such a fondness for.  The trademark “Zero” allows for some pumpkins to peek through the darkness and hint at the contents within.  But, hands down the best part of the label is the Head Brewer using the side of the bottle to tell you what a pain in the ass it was to make this beer!  So…you better like it. – Tim

Slick and modern branding at its best here. Nøgne-Ø has created an iconic identity for their bottles featuring stark labels and their trademark “slashed O”. This variant features bright orange pumpkins peeking through the logo against a pitch black field, leaving an intrinsic feel of “Halloween at Ikea”. (Yes, I am aware they are Swedish and not Norwegian). Though it may be overtly subtle to some, I appreciate the simplicity and cleanliness of the look. And if you pass it over on the shelf, all the better for me. – Mike

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Color:  8

A limpid pool of burnt sienna – just astonishing clarity. Sparkling smatters of aurulent and sanguine hues bounce around the glass every which way the light pierces, and sumptuous filigree spider webs spin down the glass with every sip. This is truly the prettiest beer I have ever seen and a shining example of style. – Mike

Fairly dark with a medium to full bodied appearance, it sustains a deep magenta and crimson glow throughout. Little to almost no head there’s just a few bubbles floating atop a toasted burnt caramel body. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 7 / B- 8.5 / R- 6.5

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Aroma:  6.5

The floral hops are what hit my nose first, followed closely by an earthy vegetal pumpkin and finished with somewhat caramel malt smoothness with a punctuation of spicy rye and hay. – Brittney

Even though this beer is from Norway, it’s aroma is deceptively classic American ale. A nice bouquet of hops and a sweet malty backbone flesh out this brew. – Rick

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

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Mouth feel:  7.5

Medium bodied and smooth, with a touch of carbonation on the center of the tongue, the ale has a lush and velvety character. – Tim

There is a nice bite here from the rye. The pumpkin smoothes out the body to medium-full, and the carbonation provides a noticeable bit more activity than first glance would suggest. – Brittney

M- 7.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 6.5

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Tasting notes:  7.5

Malty caramel notes join roasted squash and buttery brown sugar body, spicy bitter hops, and lots of bread crust. While this is clearly unspiced, it’s a very unique take on a seasonal ale. It’s crisp, very clean, and sessionable beyond belief. It you’re one of those guys who pooh-poohs pumpkin beer or hates spiced ales, give this one a go. If you don’t like it, then you just don’t like beer. – Mike

The more pumpkin ale I consume, the more I am struck by how few examples serve first and foremost as a well constructed ale.  Lesser pumpkin ales are often the definition of style over substance, manufactured because it’s what the masses expect, or rather accept.  This is the exception.  Bold and malty with dark roast notes and bitters. There are no spices added to the blend and thus nothing for the pumpkin to compete against.  It’s a true Pumpkin ale–sans the flash. – Tim

There is a great deal of bitterness and floral hops, light pumpkin and no spice. Earthy and vegetal with a touch of smooth caramel at the finish. This is a good beer, if slightly on the bitter end of the spectrum. I wish we could get just a touch more of the earthy pumpkin flavor forward. – Brittney

There is a nice natural pumpkin flavor present, but what really elevates this brew for me is the unique mélange of hops in play. Great floral qualities are brought to the forefront by the balance of multiple hops all without overly bittering the brew. – Rick

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

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Finish:  7

There is a huuuuggggeeee bready finish on this otherwise earthy and crisply biting ale. A bit of grassy, spicy hop pungency sticks around in the mouth for, well, pretty much ever. – Mike

Tons of floral hoppiness on the long finish, bitter, but bright with a touch of lemon and more vegetal aspects of the gourd. – Tim

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

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Flavor balance:  7

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

Although there is no spicing, I think the pumpkin is still underplayed. There is a lot going on with the hop and malt combinations, which makes this a great homage to American ales, but somewhat buries the pumpkin aspects. – Rick

There is no traditional pumpkin spice, but the pumpkin is slightly overshadowed by the host of other things going on with this beer. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 6 / B- 6 / R- 3.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7

There is a touch of sweetness in the body, but ultimately this is an ale with a dry and hoppy profile that finishes long and floral. It works for the style but may be off-putting for fans of more dessert-esque pumpkin products. – Tim

This is a nice dry amber ale pushing into that hoppy red territory. Hops and rye bit abound, keeping this primarily dry with touches of caramel sweetness along for the ride. – Brittney

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

         Multiple Drinkability?  8

It’s a nice take on the pumpkin ale, and I’m very impressed with the handling and balance of hops and malt. It’s very impressive and just the right brew for those looking for light pumpkin flavor on the build of great American styled ale. – Rick

You can session this all day. It’s crispy, fairly light, and still screams fall. I imagine this is what pumpkin ale started out as with our forefathers, before it became the spiced libation we are so familiar with today. It’s exceptionally crafted, never cloying, and just generally gorgeous. Will it baffle a lot of folks seeking spiced ales? Yep. But I hope they stick around to appreciate just how well this little slice of America is made, even if you have to go to Norway to discover it. – Mike

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

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Overall:  7.25

M- 7.67 / T- 7.00 / B- 7.50 / R- 6.42

Pepitas Grande (Dunk Your Face Project) – Paradox Beer Co.

Paradox2

This sentence is false. Be cruel to be kind. Deep down, you are really shallow. The beginning of the end. There are a lot of great paradoxes floating around, and we feel the good ones really make you think. By that standard, this offering is a pretty great paradox. The one by which this company gears their projects is particularly inspiring to those of us with a taste for craft brews: Modern brewing processes collide, headlong, into ancient beer. Intrigued? Well read on intrepid reader. As these brewers are want to tell you, “ Beer is Alchemy sprinkled with Paradigm, dashed on the hopes of Artistic Grandeur”.

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Name: Pepitas Grande (Dunk Your Face Project)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Woodland Park, CO / Paradox Beer Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale / 6.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Pepitas Grande is a dark beer brewed with pumpkins, roasted pepitas, Chimayo red chili, and a hint of cocoa. After brewing it is aged in oak red wine barrels.

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Packaging:

Nice and professional looking design. I like the touch of info graphics on the sides to help point out certain characteristics like hop level and ABV. It would be hard to tell that this is a pumpkin beer on the shelf, but then again I believe people who seek this beer out know exactly what they are looking for. – Rick

Nothing about this bottle screams “pumpkin ale”, but none the less, it appeals to the occult philosopher and mystery seeker in me. Can we give points for enigmatically spooky? – Mike

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Color: 8

Rich espresso colored and murky with a good bit of sticky lacing but not much of a head. The stagnant sediment floating could be a bit unnerving to some but we are just going to go with it. – Brittney

Murky with Garnet and Burnt Sienna tones and a brilliant cream head so thick and dense it looks like you could bounce a quarter off it—with a constant dance of carbonation bubbles that would put a Bubsy Berkeley musical to shame. – Tim

M – 8 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Aroma: 8

Sacred Chimayo earth, obsequious tannins, and a bit of chili heat. There is a nice presence of roast pumpkin as well. – Mike

It reminds me of December for some reason. I’m picking up a slightly sweet alcohol element that is balanced with a roasty espresso and complimentary malts. A hint of chili and perhaps toasted seeds help round out the earthy qualities that are apparent here. – Rick

M – 8 / T- 8 / B- 8 / R- 7

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Mouth feel: 7.5

Thick and smooth, with a milkshake richness. This is a full bodied ale, that despite the massive carbonation action is as smooth as a newborn baby.- Tim

There is a gentle tingle from the carbonation, which is slightly intensified by the chili spice. It’s not nearly as thick as I had expected but is on the thick end of medium bodied. – Brittney

M – 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Tasting notes: 8

This isn’t your typical pumpkin ale, and I say that with a very happy lilt applied. This is complexity and grace. The wine barrel adds heavily to its presence and richness, vegetal and earthy notes shine from the competing pumpkin, and the heat is a kiss upon the brow. Both nuanced and epic, this is pumpkin beer done Dios De Los Muertos style. Well deserving of its name. – Mike

Roasted pumpkin and dark fruit notes are enveloped in a brandy-like complexity with the heat of the chilies screaming through on the close. Red wine with notes of oak, and white pepper. I like the idea of a paradoxical beer, it is both a pumpkin beer and it is not a pumpkin beer, It is a chili beer, but it is not a chili beer. It celebrates both the season and the idea of the harvest, yet it turns it expectations on its ear by eliminating all the trappings that would make it a seasonal beer. – Tim

This beer is every bit of what it says it is. It seems that when a bottle has a laundry list of what it is claiming to offer you are always missing one or two key ingredients and most of the time those are the ones that made you pick the beer in the first place. That is not the case for this beer. This beer never claims to taste like pumpkin pie or pie spices. It does however taste of roasted pepitas and Chimayo red chili without completely overshadowing pumpkin and cocoa. – Brittney

I really enjoy this beer, but the pumpkin is very subtle, instead focusing more on the roasted earthy qualities. I love the espresso roasted malts that are finished off with a fine hot chile heat. – Rick

M – 9 / T- 9 / B- 8 / R- 6

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Finish: 8

The finish is subtler than I would expect considering most beers with any sort of spice stick with you. In my opinion it is a welcome reprieve. I love that you can enjoy the intense chili throughout the beer but not have it wreck your pallet for the rest of the night. – Brittney

The finish is long and full of currant flavors and chili heat, the back of my throat tingles in a pleasant manner which makes me long for another sip, but in true paradoxical fashion relief cannot be found in another helping of the ale, only more flavor and more heat. Yet, I continue to drink it. – Tim

M – 7.5 / T- 8 / B- 8 / R- 7.5

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Flavor balance: 8

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

This is not your pumpkin pie party beer. This sucker is a meandering peyote soaked vision quest. You could spend hours finding new details in the elaborate nexus of intermingling flavors. The gourd is the ground in which we plant the seeds of a damn fine beer. – Mike

First we have to consider that we are comparing pumpkin seeds and chili, not pie spices. The only way that they can balance and they do balance is the roast of the seeds and the heat of the chili. – Brittney

M – 10 / T- 8 / B- 8 / R- 7

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

It has a nice sweetness to it that doesn’t feel like it’s forced by any abundance of traditional spicing. I also really enjoy the heat and spice from the addition of chile on the finish to really round out this brew. – Rick

If I were drinking this in a parched desert landscape surrounded by a thousand cacti, this still wouldn’t be dry. But, it would still be brilliant. – Tim

M – 8 / T- 7 / B- 7.5 / R- 6.5

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7.5

Here is your paradox. How does one drink an increasingly hot chili beer as a session ale? (You don’t. There are only 1100 bottles.) – Mike

This is a good oak barreled beer that takes a unique stance on the pumpkin paradigm. Well worth multiple trips into the spicy territory of Pepitas Grande. – Rick

M – 7.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 8.5 / R- 8

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Overall: 7.92

M – 8.25 / T- 8.25 / B- 7.67 / R- 7.08

Jack-O Traveler Seasonal Shandy – The Traveler Brewing Co.

Travlers Shandy

When we set out earlier this year seeking out beers to review, we definitely started looking into some of the darker corners of the cellar. Sure, there are certainly a few major release pumpkin ales that have eluded our grasp as of yet, but two years running of tracking down all the familiar faces has allowed us a certain freedom to delve into the unique, elusive, and creative minds. Now, don’t get us wrong, we’ve got nothing against a good old fashioned pumpkin ale, but whether it works or not, there’s always something fun about trying something a little different. This one is definitely in the “you’ve got to at least try it once” category. ::Cue mustache twirl::

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Name: Jack-O Traveler Seasonal Shandy

Place of Origin / Brewer: Burlington, Vermont / The Traveler Beer Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Pumpkin Shandy

Specialty Prep / Individuality: This beer holds the distinction of being the first Pumpkin Shandy. It is brewed with 2-Row Malted Barley, malted wheat, and real pumpkin, and features Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops and a hint of spice. It’s also worth noting that while it does take it’s inspiration from the lemon soda & lager cocktails of Europe, the flavor here is 100% beer.

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Packaging:

I like this label. It’s playful and they’ve incorporated a fun moustachio into the artwork. Everybody loves a mustache. – Rick

A vine mustachioed jack-o-lantern. How hipster. – Tim

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Color: 7

This shandy is the color of honey or perhaps a lemon iced tea. Thin lacing clings just around the edge with an ever so slight amount of bubbles making their way to the top. It is the picture of refreshment. – Brittney

Deep Mustard Yellow leaning just slightly into a crusty orange / burnt umber. I’m going to guess this alludes to the lemon shandy aspect. Darker than I would have suspected. – Mike

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

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Aroma: 6

I wasn’t expecting such a full bodied aroma from this shandy. There are some earthy elements which reveal a muskiness that isn’t unpleasant and helps pronounce the pumpkin. – Rick

The aroma of lemon is always intense to me. With that being said, I smell a great deal of lemon and a good amount of pumpkin followed by just a bit of cinnamon. – Brittney

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

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Mouth feel: 7

On the lighter end of medium bodied which, based on the fact that they are touting this as a shandy, is much fuller than I would have anticipated. The carbonation is mild and the ale has a soft and easy texture that would make putting more than a few of these back a veritable breeze. – Tim

Crisp, and light, with just a bit of fizz. This is easy drinking, hot weather pumpkin beer here folks. – Mike

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

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Tasting notes: 7

A slight touch of acidity rides a heap of spices and a good dose of malty, well… goodness. There is dominant sweetness that lands between pie and powdered lemonade, without delving too much into either, and a quality of southern tea that makes it a likely accompaniment for a round of golf on Halloween. – Mike

The overriding flavor profile is cinnamon and allspice, with subtle notes of lemon trailing on the finish. Considering the spice on the nose and at the forefront of the body, it’s a real wonder that this isn’t more aggressive. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this by any stretch of the imagination a traditional shandy, but the brewers have managed to impart that light sweetness within the confines of a pumpkin ale with absolute success. – Tim

We’ve tasted a lot of beers that tout fresh and local. And we all know what “natural flavors” really means these days. But I think it’s probably for the best if we all give this one a chance to be what it is. This is like the difference between buying your pumpkin pie at the store and baking one yourself from scratch. This “pie” is the pie from the store, and for what it is, it’s pretty damn good. – Brittney

I am quite surprised, once again, by this shandy. I never suspected that pumpkin flavor with lemon would make such a great combo. The spicing is gentle enough to let the natural sweetness of the pumpkin flavors shine, and each sip is just as good as the last. – Rick

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

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Finish: 6.5

Smooth and lemony on the end pronounced by a hint of zest and maybe a bit of cinnamon. A nice pumpkin gourdiness really floods the senses here and compliments the brew well. – Rick

This is where I get my dose of lemon. Nutmeg lingers and gives the quality of a mulled cider, with fruity pumpkin juice gleaning on the swallow. In fact, I think I might have had this once in a certain wizard themed section of a certain local theme park. – Mike

M- 5.5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Flavor balance: 6.5

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 6

What little pumpkin there is shows itself only on the bouquet, the spice while prominent is never overbearing, which in and of itself is a major compliment considering the dominant cinnamon profile on display. – Tim

The lemon really helps sweeten without having to rely on an over use of pumpkin spice. Actually the spicing seems to be pretty fair and light on this one. – Rick

M- 4.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 8

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 6.5

You get sweetness from pumpkin and spice and a crisp dryness from the lemon creating a pretty decent balance to me. – Brittney

A good shandy should be sweet, but not soft drink-esque. This ale toes the line in that regard, with finessed aplomb. It has just enough sugar in it to make me want to pound down a few with my holiday fish and chips, but not so much that it’s going to leave me bloated and sorry. – Tim

M- 4 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7

It’s light and easy going down, but there is an inherent sugar rush that just doesn’t gel with me. That said, it surpassed my expectations as a novelty, and is definitely interesting as a fringe style. A few tweaks could make this a winner down the line. – Mike

I was really impressed with this new twist on the pumpkin beer, and the style just begs to be drunk in session. It’s really well balanced and even more pumpkin-like than some of the ales that we’ve had. – Rick

M- 5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 10

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Overall: 6.67

M- 5.67 / T- 6.33 / B- 7.33 / R- 7.33