Posts tagged ‘Seasonal’

Gourds of Thunder Festive Ale – Cigar City Brew Pub (Tim Ogden)

Gourds of Thunder WEB

Today’s offering comes from a, not so secret anymore, hot spot on any tour of Florida’s many blossoming and popular breweries. Nestled just a short way up the road from the old cigar factories of Ybor City(and closer still to their big brother), we find our destination: The Cigar City Brew Pub. Featuring a menu that stresses local farm to table offerings heavily influenced by Tampa’s Cuban and Italian populations, and of course, it’s own house brewed beer specialties (along with featuring many from Cigar City, and the new Cigar City Cider & Meadery), it’s pretty much a must stop lunch destination. House Brew Master Tim Ogden is no slouch either. Those familiar with Cigar City’s much sought after offerings will be more than familiar with two of their more popular offerings that he developed: “Tocobaga Red Ale” and the notorious Skate Park of Tampa Collaboration “Moat Water” (a 100 rated sweet stout brewed with actual moat water from the skate park and aged on skate decks). Suffice it to say, the man has the credentials to deliver (along with a grand champion award from the 2012 National Beer Tasting Championships). So, what we’re trying to say is, you should probably stop by if you’re in town.

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Name:  Gourds of Thunder Festive Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Tampa, Florida / Cigar City Brew Pub (Tim Ogden)

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Black Ale / 6.3%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Gourds of Thunders stays true to the Cigar City Brew Pub Farm to Table mission, and features heirloom local organic calabaza pumpkins and butternut squash, along with chocolate rye, dark chocolate, coriander, allspice, and other spices. It is fermented with Tim’s go to house Belgian yeast “Forbidden Fruit”.

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Packaging:

I like the simplicity of this label. Boom, it’s in your face with the brewer’s logo and the beer’s name jumping right off the bottle to greet you. – Rick

This is a pretty basic label as the ale is not brewed for mass release.  A brewpub exclusive, it’s only available on tap or in bottles sold in the pub itself.  Intended to be paired with the gastro-pub fare served in their flagship location, the bottle features the standard Cigar City logo with a little side note giving the chef  and brew master a little love. – Tim

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Color:  9

This beer pours a super dark espresso color with a small, smooth, creamy head. It’s picturesque and iconically represents how a dark beer should appear. – Brittney

Anyone familiar with Cigar City’s Marshall Zhukov Imperial Stout knows this color well. I took the Led flash on my phone and held it directly on the glass. Nothing. It’s midnight, in a cave, in the furthest reaches of space black. The only hint of color is the head, a deep brown of roasted almond skin. – Mike

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

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Aroma:  8.5

The nose is chocolate and vanilla, coffee and breakfast pastries; this serves a dual purpose, making me both equally hungry and thirsty. – Tim

The aroma that I’m getting here is roasted malt, espresso, dark chocolate and pumpkin. There is a smell of spices that I can’t really place, but not your usual pumpkin pie spices, there is something different going on here. – Brittney

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

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Mouth feel:  8

Super smooth, yet it still retains a full body with a creaminess that helps it glide right over the tongue. I am actually both impressed and surprised by the smoothness. – Rick

Heavy cream thickness, like liquid silk. If you ran your motor oil for 50,000 miles and then filtered it back to it’s original viscosity, you’d have something like this. It’s about as full bodied as they come. – Mike

M- 9 / T- 8 / B- 7.5 / R- 8

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Tasting notes:  9

There is a hefty dominance of chocolate and spice on the forefront here. Like, 98% cacao dark chocolate on the nasal retro hale after your first sip. I like the interplay of the spicing, and would be curious to see the Tim’s list of secret additions. It plays somewhere between thanksgiving dinner and exotic Indian cuisine flavors. It’s decadent, and as your mouth adjusts, butternut squash and floral yeasty coriander notes battle their way through the huge bitter roast Clash of the Titans style. – Mike

For some reason, brewpub exclusives tend to be the domain of mad scientist potions, and this ale is no exception.  It has to have one of the craziest spice profiles of anything I have had in a very long time.  It reminds me primarily of my mother’s homemade Thanksgiving stuffing, with significant notes of celery, cumin, rye seed, fenugreek, an d even a little iron (courtesy of chicken liver in the stuffing – and I don’t know what in the Ale!).  Masses of dark chocolate notes and dark roasted malt accentuate the caramelized pumpkin and squash.  It’s a meal in a glass. – Tim

When you first taste a beer in the environment that it is brewed in, magic happens. And then you immediately buy three bottles of it.  I’m a firm believer in so much more than our taste buds creating how something tastes.  Both taste experiences were top notch; The beer at the brew pub seemed to be a little sweeter and less earthy. The bottle pour is more vegetal and bitter which is welcome in a world of sugary pumpkin pie in a bottle beer.  Fresh tomatoes on a vine, espresso crusted anything, and bitter, bitter dark chocolate. – Brittney

Full bodied with all the right aspects of an imperial stout, I’m loving the dark chocolate and espresso backbone. There is something fruity also that seems to be black cherry, and at first I thought there was some banana, but that quickly subsided. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 9 / B- 8 / R- 10

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Finish:  8

This beer is in your face, big time. There is a solid 10 seconds of dark chocolate finish, and then a nice clean vanilla yogurt aftertaste that leaves the mouth dry. – Mike

Finish is smooth and dry with the chocolate presence being strongest here. There is a slight bitterness at the end, but just barely noticeable.  It may also have a hint of vanilla bean lurking around here. – Rick

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

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Flavor balance:  8

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7.5

The gourd is all roasty and dense; the spice profile is insane with a level of complexity that I don’t think I’ve yet experienced in pumpkin ale. I feel like there is a laundry list of ingredients in this ale (one I’d like to see), but nothing overpowers anything else—although you can see it trying. – Tim

I would have to say that even with so many other factors of flavor here, the pumpkin and spice give each other enough room to display themselves without competing with one another. – Brittney

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

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

The great finish here really helps balance the sweetness by drying it up. At first it seems as dry as freshly ground espresso. As parching as crushed roasted cacao beans. It takes some time, but the sweetness eventually shines through. – Rick

The ABV is on the low end, and thus the ale carries sweetness in the body and bitter notes in the finish, which trails on for quite a while. – Tim

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

         Multiple Drinkability?  8.5

You try not to remember that multiple servings are sometimes not an option when it comes to Cigar City specialties and just thoroughly enjoy what you can get your hands on. – Brittney

If this is what you get when the gods are angry, then I am calling Thor out as the pretty boy dandy he is. It’s punishing to the senses. It will fatigue your tongue. And you will keep coming back because, let’s be real, you like it rough. Thank you sir may I have another? – Mike

M- 10 / T- 7.5 / B- 6 / R- 10

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Overall:  8.42

M- 9.08 / T- 8.16 / B- 7.75 / R- 8.58

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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

Smoked Pumpkin Cider – Tieton Cider Works

smoked pumpkin cider copy

Today’s offering is nothing if not unique. It’s also a bit divisive across palates as well. Still,  for those with adventurous taste (and more than a little bit of a soft spot for bacon, and all things smoked), it’s hard to pass on this creative offering from Washington’s own Tieton Cider Works. And when you consider the third generation Yakima Valley / Washington State University Horticulturist credentials that come along with brewer’s Craig and Sharon Campbell share, it’s hard to suggest that they haven’t thought their creations thoroughly through.

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Name:  Smoked Pumpkin Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: Tieton, Washington / Tieton Cider Works

Beer style / ABV%:  Smoked Cider / 6.9%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Made with organically grown dessert apples and American, English, and French cider varieties from Harmony Orchards, as well as  pumpkins from just up the road. The cider is then smoked over apple wood to add a unique quality of smoke and savory flavors. It is also naturally gluten-free.

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Packaging:

If Panera Bread or Whole Foods branded a cider, this is what it would look like.  As much as I’m not really of fan of that particular aesthetic, it’s a look that works.  I will say that I do enjoy the conversational description and food pairing suggestions.  – Brittney

Very classic in design. It isn’t the most exciting label, but it does the trick and right away I know this is a smoked pumpkin cider. – Rick

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Color:  6

Cloudy orange with darker rust hues as you look down the glass. It reminds me very much of a mimosa. So I think it’s pretty safe to say this is legit unfiltered pumpkin juice and apple cider, not from concentrate. – Mike

As it should, this looks like a glass full of fresh pressed cider in all of its unfiltered glory.  It is golden yellow-orange in color and pretty opaque and thick looking. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 3.5

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Aroma:  5

A sour blast of apple cider vinegar is my first thought. Carrots, blended pumpkin, and squash fill out the bouquet which is quite pleasant. There is just a slight hint of a smoky earth note on the nose. – Rick

I’m greeted with the surprisingly pungent aroma of smoke and tart fresh apples, however there is a significant note of pure alcohol that unfortunately reminds me of a bottle of isopropyl. – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 2

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Mouth feel:  6

Creamy and nicely medium bodied. There is a good weight of fruit juice, but no syrupy bog to close your throat thanks to the acidic snap. – Mike

This is thick for cider as a beer style but not necessarily for apple cider, it may be the inclusion of pumpkin or just the way Tieton brews. I would love to be able to taste one of Tieton’s more classic options in order to compare how the inclusion of pumpkin has changed the body, if at all. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 6 / B- 5 / R- 4

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Tasting notes:  7

Porcine and spicy sweet. It kind of reminds me of eating all of my breakfast at once… Or Barbeque Pumpkin Pie. This one is in a category all of it’s own and it makes me crave country fixin’s in the Smoky Mountains. This is a nice treat for a nippy, post mealtime, dusk walk with a nice pipe of the legal variety. – Mike

This is a fantastically interesting beverage, it’s far removed from what I consider to be a hard cider, and more like a true fermented rustic apple cider.  The smoke from the apple wood, the tangy note from the tannins, and vegetal elements from the pumpkin blend in a way that I would expect if I picked this up in some Western Kentucky mountain town.  We talk a lot about “artisanal” products, but rarely do we discover one that truly feels hand made. – Tim

The combination of the pumpkin and apples isn’t really working for me.  The flavors are competing too intensely for either to become the dominant flavor. I will say the smoke isn’t entirely overwhelming but firmly present, which is difficult to accomplish, and admirable. Most options that tout themselves as smoked have very little room for any other flavors. – Brittney

It’s very juice like with a nice medium body and was sweeter than expected based on the vegetal qualities of the aroma. Beets, carrots, and apples round out the flavor with a body of pumpkin. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 5.5 / R- 5.5

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Finish:  6

It finishes pretty clean, with a few more alcohol trails than I would like.  A little pucker and a little smoke carries it for a few wispy seconds, then cleans your palate off like a fine wine.  It’s a very good finish for a cider, if they could keep the ABV in check a little bit more, I think that alcohol taste would disappear right into the background. – Tim

Surprisingly subtle. The success here is the simplicity. Smoke up front, pumpkin in the middle, and a crisp apple bite on the end. It’s a great contrast to an otherwise silky drink. – Mike

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

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Flavor balance:  7

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

The smoke is fairly traceable just on the finish and the nose, but I feel it could benefit from a little more. The pumpkin flavor is actually quite delicious once you get used to the vegetal nature of the flavor profile though. – Rick

From a cider standpoint, this bad boy is mostly apple.  But the pumpkin is in there and the smoke is deftly applied, allowing for the flavor components to dance with each other like witches around a solstice bonfire. – Tim

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7

A nice sweet body is complimented well by a dry finish. Not too clingy and nor does it parch my mouth. – Rick

The sweetness on the body is wonderfully curtailed on the finish, where the dryness cleans the palate in the same manner as a great wine.  I really couldn’t ask for a more skilled blend. – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 9 / B- 5 / R- 6

         Multiple Drinkability?  7

I love the idea. It’s thinking outside of the box that is keeping craft beer alive and interesting. It’s a glass of apple cider next to the bonfire after Thanksgiving dinner, but all at once is a little overwhelming for me. – Brittney

This is a remarkable and idiosyncratic concoction that just begs the mentality “You’ve got to try this”. It appeals to so many niches and breaks so many rules. It’s smoked, but not dominantly so; definitively pumpkin – sans spice; and very much a cider, but with international sensibilities. It’s damn good, and the craft stands up nicely to it’s own novelty. I’d happily have a few of these, if I didn’t feel I was denying others of the experience. – Mike

M- 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 5 / R- 6

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Overall:  6.16

M- 8.00 / T- 7.08 / B- 5.50 / R- 4.33

 

Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka – Beam, Inc.

pinnacle vodka

Those of you familiar with Pinnacle’s branding will already know they branch out into some pretty wild flavors. While not a huge fan of vodka myself, I have definitely been lured by my own curiosity to try some of their more unusual flavors (I have a weak spot for Swedish Fish and Cotton Candy, both of which play into their flavor spectrum).

One of their newer releases, Pumpkin pie has only been on the market for about a year so far, so for those of you who like pumpkin in all of their alcohol, we delved into the bottle to see how their transition over to their new ownership, Beam, Inc., is going.

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Name: Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka

Place of Origin / Distiller:  France / Beam, Inc.

ABV: 35%

Specialty Prep/ Individuality:

Pinnacle Vodka has the distinction of being the fastest growing spirits brand for the past three years running. Like all of their spirits, this seasonal release is distilled from French Wheat and features imitation flavoring. A 750 mL bottle retails for approximately $12.99.

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 The first thing that strikes you after opening the bottle is not so much pumpkin, but an overwhelming sense of butter cream frosting. It is accompanied by a bit of nuttiness, and warm cinnamon sugar toast, (the latter of which is probably a quality imparted by its wheated origins).

To get a full spectrum of the vodka, we made four different drinks with it. The first neat, the second, a pumpkin martini, third, a twist on the classic screwdriver, and the fourth, a little concoction we put together and like to call “Pumpkin Butter”.

Despite initial reservations, Pinnacle performed very well as a neat / rocks drink. The butter cream aspect was still prevalent, but settles more into a creamy pumpkin icing, with pronounced powdered sugar / bubble gum notes, some light spice, and a nice bit of bready pie crust. The addition of an ice chunk makes it exceptionally smooth, and relieves even the slightest hint of alcohol burn. It may not hold the highfalutin attitude of other brands, but it certainly yields a particularly easy sipping drink.

The second recommendation was a pumpkin pie martini, and while it didn’t perform quite as well here, the addition of a spritz of dry vermouth definitely brings out the wheat body of the spirit for the drinker who actually likes to taste the vodka. The addition of a pie spiced rim did a lot for bringing more of a traditional pumpkin pie quality to the drink though, as well as some needed balance to the pure sweetness of the flavoring.

In the screwdriver style cocktail the pumpkin qualities, frankly, tend to get pretty well lost. Instead, the primary difference here seems to be the huge whipped cream note, making the cocktail more Dreamsicle than pie. All in all, it vanishes easily and is inoffensive, but doesn’t stand up enough to warrant using the flavor over any other vodkas.

My favorite creation of the night (admittedly, likely because I built it to my own taste) was my “Pumpkin Butter” cocktail. (Made from 2 oz of the vodka, ½ oz of cacao infused brandy, ½ oz of hazelnut liqueur, a bar spoon of maple syrup and a splash of cream). The combination seems to help push the pumpkin pie idea to the forefront, and provides a nice mix of creamy, wheat, and nuttiness landing the drink firmly between a White Russian and a pumpkin cream cheese bagel. The Dude abides.

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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

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

Almanac

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

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Name:  Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Table Series)

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

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

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

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Packaging:

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

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

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

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

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Color:  8

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

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

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

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Aroma:  8.5

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

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

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

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Mouth feel:  8.5

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

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

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

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Tasting notes:  9

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

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

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

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

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

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Finish:  8.5

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

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

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

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Flavor balance:  8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

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

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

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

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

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

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

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

         Multiple Drinkability?  9

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

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

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

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Overall:  8.50

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

Gourdgeous (Local Fields Series) – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery

Gourdgeous

Located in an old Norton Air Force Base Building in Redlands, California just across the street from the Municipal Airport, Hangar 24 is certainly appropriately named. Further, they aren’t just messing around with their Local Fields series beers. When they tell you the pumpkins are locally sourced, they’re referring to the fact that they are grown within eyesight of the brewery. (The Local Fields series also features an array of fun and exotic local items such as wine grapes, dates, blood oranges, spruce, and bing cherries). But hey, we’re here to talk about pumpkin beer. So without further ado…

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Name: Gourdgeous (Local Fields Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Redlands, CA / Hangar 24 Craft Brewery

Beer style / ABV%:  Strong Pumpkin Porter / 8.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Gourdgeous uses 1,000 lbs of pumpkins grown at Larry Jacinto Farms just a half mile from the brewery,  hand collected, cut, and seeded by local volunteers, and then roasted in giant ovens compliments of local catering company Q-Works BBQ. It’s then turned into a rich strong porter where molasses and spices join the mix.

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Packaging:

A rustic old country style label promises of farm fresh craft beer brewed from pumpkins grown only a half-mile from the brewery.  I always appreciate a label that takes the time to inform the consumer – this is even more important in the crowded pumpkin beer field.  Take note brewers. – Tim

Nicely done label, simply descriptive and vintage looking.  Staying true to the brewery theme of aviation, you could easily swap the gourd on this label for an airplane flying over the locally grown pumpkin patch. – Brittney

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Color:  6

Put the scarlet letter on this hussy. Garnet and cola pervade this brew, barley touching on brown except in the shadows. Very nice clarity. – Mike

It’s nice and dark upon first glance, but when I really got in there to check it out, I found myself peering into a very soda like concoction. I like everything about this beer except when I hold it to the light I’m misled by the slight glow of molasses color that sways the illusion of root beer. The bone dry head, if not denser than a root beer, doesn’t help this misconception either. – Rick

M – 7 / T- 4 / B- 6.5 / R- 6

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Aroma: 8 

The nose is loaded with rich caramel and pumpkin spices that with the malt create an overall smooth sense, but brown sugar and molasses are also both very prevalent bringing sweetness to the forefront of your expectations. – Brittney

The base here is a nice porter up front. My nose is picking up decent amounts of sweet vanilla bean with a decadent mixture of dry dark chocolate for a fine finish. My initial reaction is great porter bouquet, but I’m missing the pumpkin element. – Rick

M – 8 / T- 9 / B- 7.5 / R- 7

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Mouth feel:  7.5

The body here would be deceiving here based on looks alone. It’s quite full, envelopes the tongue in a decadent wash, and has only the foggiest notion of it’s upward ABV. Quite a bit heavier than a brown, but still evading the boggy trappings of an imperial stout, style wise, I’ve got to call this flawless. Bravo. – Mike

Full end of medium bodied without being syrupy or carbonated enough to notice. The noted ingredients and character of this beer could have given a little more richness and room to shine on a heavier more still platform. – Brittney

M – 10 / T- 8.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

An unexpected burst of sweetness joins chocolate roast, creamy pumpkin, and a good bit of spice (but not overwhelmingly so). It’s like finishing a Cool Whip heaped slice of pie with a mug of hot cocoa, and it takes me back to my childhood. This could be a lovely dessert beer, or just straight up dessert, and, admirably, it leaves the mouth with just a smidge of lingering sugar and spice. Perfect piquant Harmony. – Mike

 I have to say that although it’s not traditional, I love it when a pumpkin beer can include dark chocolate notes well, and this one does.  Although it’s an overall sweet option with lots of rich molasses and brown sugar, it does have a decent (I wouldn’t say strong) presence of porter roast as well as a good notion of tasting actual pumpkin. – Brittney

Did someone say decadent? This is a top notch porter, delivering on every single promise the aroma has to offer, it’s thick and chewy which stands in direct contrast to the color of the ale. Masses of burnt caramel and molasses, roasted pumpkin and baking spices are mixed with earthy sage and rosemary notes.  It’s a full-on assault making this craft beer more of a meal than a beverage. – Tim

This is a perfect porter style with bold in your face flavoring. Sweet nutmeg, vanilla, dark chocolate and molasses all commingle well offering a grand base for the roasted caramel and molasses flavors to solidify the pumpkin porter. A very tasty brew indeed. – Rick

M – 9 / T- 9.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8.5

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Finish: 8.5

Long and sweet, boozy and chocolaty, I can tell the ABV in this beer is on the higher end of the scale, but even with that heady afterthought, nothing could keep me from a second glass. – Tim

This one starts off sweet, but the finish really holds it all together with that dry dark chocolate. It ends up being really smooth with just a slight burn from the 8.5% ABV almost masking it’s strength. – Rick

M – 9.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 9

The spicing here is masterful. Yes, it is quite spiced, but as easily as this could be a sugar bomb, it is firmly wrestled into submission, and resolves exquisitely. It’s rare to find the beer that doesn’t over do something, AND doesn’t shy away from being a spiced beer. This one hits it out of the park. – Mike

I tend to like my pumpkin pie in a bottle to favor the ale side a bit more, but this is a nearly perfect blend of roasted gourd and all the classic spices with a shot of booze to top it all off.  It’s more like bourbon pumpkin pie—if that were a real thing.  In fact, can we make that a real thing? – Tim

M – 9.5 / T- 10 / B- 8 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 8

Just a tad on the sweet syrupy side, but it’s well masked by the hops and dark chocolate finish. – Rick

The only dryness here comes a few minutes later on the finish due to the 8.5% ABV, otherwise this is decadence in all is abject glory. – Tim

M – 9 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

         Multiple Drinkability? 8

Between the sweetness, alcohol, and malt I would probably stick one or two; but I would enjoy them whole-heartedly. – Brittney

This is surprisingly approachable for a fuller bodied, boldly flavored beer. I’m left with neither regret, nor bellyache, and it eludes the mentality of some of the heavier “great taste, so damn filling you’ll never finish the bottle” ales floating around. Do you need more than one bottle provides? I’ll let you be the judge, but for me, it’s pretty darn tempting. Sadly, I only have one. – Mike

M – 7.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.83

M – 8.67 / T- 8.08 / B- 7.00 / R- 7.25

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