Posts tagged ‘spicy’

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


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”.


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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Overall: 7.92

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

Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale – Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Co.

So you made it to November, through Halloween, and you thought you were in the clear on pumpkin beer, eh? Not so, my friends, not so. You may have noticed a lot of our past brews suggested pairings of poultry, and in keeping with that fashion, we’ll be running down 13 more beers leading up to Thanksgiving. After that, you’re on your own for winter ales (at least until we get a unshakeable urge sometime next season). First up on our ghastly to feastly transitionary list:


Name:  Frog’s Hallow Double Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Ohio, USA / Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Double Pumpkin Ale / 8.4%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Hoppin’ Frog is brewed with pumpkin, and pleasantly lets us know just what to expect spice wise (specifically cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and clove). The double ale approach is also a nice aspect, but the brewer recommendation suggests cellaring no more than 180 days. Among the ususal pairing suggestions of Pumpkin Pie and Poultry, there’s also Camembert and English Cheddar cheese in the mix.



It’s kind of a cheesy cut and paste graphic design debacle that’s somehow endearing in it’s fun and silly nature. – Rick

This label sorta looks like graffiti gone wrong, like someone took a snap of a frog stencil on a street corner and then used some amateurish Photoshop techniques to add fonts with a crazy white halo effect on everything.  I fear that this label is so bad, I’d pass on this in the store, just because it looks cheap. – Tim


Color:  6.5

Autumn leaves and pumpkin are not a hard sell here. Dusky orange and beautiful, like the last traces of light on a horizon. – Mike

It’s a deep orange in color with an appearance like liquid caramel.  There is no head at all despite a vigorous pour, and even less lacing.  The unfiltered cloudiness didn’t bode well with the coloration on this particular ale.  It just seemed to land flat right at the beginning. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 6 / B- 6.5 / R- 4.5


Aroma: 7.5

A large amount of pumpkin in the aroma of this one, a sweet sugar pumpkin but not a ton of spice.  It smells like a refreshing pumpkin ale, but not pumpkin spice ale. – Brittney

This one is unique in that I smell banana right away, and it’s the most dominant part of this simple bouquet.  There’s also a touch of cinnamon just for measure and probably to hint at pumpkin. – Rick

Color me impressed (or dusky orange). Fruity sweet pumpkin, and molasses, with a strong, but not remotely sharp spiciness to it.  I can definitively pick out ginger, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and still find the pumpkin dominates. Really nice job here. – Mike

An aggressive, almost perfume quality, to the nose.  Cinnamon is the overriding spice with just a suggestion of fresh cut ginger root.  It was disconcerting at first and it caused me to take several minutes to contemplate it.  Interestingly, as I waited it out and gave it a little swirl in the glass for a pick me up the pumpkin released its scent and the perfume notes began to settle into a more balanced pumpkin pie flavor.  At this point the beer actually began to smell pretty good. – Tim

M- 9.5 / T- 4 / B- 8 / R- 7.5


Mouth feel:  7

It’s light and refreshing, nicely complementing the overall sweetness of this brew. Normally, I might find fault with that, but given the expansiveness of flavor, I think if this was any more viscous, it would be a taxing drink, and this keeps it pleasant and easy going. – Mike

Now this is more like it.  Intense flavor rushes the tongue with a tingling sensation.  The medium body is slightly accentuated by the light spicing to great effect. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 7.5


Tasting notes:  6.5

Sweet–on the verge of cloying.  So heavy on the cinnamon it reminds me of when we used to soak toothpicks in cinnamon oil and chew on them in middle school.  What’s even more bizarre, this beer has distinct notes of bubblegum in the body.  In fact, the more I drink this beer the more it tastes like I’ve just opened up an entire pack of Big Red chewing gum.  Later on, the pumpkin starts to come through and touches of bread crust and even black pepper pop up. But to its detriment, the spice level is just so outrageously high that it overtakes any subtleties that this beer has to offer. – Tim

I think this one has the most pumpkin I’ve tasted yet.  It’s nice; the spice doesn’t really present itself until the end in which case you start to get a little more of that classic pumpkin pie flavor. – Brittney

This is like opening a jar of pumpkin, dashing a bit of spice over the top, and whipping out your fork and some cool whip. If you’re the type that says, “I never get pumpkin from pumpkin beer” the frog has answered your prayers. It’s liquid dessert, and it’s freaking fantastic. I can even pull a hit of crust out. If it wasn’t so clear, I’d think grandma just dropped a pie in the blender. – Mike

This is definitely in the category of dessert beer due to it’s notes of caramel and a strange banana like flavor that was unexpected to say the least.  On the body side, it has a harsh liqueur-like sting that certainly overpowers the flavor dynamic. It’s different in a good way, but a little off putting by the range of sweetness and bite. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 4 / B- 8 / R- 5


Finish:  6.5

This brew stands out from the crowd with a diabolical sting from the ABV, and a nasty bite on the finish thanks to it’s spices. – Rick

This actually finishes surprisingly dry for such a sweet beer–but mostly I’m just left with the overriding spice assault and a warming sensation in my chest from the 8% ABV. – Tim

Remarkably clean with a nice tingle and whipped cream outro. The pumpkin fades to spice on the tongue, but avoids the more typical astringency of some other spicier finishes.- Mike

The finish is where all of the spice comes to fruition.  It’s a nice surprise ending to another otherwise pretty successful pumpkin beer. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 6


Flavor balance: 6.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

The spices and gourd flavors mix well with the hinted banana and cinnamon.  This is one of the more balanced brews if not unique in it’s own. – Rick

Heavy on the pumpkin, light on the spice. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 3 / B- 5.5 / R- 8

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

There’s no denying it’s sweet, but it’s not sickening. There’s definitely a hopped dryness in the finish that nicely brings you back to earth, and even more nicely, relaxes the tone to maintain the intensity of the next sip. – Mike

Quizzically, the crazy sweetness of the beer actually finishes reasonably dry.  I guess you could call that balance.  Or….bi-polar. – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 6

–         Multiple Drinkability?

It’s fairly strong, and definitely sweet, but something in the lightness of this beer makes me feel like two full bottles would not be insurmountable. – Mike

There is such strength of the pumpkin that I think I might be over it by the first round but a lovely first round it would be. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 3 / B- 7.5 / R- 4


Overall: 6.75

M- 8.75 / T- 4.50 / B- 7.33 / R- 6.08

Saranac Pumpkin Ale – Matt Brewing Company

Sorry for the lack of quip on this one. I’m most likely drunk in Ireland somewhere right now! But read on, and you’ll find that for Saranac, it’s best that this crew agree to disagree.- Mike


Name:  Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer:  New York, USA / Matt Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Spiced Fruit Ale / 5.4%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Featuring Cascade hops, Maris Otter and Wheat Malts, and a bevy of spices including cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and vanilla, Saranac aims to be your go to beer for pairing with fowl and game birds, assumedly making it a pairing selection for heavily basted holiday scarf fests.



This is what I’m talking about….a Halloween beer!   Saranac’s dark label and mischievously grinning jack o lantern looks perfectly seasonally sinister, which is exactly what I want from an autumn ale centered around my favorite holiday.  You want St. Nick for Christmas and I want a scary pumpkin for Halloween. – Tim

Straight to the point and in you face with a classic Jack-o-lantern graphic helps this bottle stand out.  The simple bio on the neck is a nice touch, but what I’m really missing here is the ABV content that seems to be a mainstay with craft brews. – Rick


Color:  6.5

A true amber with ruby values, and a luminous clarity. Very little head to speak of. – Mike

This ale has a nice dark amber color that glows with a reddish shimmer while held up to the light.  There’s a decent foamy head at first, but it quickly settles.  – Rick

M – 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 7.5 / E – 4


Aroma:  5.5

The nose is tremendously fascinating with sweet pumpkin spices of cinnamon and nutmeg interlaced with an earthy leathery smokiness reminiscent of beef jerky.  I can’t seem to stop smelling this beer.  It’s captivating.  – Tim

Honestly, a bit unimpressive. I’ve got my nose half in the glass and all I can pull is a faint bitterness and dare I say…Lunchmeat? – Mike

There is a fair bit of sweetness found in the aroma.  Cinnamon and all spice stand out with a hint of smokiness somewhere in there.  Otherwise, kind of bland. – Rick

M – 2.5 / T- 8 / B- 6.5 / R- 5.5 / E – 5


Mouth feel:  5.5

The bite from the carbonation in this beer makes it seem bolder than it actually is.  It’s body is pretty watery and light letting the spices really flourish. – Rick

A nice medium bodied beer that feels slick in the mouth with just enough carbonation to keep your attention. – Brittney

Not too thick, not too thin. This sucker sits the fence pretty hardcore, but in doing such, ends up being more of a wallflower than anything else. – Mike

M – 5 / T- 6 / B- 5.5 / R- 5 / E – 6


Tasting notes:  5.5

Other pumpkin brews have pushed more of a “pumpkin pie” concept, leaning heavily on cinnamon and clove combined with an overt sweetness to make an overall “dessert” drinking experience.  This is refreshingly savory – striking as a brown ale with a pleasant malt character, well-controlled spices (allspice being more prominent than cinnamon or clove) and a trace of vanilla. – Erich

There’s a fairly substantial crisp bite from the dryness which is a tad overwhelming here.  It’s not very sweet and I pick up some peppery notes in the background.  I found this ale to be hard to decipher, and the spicy overtones really turned me off. – Rick

It’s a different pumpkin ale I’ll give it that.  They didn’t lean too much on spice as a crutch and sort of left out pumpkin altogether.  I’m not really sure what they were trying to achieve – Brittney

Smooth and malty with a convergence of molasses and caramel notes, tang and roast pumpkin, a whisper of smoke and ginger, more pumpkin and a hint of bitterness from the hops.  The smoke flavor is really what I keep coming back to.  It’s subtle in the body but adds a really interesting dimension to this beer. – Tim

Hints of smoke and bitterness prevail, over faint traces of clove, ginger, and cumin. There is a trace of burnt molasses that might acquiesce the presence of pumpkin in the mash, but nothing I would remotely call sweet. I’m kind of hoping we got a skunk batch. – Mike

M – 2 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 5 / E – 8


Finish:  5

My whole tongue tingles with the initial impact of carbonation, and the same can be said as I swallow.  The dryness stands out with a strong clove presence on the finish.  There’s a hint of pumpkin on the exhale though, but it’s minimal. – Rick

Very nice but subtle build on the palate – the vanilla notes hang around as well as a bit of maltiness. – Erich

Clean finish with a hint of sweetness on the mostly dry ale.  Pumpkin is present and lingers for moment or two on the palate. – Tim

Not to be harsh, but I can’t wait to wash this out of my mouth. All of what might be considered redeeming vanishes quickly, and what’s left is acrid and harsh to the point of, to quote Ralph Wiggum, “tastes like burning”. – Mike

M – 1 / T- 6 / B- 6 / R- 4.5 / E – 6


Flavor balance:  5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

Pumpkin and spice intermingle successfully here, even as the pumpkin prevails.  I give them high marks on making both ends mingle and not battle. – Tim

I’m not really getting much pumpkin at all here. – Brittney

I’d say this ale was too spicy for myself.  A lack of sweetness seemed to be attributed to a heavy handed addition of cinnamon which overpowers any thought of pumpkins here. – Rick

M – 1 / T- 8 / B- 5.5 / R- 4.5 / E – 7

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

There’s some very nice vanilla notes but the sweetness, like the spices, is well reined-in. – Erich

There’s a significant amount of dryness on the finish on this one which kills the lack of sweets. There’s just not enough sweetness in here to balance the dryness and dominant clove tastes. – Rick

M – 3.5 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 4 / E – 8

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Despite relatively high marks in the individual categories and a personal opinion that I would absolutely revisit this beer, I don’t know if I would go more than one in a sitting.  There a lot of complex flavors going on here that I feel would begin to wear on the palate over time.  Even now, I still taste the enduring traces of smoke on my tongue.  – Tim

I don’t intend to finish this one. – Mike

With its peers opting for sweeter offerings, sometimes invoking the feeling of the stomach ache after eating too much Halloween candy, the Saranac really sets itself apart here.  But it also isn’t too bold either, so no fear of one’s tongue going numb.  Putting a few of these away shouldn’t be difficult. – Erich

This pumpkin ale is just isn’t sweet enough for me.  I’m really turned off by the bitterness from the spices and dryness of this beer. – Rick

M – 1 / T- 5.5 / B- 6 / R- 3 / E – 7


Overall:  5.5

M – 3.25 / T- 6.67 / B- 6.25 / R- 5.25 / E – 6.08