Posts tagged ‘Sweet’

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::


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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Overall: 6.67

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


Trickster – Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

You may have to quest long and hard to acquire this particular ale. Hailing from the way, way up there, Midnight Sun has been brewing Alaska’s finest beers for a number of years now. There are some clever minds at work where you get thirty days of night, and this beer is no exception. So have faith. It may have taken us two years to acquire it, but we’ve never had anything quite like it.


Name:  Trickster

Place of Origin / Brewer: Alaska, USA / Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Belgian Ale / 7.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  This unusual brew is made with pale malted barley, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, pumpkin, and Belgian yeast in a steel cauldron. Plus, we hear-tell you can see Russia from the brewery.



It’s a jester-hat-clad pumpkin jumping off the label over a whimsical font.  It’s just screams of all the wicked, wicked things that kids do to one another on All Hallows Eve.  I’m scared…not in a razor-blades-in-your-apple kind of way, but in a thrill of the unknown aspect.  I can’t wait to see what’s under that cap. – Tim

A goofy looking cartoon of a jester pumpkin (hence trickster) graces this label.  A quick mention of basic ingredients and an invitation to fool around; who could resist? – Brittney


Color:  6

Amber waves of grain all the way here. Straw yellow, sparkling clarity, and a few tiny bubbles accompany a terse white head. Looks like a Belgian ale to me! – Mike

A pretty crystal clear golden orange, a thin ivory head, sticky lacing, and very slight carbonation. – Brittney

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


Aroma:  6.5

Complex Belgian yeast and malts make up the backbone of this aroma and stand out quite nicely. There’s a fruity character that is almost candy like in its sweetness. Also, just detectable, is a sweet smattering of spices. – Rick

Belgian farmhouse yeast abounds with a musty hop character, citrus notes, and plenty of coriander. Little to no pumpkin though. – Mike

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


Mouth feel:  7

Medium bodied and crisp with moderate carbonation—this is pretty textbook stuff; nothing strange or bizarre going on, just a very solid ale. – Tim

This falls somewhat flat with me, resembling a Tripel, but with a slightly watery, yet crisp finish. There is a nice touch in avoiding  the overabundant carbonation found with that style, though. – Rick

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


Tasting notes:  6.5

Blood oranges, coriander, and yeasty funk along with notes of nutmeg and clove. The pumpkin here is sweet, but plays so directly into the tart yeast, it’s tricky to recognize at first. –Mike

Farmhouse gamey, with raw vegetal pumpkin, notes of raw meat, oats, and hay. Nutmeg and clove mesh with pronounced flavors from the Belgian yeast strains.  If you like Farmhouse and Saison-styled ales this is gonna be right up your alley.  Pumpkin Pie aficionados better run for the hills. – Tim

From the aroma you would bet the farmer’s daughter that this was going to make your face pucker, but the taste is surprisingly mellow and even a bit sweet.  There are subtle layers of pumpkin and clove, and a solid flavor of malt. – Brittney

Kudos for being unique and complex for sure. The Tripel character imparted from the Belgian yeast adds fruity qualities and is nice departure from the norm. There is, however, a candied sweetness lingering that has an artificial taste almost like an extract of sorts. – Rick

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


Finish:  7

A drying nutmeg finish with metallic hints of copper and fruit. – Mike

It’s clean and dry like a cider without too much carbonation. There’s a real vegetal quality to the finish imparting slightly sweet and sour notes. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 6.5


Flavor balance:  6

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

The spices exist to give the body depth of flavor without working themselves into such a frenzy that they overtake your palate or the raw pumpkin nature of the ale. – Tim

Perplexing pint; pumpkin prevails provost per poignant poise. – Mike

M- 5.5 / T- 8 / B- 5 / R- 4

–         Sweet / Dry balance: 6.5

There is a nice ginger dryness to this ale but overall, I feel it’s not enough to tip the scales either way. – Rick

The sweetness in the body is nicely offset by the dry and relatively clean finish. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 7.5 / B- 6 / R- 5

–         Multiple Drinkability?  6

I would drink more of this. Touches of the ABV present themselves with a hint of alcohol heat here and there. At 22 IBUs it’s also got a nice hoppy character present in the close.  I was pleasantly tricked on this one….not what I was expecting at all. – Tim

This ain’t your mama’s pumpkin ale. Midnight Sun is reaching a little here, but in good nature, and towards the serious European palate. This sucker is a tank. – Mike

M- 6.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 5 / R- 4


Overall:  6.50

M- 7.33 / T- 7.00 / B- 5.92 / R- 5.92

Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider – California Cider Company

We’re almost there folks, just one short review away from the end of the season for us, and we’re pleased to find a diamond in the rough for our final approach. We’ve seen a few pumpkin ciders along our way so far, and not much good has come of it. Sonoma County’s own Ace seems to tip the glass in our favor though, opting for a more traditional spiced offering that just might beat the odds.


Name:  Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: California, USA / California Cider Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Cider / 5.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Ace is a fall seasonal cider made from fermented apples, pumpkin and allspice, ideal for harvest time holidays. It’s also Gluten free, which is a nice alternative if you can’t rock the grains.



There is something to be said for simplicity and starkness–and Ace is saying loud and clear with this black label featuring an ‘Ace of Pumpkins’.  Simple and direct.  The neck also features some pertinent facts about the cider maker’s process–which is a nice addition and something we don’t often see in Hard Ciders. – Tim

Ace sports a clever and to the point pun based logo, with the high card on the front on a black field (in this case, the ace of pumpkins). Reflecting the squash in the neck as well, there’s no mistaking this one as a seasonal brew, and it’s straight to it attitude leaves enough room for a first in my book: nutritional information. It’s gluten free, and it’s reminding you that at 175 calories a pop, you’re gonna get fat after a few. Thanks? – Mike


Color:  5.5

It pours a pale golden color like a bold lager, while maintaining a translucent body.  There is no head, which was expected, but it did have some lacing. – Rick

Crystal clear and bubbly.  It’s a very light straw to gold color that resembles…you guessed it… sparkling apple juice.  Also, it’s a cider so I didn’t really expect a head or very heavy lacing but when poured aggressively there was a small white head with a solid ring of lacing. – Brittney

Honey crisp gold, and clear as,well, apple juice, this cider is true to its style: clean and appealing. The Slight lean to the orange side of golden gives you a hint of pumpkin, if only in artifice, and the head pops down to a smoggy float across the top, and our favored white ring. – Mike

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


Aroma:  7

The sweetness of apples greets with hay notes, pumpkin and allspice all follow thereafter. – Tim

Right away, I’m hit in the face with many aromas.  The fruity aspects flourish at first with pumpkin being bolder than the apple base.  There are sugary notes as well, and all together give off a sweet banana-like scent that I can’t wait to taste. – Rick

The aroma of apple from the cider is what hits my nose first.  The curious thing is that it’s not as overly sweet as most ciders smell.  You definitely find how the pumpkin sort of mellows out that characteristic and then get only a touch of the spice buried deep within. – Brittney

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


Mouth feel:  7

At first, it seems tart and becomes sweetly smooth with a bit of carbonation.  It feels syrupy and somewhat honey-like, but thin and watery coating my mouth well. – Rick

Very crisp and very active.  It’s refreshingly clean up front with only a hint of the syrupiness that could very easily take over with this style of brew.  – Brittney

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


Tasting notes:  7

Allspice and cinnamon kick to the front on this cooler take on the chilly seasonsal favorite. The sweetness of the apple juice and slight tingle of the alcohol separate nicely to offset the sour pumpkin presence that lingers on a bit with the spice, making this the more defined of our cider offerings so far. – Mike

This is a sweet cider, with the spice coming on much stronger on the palate, and noticeable cinnamon in the body.   But the spice feels out of place and presents itself in a more cloying manner giving this drink a bit too much artificiality.  Sadly, we’re stepping into ‘Yankee Candle territory’ on this one. – Tim

As I noticed in the aroma, the pumpkin really mellows out the possibility of any overtly sweet notes.  The allspice is very bright and seems to play a supporting role at the beginning and finish that really shines through as it warms.  – Brittney

It’s exactly what I expected a pumpkin cider to taste like.  The pumpkin flavor fits outstandingly well with it’s apple foundation, while the cinnamon and allspice sweeten it just enough before making it too spicy. – Rick

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


Finish:  7

The apple is the first to fade and the spicy dryness is a nice and bold aspect to this finish which makes me prize it. Accommodating it’s departure is the sour pumpkin, and you really get a fermentation feel here, reminiscent of the finish of a honey mead, but lacking the punishing sweetness. – Mike

The finish is nice, clean and crisp.  I was expecting that usual filmy mouth, hangover before you’ve even finished cider and got something completely different. – Brittney

A medium finish that lends itself to the sweet side which will work if you prefer your hard ciders sweet, but I tend to fall of the crisp/dry ‘white wine’ side of cider drinkers.  I’m looking for snap in the step that Ace is offering. – Tim

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


Flavor balance:  7

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

The cinnamon and allspice could overdo it here, but they are restrained to being sweet accents to a great pumpkin flavor.  Also of note, the pumpkin really shines with the help of the apple cider backbone. – Rick

This one is an entire experience, through the first half of the glass I would say that the pumpkin had a little more shine, as I got to the second half and it had warmed a bit the allspice really came out nicely. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s sweet in the front and finishes on a dry and sour spiced note, which keeps it evenly in check. Some might find it pushing a bit to the sweet side, but chances are, those people just don’t like cider in general. – Mike

The crisp dryness holds back the sweet from becoming overwhelming.  I think without this aspect keeping it in check this cider could be so sweet it would detract from the great flavors. – Rick

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

In a climate like ours here in Florida, this has all the appeal of the cool and crisp autumn and hot ciders that I used to have as a kid during getaways further north, with the added appeal of reducing the chances that I’m sweating out my shirt at the bar. Throw in a moderate abv and a solid tasty appeal, and I could punish six of these, no problem. – Mike

On a hot day, I could drink more than my fair share of these in place of soda and with the 5% ABV I’d probably not be any worse for wear, but if drinkers are looking for a ‘pumpkin cider’ an unbeatable hand, might want to deal again.  It’s good but it’s good in a ‘two pair’ kinda way.  You’ll probably beat most of the other hands, but it’s hardly a cinch. – Tim

This cider is probably the best cider I’ve had. I really enjoyed it for a fall pumpkin brew.  I could see this becoming too sweet after quite a few, but it’s a small price to pay. – Rick

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


Overall:  6.75

M- 6.58 / T- 6.58 / B- 6.83 / R- 7.08

Rumpkin (October 5, 2011) Annual Barrel Series – Avery Brewing Company

Every once in awhile, a beer comes along that separates the boys from the men. Well, actually no. With Avery, that’s pretty much every day. Known for their unusual brewing practices, and some intense high ABV beers, Avery doesn’t think inside the box, they punch their way out while watching Old Spice commercials on infinite repeat. So if you’re in a climate that’s a little on the chilly side this Thanksgiving, and you just need something to break down all the Tryptophan in your gullet, grab one of these bad boys and don’t be a turkey.


Name:  Rumpkin (October 5, 2011) Annual Barrel Series

Place of Origin / Brewer: Colorado, USA / Avery Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Triple Ale / 15.90%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Limited to 512 cases (of which we’re sampling batch one) Rumpkin is brewed with Rocky mountain water, malted barley, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, hops, and yeast, then rested in oak rum barrels to yield spicy gourd, delicate oak, and candied molasses notes.



Avery really impressed here, complete with gold foil neck and cap, and a specialty label reflecting the barrel slats, and woodcut pumpkin and rum jug with skull and crossbones adorning. They’ve also nicely incorporated a significant number of details to the labeling, including batch, cases production and bottling date, as well as the concept of the beer. Nicely done. – Mike

I love this pseudo-pirate styled label with the rum barrel branded with skulls and growlers and pumpkins and proclaiming the batch numbers (ours was No. 1) and the number of cases in the production (512) all of it speaks to Avery’s continued tradition of being a rebellious brewer. – Tim


Color:  6.5

Cloudy molasses brown giving great credence to it’s rum referenced conception, and just a hint of burnt umber to give it an aging pumpkin feel. A mild fizzy head crowns it, and quickly becomes a menacing ring, hinting that this may be too hardcore for any frilly accoutrement. – Mike

Murky and swamp like.  I’m expecting Swamp Thing to crawl from its depths any moment now.  Even what little remains of the head and the lacing have a slight mud tinge to them. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 4.5 / R- 7.5


Aroma:  6

Shiver me timbers with your burnt caramel sticky sweetness.  This beer is packing a seriously complex nose, with spiced rum, prunes and molasses kicking you square in the face with a ferociousness that actually frightens me a little (but in a good way).  However, I’m also a bit concerned that I haven’t found the pumpkin, or the pumpkin spices yet. – Tim

Just the smell of this is giving me a hangover.  It’s heavy on the alcohol right away.  Next is a blast of heavy dark molasses and raw oak.  Separately I love the smell of molasses and oak but this aroma is totally off putting for me.  I don’t even want to taste this. – Brittney

It smells like aged pumpkin might.  It’s musty and carries a thick molasses aroma.  I can tell right away just from the smell that the alcohol content is fairly high on this one. – Rick

M- 7.5 / T- 6 / B- 3 / R- 8


Mouth feel:  6

It seems light on the tongue, then it burns over the palate smoothly.  This one warms up quickly in the glass, and I think it’s the first pumpkin brew to leave my lips numb after a few sips. – Rick

On the very high end of medium bodied, you might as well tick this off in the heavy column due to the epic levels of sweetness on display.  However that being said, it’s not a tough swallow.  It’s got some carbonation burn and some absolute heat from the super high alcohol content, but I didn’t struggle to get it down.  It’s palatable. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 5.5 / B- 4 / R- 6.5


Tasting notes:  6

The sweet pumpkin assaults you like a belligerent pirate, and a malty black strap molasses and chocolate cake field quickly follows, with a hint of oak on the backend, that should firmly suggest rum, if my puns and the label fail you. The spices are regulated into the caramel sweetness, reminding me more of spiced dark rum, than holiday cheer. – Mike

Tastes of Dark Brown Sugar, Sorghum, Spiced Rum, Allspice and Ginger, Sweetness that just teeters on cloying with deep chest warmth from the spirits.  The intensity of the beer overpowers any pumpkin that might be in there and the big alcohol content pushes this offering squarely into the Fortified (or Barley) wine category.  In fact, I’d seriously consider serving this ‘sipping’ beer in a Brandy snifter. – Tim

This one has a unique  flavor with an oaky aged-like quality.  It’s sweet like candy with a roasted pumpkin essence, but don’t let it fool you, this beer packs a punch. – Rick

To be fair, I’m not quite certain if I can get past the aroma and mouth feel to get to the taste.  But this is just not pleasant to me.  Nor do I feel that this has anything to do with anything that has to do with being anything like pumpkin ale. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 5 / B- 3 / R-  7


Finish:  6

Fruity apple and black tea come in here, with just a hint of cinnamon. I’m most impressed with the handling of the significant ABV though, which offers a gentlemanly pound on the back, without offering the acrid burn you could easily come away with. – Mike

Long and defined by the deep malty sweetness and the trailing alcohol vapors—extending the profile for an eternity, which makes sipping this brew over an extended session an even more attractive option. – Tim

Relief. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 5 / B- 3 / R- 7


Flavor balance:  4.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

This ale has the usual spices in it.  Although, it’s heavy with a molasses and caramel flavor, this is the most pumpkin flavored ale so far. – Rick

I’m not sure I’d call it balance since I never found the pumpkin in there but I will give Avery props for attaining some semblance of harmony with the other components in this crazy strong brew they managed to bottle. – Tim

This is a dramatically different approach, with the pumpkin winning the race to the finish, but I particularly enjoy the way the spices are handled by relegating them to an aspect of rum flavor.

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

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s sweet, damn sweet in fact, but this is barley wine to the max territory, and it finishes exceptionally well, certainly worthy of acknowledgment as a finer example, rather than a seasonal frivolity. – Mike

It’s very much like melted candy, and it starts off sweet, but finishes dry. – Rick

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Avery Brewing Company is based in Boulder, Colorado where the record low once reached -31.  Rumpkin might best be enjoyed as a sipping beer in the tradition of a cognac or as a replacement spirit to help stave off frostbite in a St. Bernard’s rescue barrel.  – Tim

This is 15.90% so lets be honest here, you’re only meant to have one. But on a cold night, this boy will keep you warmer than any of Brian Wilson’s northern girls, and in Boulder, Colorado, you can be damn sure that’s a welcome thing. – Mike

This is a great tasting pumpkin ale to sip on a cold day, maybe more like a frigid day.  The ABV is super strong, but doesn’t keep this ale from exceeding in flavor. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 2 / B- 3/ R- 6


Overall:  5.83

M- 7.67 / T- 4.92 / B- 3.50 / R- 6.83

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

Private Reserve Pumpkin – Woodchuck Cidery

Guess who’s back? Nuptial bliss and honeymoon trekking all in all, we didn’t have much like finding any of the European pumpkin offerings we’d heard so much rumor about in our web scouring. So we just had to settle for Scotch. Lots of Scotch. Hopefully though, that means a very welcome end to the graphic skimping on lots of our reviews since we’ll have a little more time post wedding to actually drink and shoot separately (trust us, it makes the images a lot less blurry that way.) Also, as a call to all you postal pirates out there, we’re having a difficult time tracking down a number of regional brews due to all the varying restrictions around the country about shipping beer. And while we’ve got a lot in the fridge, we’d like to more easily meet our goal of total coverage by asking anyone who thinks they have something we might now have access to at arms reach, to contact out main line ( if they’d be willing to ship us a few and sort things out via PayPal (obviously as long as all the legalities are in order for your state). It would be a huge help to us, and there might just be a t-shirt in it for ya! Now without further ado…


Name: Private Reserve Pumpkin – Woodchuck Hard Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: Vermont, USA / Woodchuck Cidery

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Cider / 6.9%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Providing one of the more eclectic drinks we’ve taken  in on this journey, Woodchuck Private Reserve Pumpkin is just that. Limited to only two and a half hours time on the production line, it might prove fairly tough to get your hands on. Our first true medley flavor, this cider is designed to be everything you expect from the name, with a finish of pumpkin, designed to be served at a chilly 45 degrees. If nothing else, it is certainly a unique experiment in flavor.



Given it’s short production time on the line, it’s apparent that the Cidery took the most economical shortcut approach to this label, eschewing even the regular full color Woodchuck label for a 70’s light show of orange and umber that’s totally loud.  Still, there is a sense of mystery and certainly, the label screams: “This is so rare, we didn’t even really bother thinking up a fancy package for it. We just wanted you to see it on the shelf”. – Mike

It would be extremely difficult to not see the bright orange packaging, even in a Vermont snow storm.  The label is pretty simple, but sometimes there’s elegance in simplicity. – Rick

It’s a bold, kind of in-your-face, neon orange that dominates the whole label.  It works well against the green bottle.  It also has a decent bio and food pairings as well.  It’s just too hard on the eyes. – Erich


Color:  7

Pours up a dazzling crystal-clear brassy gold with tons of carbonation bubbles and a light fizzy head that snaps, crackles and pops like tempting bowl of Rice Krispies. – Tim

It’s a decent enough burnt orange that is transparent.  There’s no head to speak of with this one.  From it’s looks alone it appears to be light and watery. – Rick

M – 6.5 / T- 9 / B – 6 / R- 5.5 / E – 8


Aroma:  6

The apple cider base is apparent on the nose, but there’s a bit more going on – a complexity that’s enticing. – Erich

A brisk burst of over ripe apples on a cool morning, with just a whisper of mulling spice and something else sweet I can’t quite place. It’s intensely aromatic, if not particularly pumpkin. – Mike

First sniff?  It smells like an energy drink.  I do not smell any of our usual suspects, no pumpkin no cinnamon or clove or allspice or nutmeg.  Second sniff?  It smells like a Twizzler. – Brittney

M – 7 / T- 4 / B – 5 / R- 4.5 / E – 8


Mouth feel:  6

Pucker up, this is a sweet and sour cider super light body and super crisp acidity.  It bounces around the mouth sending you about two-steps away from sugar shock.  Big carbonation–this is what they refer to when they say ‘adult soda’.  I could imagine that if the mouth feel was heaver this would be as unpleasant as drinking apple juice concentrate. – Tim

It’s definitely the slightly syruped cider that you’d expect from woodchuck’s other offerings with a crisp bite to offset. It’s interesting to me how harmoniously those two contrasting feels seem to intermingle. – Mike

It confuses me as to what I am drinking.  Is it a cider or a sweet wine? Is it apple juice?  It feels cooling and refreshing and perhaps a little flat. – Brittney

M – 6.5 / T- 6 / B – 5.5 / R- 4 / E – 7


Tasting notes:  6

Not too sweet, not too tart.  Crisp apple is muted nicely by the pumpkin, or rather the pumpkin is effectively sharpened by the apple notes – suffice to say they compliment each other well.  This is a devilishly good cider. – Erich

It’s actually what I would expect from a cider, it tastes fruity, sweet, and is refreshing.  It just lacks any discernible spices to qualify as pumpkin. – Rick

I really want to find pumpkin in here, but this takes like drinking a candy coated granny smith apple.  Amazingly, it’s got 6.8% ABV and I can’t find a note of alcohol in until it hits my chest and warms me up. Notes of flowers and honey are there and the sugar, while pretty aggressive, isn’t syrupy.   It actually works if you’re looking for a super sweet cider–I tend to like mine on the dryer side.  – Tim

Wow. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to think about pumpkin cider. Creamy yogurt and apple explode on the tongue, transforming into a slight cider spice, and then slowly collapsing into brown sugared squash. Quite the evolutionary trifecta. It’s saccharine exploits are sure to turn off some, but this is a truly unique flavor experience. – Mike

M – 8.5 / T- 5 / B – 5 / R- 2.5 / E – 9


Finish:   5.5

It’s a little strange. I’ll give you that. Tart granny smith flirts with baked pumpkin, with the apple finally coming out on top. There’s definitely a bit of zip on the posterior, which the elevated alcohol content surely plays a part in. It reminds me a touch of mead as well. – Mike

It likes to pretend it goes down in a refreshing way but at the finish you realize that slick syrupiness is hanging out at the back of your throat. – Brittney

It has a slightly syrupy aftertaste despite it being a smooth drink.  It’s too fruity for my tastes and reminds me of a carbonated fruit juice. – Rick

M – 6 / T- 5 / B – 5 / R- 1.5 / E – 7.5


Flavor balance:  4.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

Not sure if there’s any explicit attempt to spice this cider, so this is difficult.  Take this as a “pumpkin vs. apple” comparison: the scales are tilted over on the apple side. – Erich

Woodchuck can call this a Pumpkin Cider all they want, but I can’t find a single note of pumpkin in the mix and there are zero spices–which to be fair, they never advertise.  What I think they did here is toss some pumpkin into the mix in the end and said….viola!  Its a bit of a shame, because if they spiced this a touch, it might have worked–or at least cheated enough to qualify as ‘pumpkiny’ but right now, it’s just a hard cider with a different label on it. – Tim

This one is tough, as there doesn’t seem to be the usual intent of pumpkin pie that so many seem to be shooting for. Instead, Woodchuck shoots, and scores, on a product with no equal, and really, no peers to even compete with. That being said, the hints of each are fairly equal, if also fairly different from the status quo. – Mike

M – 7 / T- 1 / B – 5 / R- 1 / E – 6

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

Just a bit on the sweet side, but controlled well. – Erich

Not dry at all, I keep going back to the fruit juice analogy.  It’s actually sweet from fruits not the typical spices we’re used to. – Rick

M – 4 / T- 4 / B – 5 / R- 2 / E – 9

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Even to someone who isn’t a cider fan, this was remarkably drinkable – not too sweet, not too tart, not too dry, not too heavy and not too strong.  Absolutely delectable. – Erich

I’m not a big cider fan and this brew solidifies my dislike.  It’s too fruity and overwhelmingly sweet to the point that I couldn’t finish it. – Rick

Only if I’m begging for a hangover. – Brittney

While a bit indulgent of the sweet tooth, the right mood could set me after 2-3 of these. Of course, with a limited batch, you might want to spread them out over the season. – Mike

M – 5 / T- 4 / B – 4.5 / R- 1 / E – 8


Overall:  5.83

M – 6.67 / T- 5.33 / B- 5.17 / R- 3.50 / E – 7.92