Pumpkin

Long Trail Unfiltered Pumpkin Ale

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Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Long Trail
Locale: Bridgewaters Corner, VT
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Hazy, deep amber body with a frothy white head.

Smell: This is pretty much exactly what I would expect from a Pumpkin  Ale–a mediocre malt aroma with some pumpkin pie spices. Of the pumpkin ales I have sampled this seasons, this seems the most promising based purely on scent.

Flavor: Well, this is MEH: Part 2! The aroma is far better than the taste. Once again, this tastes like a macro lager with all of the hop bitter and none of the hop flavor. I get nearly ZERO pumpkin taste and just a hint of bitter cinnamon. As I keep drinking, it’s beginning to taste like a wet armpit, courtesy of my wild imagination.

Feel: Thin body with high high carbonation. Also, you can really feel the heat of the alcohol, which is odd given its relatively low ABV.

Concluding Remark:  Oh, the Pumpkin Ale. I just have no love for you at this point. Sure, I relied on my bodega to provide me with this style’s test samples, but 3 out of 3 ended up being Le Suck de Complet? NON PLUS POUR MOI, MADAME!

And to end this review on a rhyme-y note:

If you’re looking for decent pumpkin ale, instead eat pumpkin pie.

If you’re desiring decent Long Trail, Double Bag you must try.

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Mendocino Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Mendocino
Locale: Ukiah, CA
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.o%

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSE

Sight: Clear, dark mahogany body with no head. This is much darker than your run-of-the-mill pumpkin ale.

Smell: Ahh…Mendocino’s pumpkin smells like Cinnabon, Cinnamon Crunch Toast and Cinnamon Sugar Toast. Well, hey, like cinnamon. There’s a hint of yam/pumpkin in there as well, and it smells like it’s going to be cloyingly sweet…

Flavor: …but it’s not. There’s an unexpected bitterness in here, which is likely from the cocoa nibs that it’s brewed with. The bitterness is so prominent that this reminds me of what a coffee/espresso soda would taste like if I ever tried one. You know, the Manhattan Special? That drink you see in bodegas but never actually buy because why when beer?* Regardless, there is very little pumpkin flavor and instead, it tastes like a lightly sweetened coffee soda.

Feel: Thin body with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Mendocino of California’s pumpkin ale reminds me of why I usually don’t drink pumpkin ales: the flavor is whack and I am not enjoying this beer one bit, despite this moment being the highlight of my long day. It tastes like a Yeungling/mocha flavored non-dairy creamer hybrid. MEH! I’m giving this to my roommate.

 

*If you would like to learn more about the Manhattan Special, please read this adequate NYT article on the subject. It is eons more fascinating that this beer.

Manhattan Special: Made in Brooklyn

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Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale

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Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Captain Lawrence
Locale: Elmsford, NY
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%

OVERALL RATING:

BEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

Sight: Hazy orange body with all of a centimeter of white head.

Smell: It reminds me of a health food store. Its smells like a cross between apple cider vinegar/kombucha and organic toothpaste.

Flavor: Picking up on the toothpaste note, the general flavor is slightly medicinal with some anise flavors and an odd peppermint cooling sensation. There is a trace of generic pumpkin flavor upon burp, however the second wave of flavor is that of from-old-NYC-pipes water and a hint of sugar.

Feel: It has a thinnish body with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I’ll start with the caveat that this is my second pumpkin beer all season. My dearest of friends brought some Post Road to a gathering the other evening, and if it weren’t for our years of friendship, I would’ve rather un-politely declined the aforementioned brew. Thus, Captain Lawrence’s pumpkin is my first true pumpkin beer in nearly two years. (I obnoxiously boycotted pumpkin ales last year, is my memory. No judgment, all, I know many of you are doing the same with PSLs every morning.) And to be frank with you the internet, I should’ve grabbed my go-to bodega beer, Stone’s Go-to-IPA, and resisted the overwhelming urge to review a series of pumpkin ales. CL, what a let down. The label states that it was brewed with pumpkin and spice. That’s nice, and I still want a pony. But I doubt that pony would be any happier cooped up in my small apartment than I am drinking this beer.

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THE PUMPKING OF BEERS! The History of Greatest Seasonal Beer Ever

The Year in Beer is in the process of drinking and rebooting. In the interim, please enjoy a timely post about the history of Pumpkin Beers.

It is with our most humble pleasure to bring to you the history and magnificence of the Pumpkin Ale. As ubiquitous as candy corn, mashed potatoes, cornucopias, and hayrides, the Pumpkin Ale is a symbol of autumn. The most delicious symbol of autumn (perhaps only second to your mom’s apple pie).

While adding pumpkin and spices to beer might seem like the most natural thing in the world, Pumpkin Ales are in fact manmade. And even more shocking, this cold ambrosia has only been around for the last ~400 years. We know, we can’t begin to fathom a world without Pumpkin Ales, but those times once existed. Let’s just be thankful we live in 2012 and not 1600.

ULTIMATE PUMPKIN CORNUCOPIA.

The Tale of the Ale of Necessity

The origin of the Pumpkin Ale has its roots in a colonizing America. In fact, Pumpkin Ales were some of the first beers brewed in the New World. Picture this: you’ve been on a rough, two months-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat alongside a hundred other fellow disgruntled Separatists. Although you are strong in your convictions and know in your heart of hearts that coming to America is the right thing to do, you’re already missing pub culture back in England. But, you think, the New World HAS to have beer, right? How could any of these self-respecting Englishmen (and Dutch) leave for a country without beer?

Well, let’s just say that when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, no one greeted them with welcome beer cocktails. No one greeted them at all, really.

So our pilgrims land and quickly learn that the New World, while rife with exotic goods such as corn and tobacco, is void of barely. One of the key ingredients of beer. (Insert a series of old timey expletives.) Well, these colonialists were a scrappy bunch (pretty much a requisite for surviving in these lands),  and not long after their arrival, they began experimenting with new beer recipes.

The Untold Story of the Plymouth Colony.

As with all other facets of colonial life, the pilgrims had to make do with what was available to them. Hence, in lieu of barely, for example, local ingredients were used for brewing. One of these was pumpkin, plentiful in the New World. The first mention of this experimentation was in a 1643 folk song depicting food culture in the colonies:

Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies, Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies; We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon; If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone. If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be contented and think it no fault, For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

It’s becoming evident that our country was built on pumpkins. Anyways. These necessity-based Pumpkin Ales were consumed into the late 19th century. However, once brewers gained access to the ingredients for regular ol’ beer, the pumpkin ale disappeared. Why, you ask? Well, the Pumpkin Ale of days past wasn’t a symbol of the holidays like it is today. Instead, it was a symbol of scrappy beer making in the early days of the US of A. (Frankly, it probably wasn’t all that great.)

The Modern Pumpkin Ale: A Love Story

However, the Pumpkin Ales you know and love (FANATICALLY ADORE) are of a more modern luxury. Like many other historic styles, the Pumpkin Ale reemerged in the 1980s as the craft beer movement developed. As the story goes, we all have Buffalo Bill to thank. Allegedly, Bill Owen, owner of Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub, went out into his garden one day, picked a pumpkin, and brewed a pumpkin beer. Not finding it terribly interesting, he added the notorious flavors we all know and love today: cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. The result? Pumpkin pie in a bottle. As pumpkin pie is recognized as the single best dessert in the world, and beer is clearly the best beverage in the world, it should not come as a shock that many breweries followed Buffalo Bill’s lead. Many Pumpkin Ales now have cult followings (Dogfish Head’s Punkin’ Ale is one of them), with breweries selling out their stock before all of the leaves have fallen.

Good Ol’ Buffalo Bill.

This reincarnated brew has little resemblance to the early Pumpkin Ales. What would have been a more savory, earthy beer then, is generally a dessert-like brew now. (Although there has been a recent trend of highlighting the natural flavor of the pumpkin.) While many people love it and others find it silly and kitschy, the Pumpkin Ale has nevertheless seeped into the American holiday season. And that’s something for which we are personally thankful.

What to expect

Another recent trend in the Pumpkin beer kingdom has been the emergence of Pumpkin Lagers, Pumpkin Stouts, Imperial Pumpkins…you catch our drift. Brewers are pretty much dumping pumpkin chunks and juice into every style of beer imaginable. Thus, each of the following categories will vary greatly from beer to beer. However, we assume the general characteristic of “awesome” will remain constant.

Sight: The color will generally be a deep amber/mahogany.

Smell: It will range from subtle to overwhelming clove, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon aromas.

Flavor: Like the smell, you should expect familiar holiday flavors. Some pumpkin beers are brewed with roasted pumpkin, giving the brew a slightly smokey taste.

Feel: Expect a watery body from some, and a creamy, thicker body from others. There is little regularity in this category.

May we all have the opportunity to drink from a pumpkin keg

And with that, we hope you enjoy the Pumpkin beer season as much as we will. Happy holidays!

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Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Saint Louis Brewery/Schlafly Tap Room
Style: Pumpkin Ale (Imperial)
ABV: 8.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Clear, bright copper body with a small white head.

Smell: It smells like stepping into a bakery. Specifically, a Cinnabon. And even more specifically, it smells like the gooey cinnamon filling that has made Cinnabon its millions. The resemblance is so strong, Cinnabon could probably sue for smell infringement. There’s just the tiniest hint of pumpkin purée, as well.

Flavor: Of all the pumpkin pie beers I’ve had this month, this is hands down the most pumpkin pie-est of the bunch. This actually tastes more like food than beer. Vanilla and caramel flavors linger, which is only icing on the…pie.

Feel: Thin with high carbonation, and dry, like Champagne.

Concluding Remark: Although it doesn’t label itself as an Imperial Pumpkin, drinking Schlafly’s humble Pumpkin Ale is essentially like consuming shots of pumpkin pie. It’s impossibly delicious with a high ABV, rendering it the perfect holiday beer. Like some of its peers, it’s just a wee sweet. However, I would honestly choose Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale over actual pumpkin pie. And that’s saying a lot given my decades-long obsession with pumpkin pie. If you find this in stores, make sure to pick it up ASAP. I had to sweet talk a beer clerk at my local liquor store into splitting their hidden stash with me.

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Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
Style: Pumpkin Ale (Imperial)
ABV: 8.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Slightly cloudy, dark orange body with no head.

Smell: Strong brandy smell, with notes of raisin, caramel, and a hint of clove.

Flavor: There’s an initial sharpness from the high ABV and hops. As it sits, it begins to taste like fresh pumpkin flesh. The sweet spices take a back seat, although there’s a bite from the fresh cinnamon. There’ a bit of sweetness from the malts at the very end.

Feel: Thin body with low carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale is the quintessential imperial. There’s a strong, tangy pumpkin flavor, with an equally strong alcohol note. Unlike other pumpkin beers, the fresh pumpkin flavor is showcased instead of masked by a flurry of pumpkin pie spices. You really can’t go wrong with a 4-pack of this stuff.

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Chatoe Rogue First Growth Pumpkin Patch Ale

Beer: First Growth Pumpkin Patch Ale
Brewery: Rogue Ales
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.6%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Dark cherry wood body with a huge dense head.

Smell: It smells like the perfect Pumpkin Ale: the aromas are roasted squash, caramel, dark malts, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Flavor: As it smells, the predominant flavors are roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, charred malts, and cinnamon. It kind of tastes exactly like roasted pumpkin seeds.

Feel: Thin with moderate carbonation. There’s a bit of an oily residue.

Concluding Remark: Chatoe Rogue, a series of beers that are made with fresh crops from the Rogue Ales Farm, puts out a fine Pumpkin Ale. The Pumpkin Patch Ale features locally grown pumpkins, which are then roasted and tossed into the kettle. With help from a little ginger, vanilla, and the regular slew of pumpkin pie spices, Rogue’s Pumpkin Ale is one of the freshest Pumpkin Ales I’ve tasted this season. It’s perfectly balanced, with a strong squash flavor that is lacking in many pumpkin beers that claim to be brewed with fresh pumpkin. It’s a little pricey for a non-imperial (~$9), but if you ignore the price tag, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

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Lakefront Pumpkin Lager Beer

Beer: Pumpkin Lager Beer
Brewery: Lakefront Brewery
Style: Pumpkin Lager
ABV: 6.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Slightly hazy golden body with a white head that disappears after a second or two.

Smell: I can smell this from a foot away: it’s incredibly sweet–filled with notes of whipped cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and canned pumpkin. This guy might smell the most like pumpkin pie of all the pumpkin beers ever.

Flavor: Quite similar to the aroma, this might be the beer version of that “Whipped Vodka” crap. It’s quite pie-like in flavor, with a signature sugariness I have not found in other Pumpkin Ales (well, this is a Pumpkin Lager, so there’s that). There are notes of sugary sweet pie crust, almost like a sugar cookie, with cinnamon. So perhaps more accurately, it tastes like a snicker doodle. Though, the last note is that of a Starbucks pumpkin pie muffin (distinctive from other muffins due to its ultra high sugar content).

Feel: Thin and almost watery, with some carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Well, many would consider this Pumpkin brew to be just a little too sugary–it falls into the caricature of a Pumpkin Ale category. What is different about Lakefront Brewery’s pumpkin beer is that it’s a lager, while most pumpkin beers are ales. Thus, there are no bitter flavors that balance the sweet pumpkin-ness; instead, the pumpkin pie spices stage a takeover and dominate all other components of the brew. Overall, it is just a little too sweet for me, but if you’re looking to drink some pumpkin pie tonight, you won’t be disappointed with a slice of Lakefront Brewery’s pumpkin.

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River Horse Hipp-o-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin

Beer: Hipp-o-Lantern
Brewery: River Horse
Style: Pumpkin Ale (Imperial Pumpkin)
ABV: 8.1%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Halloween 2012
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Slightly hazy, deep ruby body with a billowy tan head.

Smell: It has a boozy smell with hints of clove, nutmeg, and fresh pumpkin.

Flavor: Initial hop bite that is somewhat balanced by caramel-y roasted malts, some pumpkin pie spices, and earthy pumpkin.

Feel: Medium body with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: River Horse’s Hipp-o-Lantern is deceptively alcoholic–despite the boozy aroma, you don’t feel the 8%. It’s a fine Imperial Pumpkin Ale; the spicing and balance are spot on and you can taste the actual pumpkin. I wouldn’t call it exciting by any means, but if you’re in the market for a solid pumpkin, don’t hesitate to give the Hipp-o-Lantern a try.

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Epic Brewing/DC Brau Fermentation Without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter

Beer: Fermentation Without Representation
Brewery: Epic Brewing and DC Brau
Style: Pumpkin Ale (Imperial Pumpkin Porter)
ABV: 7.7%

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

——–

OVERALL RATING:


Sight: Deep, almost black body with tinge of orange at the edge. Thick, creamy tan head with a sticky lacing that coats the glass.

Smell: This smells like candy. Or more specifically, candy pumpkin ice cream float milkshake goodness. The milky sweetness and roasted malt note of the Porter base comes through, with just a slight nutmeg and pumpkin aroma.

Flavor: This also tastes like candy. It’s rich, creamy, earthy, spicy, and oh I don’t know, CANDY. There are also notes of fresh pumpkin, bitter chocolate, and fresh vanilla extract.

Feel: Thin-ish, creamy body with minimal carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Calling Epic Brewing’s Imperial Pumpkin Porter decadent would be an understatement. Yes. This is not only a Pumpkin Porter (RARE! AMAZING!) but a IMPERIAL Pumpkin Porter (RAREST! AMAZINGEST!) A beer of this caliber beer could not be produced by the hands of one brewery alone–no, Fermentation without Representation is a collaboration between Epic Brewery and DC Brau. I’ve had a soft spot for DC Brau since my days in DC, but now it’s serious. This is without a doubt one of the best Pumpkin Ales I’ve had. While I wouldn’t QUITE call this an Imperial at 7.7%–Imperials should be over 8%–it’s Imperial in that it belongs to the craft beer royal court, if there was ever such a thing.

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