Recently in Pumpkin Ale Category

Fantôme Boo

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A travelling friend recently procured a bottle of this Fantôme pumpkin saison for me, so I saved it for Halloween. Near as I can tell, this was a one-off brew from the 2012-2013 timeframe (just before the Smoketôme era), which indicates that there are some areas in this country that get lots of Fantôme that just sits on shelves. What is wrong with you people?

Anyways, these bottles had a reputation as being gushers such that, if you turned them upside down whilst opening, they could propel you into low earth orbit. Um, anyway, this sort of thing usually makes for a poor experience (and perhaps explains their current availability five years later) and I can confirm that when this happened with a different bottle a little while ago, it was pretty much a lost cause. Fortunately, my bottle of Boo did not have this problem (and unfortunately, I still haven't visited space). This could be the extra few years talking, but it could also be Fantôme's infamous lack of consistency manifesting. Whatever the case, it was a nice, spooky choice for Halloween night:

Fantôme Boo

Fantôme Boo - Pours a murky, moderately dark orange color with half a finger of white head. Smells sweet, a little spice, and that trademark Tôme funk. Taste has some saison spice to it, lots of earth and funk, all somewhat muted by age. As it warmed up, the spice began to feel more peppery, even a hint of spicy hotness (as opposed to spicy clove or cinnamon or something, which is not here). Mouthfeel is sharply carbonated, medium bodied, and it's got some spicy heat. Overall, this is a minor ghost, a little long in the tooth, but an interesting spin. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/17.

In fairness, I was coming down with a bit of a cold at the time, so perhaps I wasn't in the best condition for a true evaluation. Also, my deprivation chamber was on the fritz, so I was just sitting on my couch watching horror movies (Halloween and Trick r Treat, in accordance with tradition), which also matters. I'm the worst. Anyway, Fantôme is always an interesting drink and I'm sure it won't be long before we tackle another offering...

The Spice Must Flow

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The most wonderful time of the year has rolled around, bringing with it the requisite leaf piles, mutilated pumpkins, paper skeletons, decorative corpses, "fun" cobwebs, and other oxymoronic traditions that are nominally ghastly but suddenly become socially acceptable during this season of seasons. Oh there's also tons of complaining about pumpkin beer and other pumpkin spiced abominations. As per my personal orthodoxy of "extremist moderation", I generally find everyone's reaction here overblown. Pumpkin beers are fine and I always make room for a few in my beer drinking agenda, especially when I can find one that's an interesting take (read: someone put it in a barrel).

This year's entry in the "pumpkin beers can be perfectly cromulent" sweepstakes is Bottle Logic's The Spice Must Flow. Since everyone's first joke of the season is now (and frankly should be) Decorative Gourds, I have started to rely on my backup of Dune related humor. Fortunately, Bottle Logic has already gone and done that work for me. Clearly members of House Atreides. (Kaedrin: Come for the beer, stay for the cutting edge cultural references.)

Anywho, Bottle Logic is one of the new hotness breweries out of Anaheim, CA and their wares have been melting faces amongst a certain subset of the beer dork community, particularly when it comes to their barrel-aging (and I guess coffee-dosing) program. What we have here is an ale brewed with pumpkin, coffee, and spices, then aged in rum and bourbon barrels. Look, I know some of you hate pumpkin beers, but this sort of beer is why I end up drinking some every year. It feels a little weird for this to be the first thing I write about, but then, everyone knows about Fundamental Observation and Darkstar November (I've had the latter, it's great). Not everyone can fold space and time, as the spice melange can:

The Spice Must Flow

Bottle Logic The Spice Must Flow - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of coffee and pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a little caramel and brown sugar too. Taste hits some rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, with coffee and pumpkin spice emerging quickly, followed by oak and vanilla, a hint of bourbon and rum. As it warms, the coffee takes a backseat to the pumpkin spice. I'm sure some would hate that, but my coffee ambivalence means that I kinda love it. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but rich and full bodied, hints of pleasant booze, perfectly balanced. Overall, this is awesome, even with the coffee. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 10/7/17. Vintage: 2017. Batch: 2 (label sez Level 2)

I've had a couple barrel aged offerings from these folks and they're fantastic. Some of their more normal beers are solid too, but the Barrel Aged stuff is where it's at. I will most certainly be looking for more.

Almanac Pumpkin Sour

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Every year, Almanac attempts to put their spin on the Pumpkin beer. This is my first, but they've done an Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine and a Dark Pumpkin Sour, which both sound interesting, but they change it up every year. Perhaps someday, they'll land on the perfect iteration, but for now, I'm enjoying their attempts. This is a spiced brown ale blend of beer aged in wine and Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels with hand-roasted California heirloom pumpkins and their house souring bugs. Not too shabby:

Almanac Pumpkin Sour

Almanac Pumpkin Sour - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with just a cap of fizzy, tan head that is not long for this world. Smells a little like a sour stout, some dark malts, some spices, and a slight sour twang. Taste starts off very sweet, some dark malts and spice, just a little in the way of oak, maybe a hint of bourbon, vinous fruit, and a nice puckering sourness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation, but there's plenty to keep it going, medium bodied, moderate acidity, hints of booze. Overall, this is an interesting beer, quite complex, though I'm not sure how much the pumpkin character sines through. The spices are there, but I'm not sure I'd identify this as pumpkin spice alone. Of course, this has no real bearing on anything, as the beer is pretty darn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/26/15. Bottled: 072315.

As always, an interesting beer from Almanac, if not quite their best. I look forward to their next iteration on Pumpkin though. I'm sure I'll managed another Farm to Barrel beer in the near future though, so stay tuned.

September Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It's not a big place and the pizza isn't as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.

September Beer Club Selections
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn't paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I'm writing and make up your own mind because I'm totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I'm only doing out of tradition because I've done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):

  • Platform Speed Merchant White IPA - Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
  • Pizza Boy Hop Test #1 (Cascade Single Hop) - Yep, it's a pale ale. The very definition of cromulence, this does nothing particularly special, but it's an enjoyable little pale ale. B
  • New Belgium Pumpkick - Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack - Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It's still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau - Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
  • Overshores Tripel Brun - Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
  • Brasserie De Blaugies / Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise - I know I've had this before, but apparently I never reviewed it. It's not quite up to speed with the best of Hill Farmstead, but it's a rock solid saison, earthy and spicy, quite delicious. B+
  • Fantôme Coffee Ruby - One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There's some coffee character that is definitely present, but it's not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It's got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn't entirely blesh, but it's certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I'll give it a B
  • Cascade Figaro - This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it's a fantastic little sour. I don't get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it's got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
  • White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) - Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it's this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style's inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
  • Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad - Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-

And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.

Midnight Sun TREAT

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Welcome to autumn, fuckheads! I'm not going to say that I'm a huge pumpkin beer fan, but I don't really get the disdain for them either. Of course there's no accounting for taste, and some people genuinely don't like it, which is fine. My answer to that is the same as my answer to pumpkin beers showing up on shelves in August: if you don't like it, don't buy it. It's pretty simple, really, and I find it hard to get worked up about pumpkin beers either way. Every year, I attempt to go out and try something new. What has aided this in recent years has been a diversification of base styles. It used to be that the grand majority of pumpkin beers were a simple amber base with lots of spices and pumpkin added in. Nothing wrong with that, and there are some great examples out there. But nowadays, we've got stouts, weizenbocks, barrel-aged wonders, heck, Tired Hands even made a sorta pumpkin spiced Seasonal IPA (It was decent!)

What we have here is our Alaskan friends' entry into the fray, a chocolate pumpkin porter brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Seems like a pretty hearty take on the pumpkin beer, so let's dive in:

Midnight Sun TREAT

Midnight Sun TREAT - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smell sweet with lots of those pumpkin spices, cinnamon standing out more than anything else, but if you really look for it, you can get some chocolate too. Taste starts off sweet, but drops off a bit as the spices take over, notes of chocolate in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, thinner than expected actually, well attenuated but not quite dry. Overall, a solid pumpkin porter, if a bit one-note and I have to admit, I thought I'd enjoy this a little more than I did. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/26/15.

As always, I have to wonder if the oak aged version would tweak my fancy a little more. We may yet find the answer to that conundrum, though no current plans. Up next in this decorative gourd season jamboree will be a pumpkin sour beer? You betcha.

December Beer Club

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For reasons outside of my control, I was unable to attend the November Beer Club. I am, myself, doubting my commitment to Sparkle Motion, but I managed to pull it together and attend this month's beer club. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and fun (which is not optional). This month, we hit up our favorite local pizza joint (and a regular delivery option here at Kaedrin HQ), America's Pie. Most attendies partook in the off-menu Pizza Pocket Pie option, a delightful deep-fried stromboli-like concoction that I have certainly devoured on occasion. Oh yeah, and we had beer too:

December Beer Club
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some completely unreliable thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard beer nerd disclaimers apply, if you disagree, you're probably right and I am wrong. It has long been established that I am totally the worst. Stop harping on it, ok? In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose - Salty and sweet, with lots of that tart blood orange character making itself known. Not a mind-blower, but very nice nonetheless, would make a great summer beer. Decent way to start the night though! B+
  • SoChesCo Marianne IPA - A homebrewed IPA from one of our regular attendees, this is part of pair of IPAs brewed as one batch, then split in secondary. This one is straight up IPA. The other was does with fresh chopped ginger (it would be titled Ginger IPA, get it?) As IPAs go, this is pretty standard stuff, clearly using Chinook somewhere in the recipe. Very nice! B+
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - My homebrewed Christmas Ale... from 3 years ago! It's holding up reasonably well. Much of the spice character has faded away, but the base was robust enough to make for a decent light drinking option. When fresh, this was probably right up there with my favorite batches of homebrew. After 3 years, it's definitely degraded a bit, but it's still worth drinking. B
  • Maredsous 8 - Brune - Pretty standard Belgian Dubbel stuff, though this seems much more raisiny than I remember. B
  • Spring House The Martians Kidnap Santa! Egg Nog Stout - Wonderful nose, milk stout with a heaping helping of vanilla and a light spice. The taste doesn't quite live up to that, though it's certainly fine. Definitely worth trying. B+
  • Jack-O-Traveler Shandy - I'm not much of a shandy kinda guy, but this is bad even for a shandy. Something about the Pumpkin mixed with the lemon just doesn't work. As noted at the table, it kinda tastes like Lysol. I'm feeling particularly ungenerous at the moment, so we'll go full F
  • Earth Eagle Puca - A pumpkin porter, this had a fabulous, spicy nose, though like the Spring House beer above, the taste just didn't hold up to the nose. It's certainly a fine beer though, and worth trying if you like that sorta dark pumpkin option. B
  • Shiner Bock - Tastes like Texas! Obviously nothing special, but it still holds a nostalgic value with me. B
  • ShawneeCraft Frambozenbier - Despite yesterday's disappointing, mildly infected Bourbon Barrel Porter, I shared this beer with everyone, and they seemed to love it, just like I did. B+
  • Hardywood Gingerbread Stout - I've heard many things about this sucker, and now that Hardywood is distributing up here, I'm starting to see these things show up more often. Alas, I have to admit that amongst the typical Pumpkin/Holiday spices, Ginger is probably my least favorite, so this was good, but not quite the mind-blower I'd been lead to believe. (Oddly, I love gingerbread cookies and gingersnaps, but I guess this just had the wrong proportions). I'm sure I could easily drink an entire bottle of the stuff, but I'm glad I got to try it in this tasting atmosphere. Now, the Bourbon Barrel version of this beer is another matter entirely! That's something I really want to try. B
  • Victory Earth & Flame - A collaboration with a tiny local brewery called Earth+Bread brewery, this is a smoked Scotch ale aged in Bourbon Barrels. The smoke is pretty well muted by the Bourbon Barrels, leading to a nice fruity, bourbony character. Not quite top tier (and not quite at the level of Otto in Oak, another BBA smoked Victory beer). Something I'd definitely like to revisit in more detail. B+
  • Vicarus Winter 2013 - This is great up front, Belgian Strong Dark, highly carbonated and very dry up front, with some raisiny character apparent in the finish (which is not as dry as the initial taste would have you believe). That being said, I can't help but feel that this would probably have been better if it were fresher. Still quite decent B
  • Terrapin Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout - Holy coffee, Batman! My ambivalence to coffee in beer is legendary, though I've grown to appreciate some of the more subtle varieties that have a lot of other things going on. This one is almost pure coffee grounds, which I imagine folks who love coffee would be really into, but which doesn't translate well to me personally. B
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2014) - The latest incarnation is as good as ever, and if anything, it's not as hot as the past couple years (it's actually "only" 13.8% ABV this year, apparently an artifact of a cool spring and summer). The great satan of AB/Inbev or not, I love this beer. A
And that's all for now. Already looking forward to January.

Avery Rumpkin

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Sometimes the Kaedrin beer acquisition department conspires to kick my ass with their high-ABV game, which of course, means they've gone on a purchasing jag of Avery beers. First, there was the rather fantastic 5 Monks a couple weeks ago, a beer which has earned the dubious title of most-alcoholic-beer-I've-ever-consumed. Then their machinations directed me to a bar serving a recent incarnation of The Beast Grand Cru, which depending on its exact vintage was somewhere between 16%-18% (and with that one, you could really tell*). This reminded me of the Kaedrin cellaring department's meticulous aging of a bottle of 2010 Beast, which I figure is about ready to drink (the cellarman has been instructed to make preparations).

Finally, this past weekend, a chance occurrence lead a Kaedrin rep to overpay for a bottle of Rumpkin (amongst other treasures). In a bit of serendipity, circumstances sought to keep clean and sober for most of Saturday, so when I finally had a chance to dip into my fridge for a libation, this single bottle seemed mildly appropriate. Clocking in at 16.73% ABV, it's not quite the monster that 5 Monks was, but it shares a lot of similar flavors. It is basically a huge imperial pumpkin ale that has been aged in rum barrels, one of their regular barrel aged releases. The flavor profile is similar to 5 Monks, but it's got those additional pumpkin pie spice notes that really do differentiate it. It's an admirable and intense take on a much maligned style, but it matched well with my annual horror movie marathon (which is being chronicled over at my generalist blog, if you are so inclined) and of course, 'tis the season for mutated fucking gourds:

Avery Rumpkin

Avery Rumpkin - Pours a very dark amber color, brown in the glass, but with beautiful highlights when held up to the light, finger of off white head that has decent retention. Smells intense, lots of pie spice, cinnamon and ginger coming through loud and clear, and the rum barrel character adds a rich sweetness to the proceedings, a complement to the spice rather than something that overpowers. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich, sugary molasses, a little caramel, with a spicy/fruity note emerging in the middle (that pumpkin and pie spice coming through), followed by boozy rum, vanilla, and oak. Mouthfeel starts of very smooth, full bodied, rich, and syrupy, with ample carbonation, ultimately yielding to a more boozy, hot finish. Overall, this is very complex and interesting, a little sweet and boozy, but well, this is my kind of pumpkin beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.73% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 10/11/14. Batch No. 4. Bottled Sept 22, 2014.

Alas, aside from the cellared Beast, no more Avery brews on the future horizon, but I wouldn't put it past the acquisition department springing a couple monster Avery beers on me. Bring it on, I say. In the meantime, they've got some other treats in store, and a line on some others.

Update: I have spoken too soon. A particularly ambitious Kaedrin purchasing rep from the acquisition department has informed me that I have a bottle of Pum[KY]n (Bourbon Barrel Pumpkin Porter) incoming. I'm pretty sure he's trying to kill me. Please send help.

* Seriously, The Beast was uber boozy and hot. I didn't take copious notes, but I plan on comparing this one to a cellared bottle in a few weeks or so. A friend got a coffee stout called Tweak, which also clocks in at around 16% ABV (I took a sip, and boy, the alcohol was much more hidden in that sucker. A pity it had so much coffee in it. Worth trying if you like coffee beers...)

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

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The beer nerd line these days is that pumpkin beers are mere gimmicks and they come out too early and pumpkin spice is an evil abomination that infects everything with its misery and that beer buying is a zero sum game and if there are pumpkin beers on shelves that means I can't buy other beer. Or something like that. To be fair, my interest in pumpkin beer has waned in the past couple of years and there are legitimate reasons to not like the style, but I like to get in the spirit of the season at least a little every year (and while some brewers around here do Fresh Hop beers, we don't have it quite as good as the West Coasters or, in particular, the Pacific Northwest). Sometimes this is a big win, most of the time, perhaps not as much. About a month ago, I wound up at a friend's house and he broke out a bomber of Pumking and I could have sworn I liked this better before. When I think about it, most of my favorite pumpkin beers are not your traditional style. Stuff like a stouts or weizenbocks or whatever Autumn Maple is seem to be more my thing.

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale appears to be a straightforward pumpkin ale. No wacky yeasts or imperial stout malt bills, just a good old fashioned amber base with pumpkin and spices. It does have a decent reputation though, so I figured I'd give it a shot, and I was quite pleasantly surprised to really enjoy this. After all, it is Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers, so it's always nice to have something legit to drink along those lines:

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale - Pours a very dark amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of pumpkin pie spice, lots of cinnamon and clove, no detectable ginger (which is a good thing in my book), with some other spicy aromas floating around. Taste has a nice, substantial malt backbone to match with the pie spice from the nose, which picks up in the middle and lasts through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, but it's got a significant carbonation that cuts through all that. Overall, this is an extremely well balanced Pumpkin beer. It's complex, but none of the elements overpower, and it's very tasty. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/3/14. Bottled: 08/20/2014.

Schlafly has always put out pretty solid beer, and this is no exception. At this point, I'm really curious to try their Christmas beer. And, of course, the BBA Imperial Stout (which I used to see around a lot, but not at all lately, weird).

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Pumpkin Ale category.

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