I am very excited to finally be drinking some of my pumpkin beers. A bit late, I know, but I get more excited for pumpkin beers that probably any other seasonal beer so I'm not about to let these little treasures go unappreciated. Today's review is out of St. Louis, MO from the Schlafly Brewery and is their seasonal Pumpkin Ale. Enough with tha jibba-jabba! Let's pour!
A lot of great characteristics here! The spices rush to the nose and the first "main" scent. Cinnamon abounds, nutmeg is present, plenty of allspice, and freshly ground cloves are all here, but not so much that they threaten to overwhelm the drinker. There is a sweet pumpkin smell and it's blended with the sharper sweet of apples. The fruit sweetness combines with a brown sugar/caramel note and is right on the money. My mouth is watering just typing this. Have you ever made a brown sugar reduction on the stove top to glaze a ham? It's just water and brown sugar (and some butter) that you boil down until it gets thick enough to stick to the ham. The brown sugar note in this beer smells like that brown sugar reduction. So good! There is not an overabundance of pumpkin here. It is not overstated, but is certainly present. As the beer warms, the pumpkin does begin to show more and more and become a near 50/50 balance with the spice. Perfect!
It is quite a bit darker than most pumpkin beers I have come across. My tulip is full of coppers, scarlets, umbers, siennas, and when held to the light this beer shines like a gemstone! It is very impressive! The head was small and extremely quick to die. If I didn't feel so strongly about the beautiful color on this one, I normally would have deducted a point.
|See?! It DOES shine like a gemstone!|
The front of this beer is a wonderful display of what good malts can do! Crystal malts are first giving a milky flavor and foreshadowing the sound body that is to come. The darker malts then kick in and bring tons of bready goodness. There's even a tinge of sour like a dark loaf of bread, and is so perfectly roasted, you would swear it just came out of grandma's oven. This dark bread, hinting at sour, combines readily with the caramel from the aroma and all the spices. It takes a while to realize that the caramel isn't the only sweetness that has entered the picture. Stealthily, the pumpkin has strode into the mix and provided a balance to this beer that is close to unmatched. When held in the mouth, it's quite a treat to taste the bread, then the caramel, and then the gradual, mellow, distinct sweetness of the pumpkin. And this beer isn't finished! The final wave is one of brown sugar and it's a neat dessert-like ending to the super complex backbone of this beer. The finish finally allows the sweet pumpkin to take over wholeheartedly with a bit of the same apple-like crispness from the aroma. The pumpkin wraps itself in caramel as it slides down your throat and leaves the mouth salivating.
This may be the only category keeping this beer from a perfect rating. The carbonation is just a bit too aggressive and/or prickly, especially considering the smooth nature that the pumpkin and malts provide. While this high carbonation does probably prevent the beer from becoming too heavy, a bit less carbonation would've made this beer untouchable. This beer is definitely full-bodied and satin smooth. Remember the last line in the "Flavor" category? Slides down your throat? It absolutely does. Unbelievable.
Overall Impression 10/10
This is easily one of the best gourd beers I have ever had. The length of each category's description is a testament to how much there is going on in this bottle! While there is no subtle flavor in this bottle, the blend and balance are kept marvelously in line and are one of this beer's finest attributes. Everything tastes authentic and not candied or overly-spiced. Each person has their own perference where they like the balance of pumpkin vs spice to be. This beer hits my preference right on the head and has enough other attributes to make this a truly superior beer.
In my opinion, the most important thing a pumpkin beer can do is balance the flavors of the spices with the flavor of the pumpkin. Too much spice is gross and too much pumpkin can taste candied or like a vegetable. To get the mix just right seems like something I'm always searching for in pumpkin seasonals, but I don't think I'll be searching anymore. This beer has the right mix for my palate. Not only is the balance right, but the initial breadiness and caramel are the two extra touches that will have me singing its praises for a long time to come. It's biggest downfall is that I can't get it whenever I want it. Since the two bottle used for this review were the last of my sixer, it looks like I'll be eagerly awaiting next year's release. BIG PROST to the folks at Schlafly!