Swan’s Pumpkin Ale 2016

swans_pumpkinBrewer:Swan’s Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Pumpkin Ale
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Swan’s seasonal ale is back, and this year’s Pumpkin ale is fashioned in the usual way. Pale malts are combined with a mild hopping, then spiced with nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. And of course, there’s the fresh baked pumpkin to finish the mix.

Tasting Notes: A nice, balanced pumpkin ale that has a smooth start, some powerful (but not overpowering) spice notes, and a lingering, spicy finish. I remember this one from year’s back and it’s still a nice way to ring in the Fall season.

Appearance: Deep amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, rich notes of allspice, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie
Taste: Smooth, crisp malt, ginger zest, cinnamon snap, allspice, pumpkin flesh
Aftertaste: Lingering pumpkin and spice flavor, mild ginger bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Category 12 ZRA Zombie Repellent Ale

c12-zra-bottle-cBrewer: Category 12, Central Saanich,
Style: Dark Ale (hard to place, really)
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 49

Description: This latest seasonal release from C12  – which is located right in my backyard! – is what they describe as being an “anti-pumpkin ale”. This brew is named in honor of its combination of Zythos hops, CaraRed malt, and Azacca hops, which are augmented by the addition of Fennel and Sweet Orange and then fermented using their proprietary strain of Belgian yeast. The end result is a dark ale designed to “snap any mindless, pumpkin spice zombie out of their trance and back to reality”. Really not a fan of pumpkin ales, huh?

Tasting Notes: I for one do not support the political agenda inherent in this beer! Okay, mandatory disclaiming done, now let’s get to this beer! I found this brew to be brilliantly experimental and very tasty. The dark malt, Belgian yeast, and combination of hops provides a malty, spicy and crisp base. The addition of fennel and orange add to the pleasant spiciness and soften things a bit with some additional sweetness. A balanced, tasty, and very interesting brew!

Appearance: Deep brown/ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich fennel spice, Belgian yeasts, pepper, hint of citrus, dry herbal hops
Taste: Crisp malt, malt sweetness, yeast bite, dry herbal hops, fennel spice, orange
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, dry herbs, yeasty bitterness
Overall: 9.5/10

Russell 2014 Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale

Russel_Happy_JackBrewer: Russell Brewing, Surrey, BC
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 25

Description: This seasonal release is available only for the Fall pumpkin season. It is brewed single-batch-style, using pale malts, real pumpkin, and then infused with whole spices (what I strongly suspect are cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) and aged with oak.

Tasting Notes: Compared to my previous samplings of Happy Jack, this one was stronger on the spice palate. These work well alongside the smooth and slightly sweet malt base, which of course benefits from the infusion of pumpkin. So I actually found myself enjoying it more than last year’s offering. Hence I am upgrading it from last years 8.5 to a solid 9. Kudos to the brewers!

Appearance: Dark Ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Pale malt nose, pumpkin flesh, strong notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, notes of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, spices and spice bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Phillips Cherry Heiter Smoked Cherry Ale

Phillips_Cherry-HieterBrewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria BC
Style: Fruit-infused, smoked ale
ABV: 7%

Description: A Phillips seasonal limited-release, this fruit-infused beer combines cherries with smoked malts to create an ale that combines elements of a Rauchbier and a fruit ale. Available just in time for Fall.

Tasting Notes: It must be kismet, seeing as how a bunch of limited release beers that incorporate smoked malts began coming out so soon after I reintroduced myself to Rauchbiers. And while it may seem like an odd idea, the combination of a cherry-infused ale and a smoked ale actually makes for a pretty interesting experience. The soft, slightly sweet flavor of cherries provides some sense of balance to the smoke and tang of the malts. I must be growing as a beer drinker, since this style no longer seems difficult or distasteful to me!

Appearance: Dark ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smokey malts, light notes of cherry
Taste: Immediate burst of smoked malt, mild tang, soft notes of sweet cherry
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke tang and mild bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Russel Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale

russell_happy-jack-pumpkin-aleBrewer: Russel Brewing, Surrey BC
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.5%

Description: This is Russel Brewing’s latest seasonal release and is available just in time for the Fall Season and all its pumpkin-related occasions. Brewed from a combination of what I can only assume is Brown Ale malt, pumpkin, allspice, and aged in oak, the end result is a ale that is light and refreshing, but noticeably spiced and varied in taste.

Tasting Notes: As pumpkin ales go, this one was noticeably subtler than the ones I am used to. At first, it seemed on the mild side, but was also quite refreshing. However, the spice flavors and oaky undertones came through in time, as did the lovely taste of pumpkin pie. In short, the subtlety works in its favor and its full body comes through slowly but surely. Definitely one of the better seasonal pumpkin’s I have had of late!

Appearance: Dark brown/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, pumpkin pie, notes of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg spice
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of pumpkin flesh, notes of allspice, oaky finish
Aftertaste: Lingering spice palette, oak, pumpkin and roasted malt flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Steamworks Pumpkin Ale

And we’re back with another Pumpkin Ale, which i have to admit, I was somewhat surprised to find. As far as I could tell, I still hadn’t scratched the surface on all the pumpkin beer that I already knew about. But apparently, there are some I never knew of. Case in point, Steamworks Pumpkin Ale, fresh from the brewery located in scenic Gastown in Downtown Vancouver.

Unlike most I’ve tried at this point, Steamwork’s has produced an ale that is brown in variety, as opposed to a Pale Ale which is far more common. In terms of color, the malts, and the toasty, tawny flavor, this beer is the perfect merger of a dark ale with pumpkin spice and zest. A true, all around fall ale, and perfect for my ongoing seasonal review series!

Appearance: Dark brownish-red, transparent, and low foam
Nose: Mixed array of spices, clove and nutmeg the most apparent, pumpkin malts
Taste: Immediate burst of cloves and spice, giving way to tawny malts reminiscent of brown ale
Aftertaste: Lingering taste of spices, cinnamon and nutmeg, mild bitterness
Overall: 9.5/10

And on a coincidental note, I will be in Vancouver this weekend for a football game. Go Lions! And I hope to get into the Steamworks for a little sampling, eats, and hopefully a nice chat with the brewery staff. They do good work, and I intend to tell them so!

Parallel 49 Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Welcome back to another installment in the Fall beer series! Today, I’m fortunate enough to deliver a double-whammy! Not only is this next beer a pumpkin seasonal ale, it’s also the first brew from Parallel 49 that I have ever tried. A Vancouver based operation, this craft brewery has been making waves of late with such items as its “Seed Spitter” Watermelon Ale, and their variety pack that includes samples all of their regular lineup.

And when it comes down to it, Lost Souls was a pretty creative addition. Combining the elements of a seasonal pumpkin with a chocolate porter, they essentially created a beer that is both Halloween and Thanksgiving desert in a glass. Smooth, toasty, and slightly sweet, it is a well rounded beer with plenty of appeal.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown, thick, high gravity, low foam
Nose: Rich notes of coffee and cocoa
Taste: Immediate burst of toasted, tawny malts, slight sweetness of pumpkin
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, lingering notes of espresso and chocolate
Overall: 8/10

In truth, this beer really didn’t possess that much of a pumpkin flavor to it. Nevertheless, the balance it struck between coffee, chocolate and sweet malts was quite pleasing. In addition, I can see it going well as a final course in a Thanksgiving meal, accompanying pie and/or a range of chocolate desserts. Check it out while it’s still available.

Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale

You know it’s officially autumn when three things come together. One, cold weather. Two, the leaves start to turn that lovely combination of yellow, red and orange. And three, craft brewers begin to ship the pumpkin ale. And in honor of this season, I intend to spend it sampling as many seasonal beers as possible.

These will include brown ales, Oktoberfest lagers, and most importantly, pumpkin ale! Nothing says fall, thanksgiving or Halloween like a pumpkin in a glass. And if it should come at 5% alc/vol, then so much the better! And to start things off right, I selected a brewery notorious for their seasonal and limited release beers, Phillips Crooked Tooth!

Appearance: Golden-orange, slightly cloudy
Nose: Strong hints of pumpkin and clove spice
Taste:Slightly sweet malts, traces of pumpkin pie, cloves and nutmeg
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness, lingering flavor of clove spice
Overall: 8.5/10

Overall, I was impressed with the flavor of this particular pumpkin ale. It was flavorful without being overpowering, the malts were sweet but not too sweet, and the spice palate was highly appropriate. All in all, a fitting accompaniment to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, or just plenty of sugary snacks!