I know… I know… I said I was done with the pumpkin beers and honestly I thought I was. I had completely exhausted my supply and so had the stores so that was the end of it, right? Wrong. My beer trading buddy Keith sent me a beer mail yesterday and it was a doozy! Check out this quality selection!
With that selection in mind, there will be two more pumpkin ale reviews before this year is finished. Tonight’s happens to be for the larger of the two bottles, Cigar City’s Good Gourd out of Tampa, FL. If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know I love pumpkin ales. So without any further ado, let’s pour!
Aroma 10/12: “Pairings” seems to be the theme of the aroma. Sweet pumpkin flesh abounds and is paired with heaps of brown sugar. The blend of clove and cinnamon smells so good it makes me want to try it as an ice cream flavor. A slightly earthier nutmeg appears behind the two primary spices as does a light warmth. While, there’s nothing innovative about what’s going on here, this beer smells more like pumpkin pie that any I’ve tried. The brown sugar aids that comparison immensely.
Appearance 3/3: This is the second beer in a row I’ve reviewed where the head alone deserves 3 points. A moderately aggressive pour returns a huge, rising pillar of head that tries to escape my tulip the first chance it gets. Subsequent pours from this 1 pint, 9.4 oz bottle even yielded and undesireably high amount of foam. Once it has ascended it is no hurry to come back down. This fluffy, tan crown resists falling and leaves a fair amount of lace. The color is also fascinating. I’m not sure what aspect in the beer would effect its opacity as such, but I’ve never seen a beer that has such a contrast in color from the center of the glass to the edges. The center is so dark! When held up and to the light, it’s like a candle has been lit in the bottom with a glowing orange flicker, and the center is some darkened corner. When simply placed in front of a light source it as handsome a shade of orange as any leaf in fall.
Flavor 16/20: There are no introductory flavors here! The drinker is instantly immersed into a candied pumpkin flesh and soon has the brown sugar and caramel malts to join them. As the beer is held in the mouth the sweetness dies down a bit and strikes more of an earthy spice note consisting of the nutmeg and cinnamon, in that order. And even after that flavor fades away, a creamy note remains and is complimentary to the pumpkin’s naturally smooth mouthfeel. The finish is primarily brown sugar and spice with the pumpkin struggling to maintain its starring role. There is a light bitter, but it seems to stem more from the earthy spice than any sort of contribution from a hop. When these dark, earthy spices and the brown sugar/caramel mix in the aftertaste, it’s a molasses-like combination and not an unpleasant end to the beer.
Mouthfeel 3/5: This is not your typical pumpkin beer. Despite the higher alcohol content, the lighter malt presence yields a much smaller body than anticipated in a pumpkin seasonal. This lighter malt content also results in an experience that doesn’t possess the smoothness of most pumpkin seasonals. In keeping with what must have been Cigar City’s intentions, the carbonation is high. Not just for the style, I mean the carbonation is really fizzy. While it never becomes prickly nor distracting, it is an unusual to see this much carbonation in this style. It also lends itself to extremely large-headed pours. To its credit, the alcohol content is perfectly camouflaged other than the hint given in the aroma.
Overall Impression 8/10: While full of flavors and great aroma, this beer chose to be a lighter, more drinkable pumpkin ale than most found on the market. The body feels light, the carbonation is bubbly and lively, and the taste is more like pie than some beers who choose to go a more “authentic” route. Are any of those sentences a criticism? No, it’s simply what this beer is designed to do. For what it’s worth, it does them rather well.
Total 40/50: This is a craft beer designed to please the masses. Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron? “Craft beer” and “the masses?” Not in this case, it isn’t. It smells like pumpkin pie, tastes pretty darn good, hides its alcohol, and has a lighter, more drinkable body which is all the more aided by its high carbonation. What’s not to love? This may be the perfect blend of being flavorful enough to satisfy the craft beer market (Namely, me. I’d buy this again) and not being too big, scary, & bold to frighten off the experimental or occasional craft beer drinker. Personally, I love a super-smooth, authentic pumpkin filled, malt-tastic, balanced, big ol’ pumpkin beer. This beer is not that, but it certainly has its place in the market and presents an welcome alternative. Heck, it has even shown it has its place in two markets: hardcore craft beer & beyond. If you like pumpkin beers, but wish they could be a little less “big” or “syrupy,” then have I got a beer for you.
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!