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Southern Tier Brewing
Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout
8.6% ABV

Brewed with 2-row pale malt, caramel malt, black malt, Munich malt, pureed pumpkin, magnum and sterling hops, and natural flavors.

It's hard to imagine but it's true.  Whether we like it or not, the pumpkin beers have arrived, signifying the reality of the upcoming fall season.  It's not the pumpkin beers' fault that summer will soon be over - and one can't shoot the messenger, after all.

That being said - one does have good reason to be skeptical of pumpkin beer.
  Sadly, there have been some which I actually dumped down the drain after taking one sip (gasp - alcohol abuse!).  In my opinion, there is no justification for sickly sweet, unbalanced and overly-spiced beer any time of the year.  At the risk of stating the obvious: if I wanted pumpkin pie, I would be eating pumpkin pie and not drinking beer.  Pumpkin pie is delicious.  Pumpkin pie beer - not so much.  And why mask the flavor of the pumpkin with sugar and spice if it's your featured ingredient? 

Thankfully, I found a couple of pumpkin beers last year which were both balanced and complex and which managed to showcase the flavor of the pumpkin itself.

One stand-out in the pumpkin category was last year's Mabon by Propolis Brewing.  Propolis normally grows their own herbs and spices - and they grew their own pumpkins as well, picking them as fresh as they could to make this aged farmhouse ale, a synergy of savory and sweet.  The result was an incredibly complex beer with a subtlety of flavor that's rarely found in pumpkin ales. 

Another great one was Pumpkin Smash by Cascade Brewing - a sour beer aged in rum barrels on "triple-roasted" pumpkins - a shit ton of them - for nearly a year.  Roasting highlights the beautiful flavor of the pumpkin and brings out the natural sugars, integrating perfectly with the flavor of rum and spices, then balanced by tartness.  Dangerously drinkable at 11.4% ABV - it may be your noggin and not your pumpkin that gets smashed.


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A third pumpkin beer which did not offend me last year was Alaskan Brewing's Pumpkin Porter.  Though the pumpkin itself didn't really come out in this one, the spices integrated nicely with chocolatey malt.  Think Mexican chocolate, but without being overly-sweet - an interesting take on pumpkin beer. 

And in the same dark-chocolate-and-spice pumpkin beer category is Southern Tier's Warlock.

Warlock pours a dark brown, almost black, but with some clarity against the light - hardly the black tar body of some imperial stouts.  A beige, two-finger head mellows out to a ring around the glass, then to nothing at all, without much lacing to speak of.  The nose is nutty and spicy - allspice and nutmeg dominate.  Smooth, velvety, medium-bodied.  A spice-forward vanilla coats the tongue, with some chocolate and a subtle and creeping coriander bitterness.  While not overly sweet at first, it becomes sickly sweet as it warms and could use a bit of hop bitterness for balance.  I also find the liberal use of spices to be over-the-top.  Not a bad beer but certainly couldn't drink a whole 22-oz to myself.  Okay, I lied.  I actually did - but I don't recommend it.  

Serve chilled to keep the sweetness at bay, or drink for dessert if that's your thing.


 
 
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Alaskan Brewing
Pumpkin Porter
7% ABV


An imperial porter brewed with pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. Eleven pounds per barrel of Red Hubbard pumpkin, six different malts, Magnum and Golding hops and cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

Pours nearly black with a short, creamy head that dissipates quickly. Smells of spices, roasted malt, coffee and chocolate. A rich, creamy mouthfeel with a medium to full body, there is, at first, the sweet taste of chocolate and spices, then roasted coffee transforms into a slight oakiness, bitter chocolate throughout, then finishes with a perfectly - I mean, perfectly - balanced hops bitterness. This is a very complex and well-balanced beer, not at all too heavy to have another glass...or three.