Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

For reasons I still can't figure out, I always seem to overlook the Heavy Seas lineup from Maryland's Clipper City Brewery at stores. It's not that they make bad beer. Aside from one or two hiccups their lineup is actually quite solid, and has some real gems like their Loose Cannon IPA, Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Winter Storm "Category 5" ESB. Anyway, a recent trip to the store had me staring at a few of their most recent offerings from their Mutiny Series of big beers. Always on the lookout for a new Pumpkin Ale, I picked up a bottle of The Great Pumpkin and gave it a go.

It's got the typical Pumpkin Ale look to it: an orange-copper color with an average sized off-white head that settles into a thin lace fairly quickly. It looks very clean and crisp overall.

Although many say that the use of actual pumpkins in beer provides little to no aroma or flavor, I actually found there to be a definite pumpkin vibe here that was balanced nicely by a subtle spice blend that consisted of cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a healthy dose of caramel. There may have even been a hint of ginger in the mix.

Sip after sip the flavor takes on all of the characteristics of the aroma but pumps up the spice a bit, yet not to the point of being overbearing. Cinnamon and nutmeg take the lead most of the way and then caramel finds its way into the mix toward the finish of each sip. I'm still picking up a bit of ginger as well. Call me crazy, but it's there.

Where Clipper City hits the mark with this one is that they beef everything up to make it "Imperial," but they don't go over the top with the spices, which is the dagger that most breweries fall on when they miss the mark with a spiced ale. The Great Pumpkin thankfully makes the grade across the board and also hides it's somewhat high 8.5% ABV quite well over the course of the bottle. A very good job. This one is as direct as can be for the style yet packs a nice flavor punch that's balanced and memorable. I would definitely pick it up again...

Hopback, Beer, Clipper City, Maryland, Mutiny Series, The Great Pumpkin, Imperial, Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas, Baltimore