Nick Carr on October 17, 2016 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Location San Diego, CA Style Spice, Herb, or Vegetable (Pumpkin) Beer ABV 5.8% IBU 22 Hops ? Malts ? Shelf Life 9 to 12 months Suggested Glass Tulip Glass Serving Temp 50-55°F Availability Fall Seasonal Food Pairings Truffle Risotto w/ Butternut, Jalapeño Cornbread, Asiago Cheese, Pumpkin Muffin It’s funny but there seems to be very little middle ground when it comes to pumpkin beer. Beer drinkers either, embrace and love them, or they groan with a strange passionate hatred when pumpkin starts showing up on the shelves. Not too long ago I could have placed myself as an acolyte of the second order. Oh, hate may have been a little strong in my case. I didn’t care for the examples I’d tried, and so viewed the seasonal march of the pumpkin ale as something unworthy of my time. Something better left ignored. Then I started reviewing beer, and found, in keeping to seasonal popularity, that I couldn’t very well escape reviewing a minimum of one or two a year. I suddenly had to pay attention when the parade came to town and I found myself searching a little further afield than I’d ventured before. And low, I found a few of the dreaded pumpkin invested beers not too bad… even good! I still can’t stand the standard pumpkin pie fare, which is still quite common, but seems to be becoming less so, as more brewer’s try to do something different. It’s a beer, not a pumpkin pie after all. Most examples that take this route tend to brew a too sweet beer, with a too heavy hand in the spice cabinet, and not enough pumpkin. Shop Ballast Point on Amazon Even worse are those relying on the spice cabinet to create some strange, always off-centered pumpkin allegory, with perhaps the token bit of pumpkin making it in, just so it can be advertised as beer “made with real-pumpkin.” If making a pumpkin beer, use more pumpkin than spices! Otherwise don’t call it a pumpkin beer. A warning to all you homebrewers out there. Ok, I’m getting off the soap box now. Time for a review. I thought I’d start the seasonal pumpkin reviews off with one I know I love — gotta ease myself in right? I first picked up Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down last year. I love the Piper Down, so when I realized they had simply taken that base beer and added “a boatload of roast pumpkin” and a “subtle amount of spice” I knew I’d have to try it. It didn’t disappoint and though I didn’t get around to reviewing it last year I gave it a place on the Drinking Pumpkin list. This year I was excited to see it leading the pumpkin parade onto my local beer shelves. It’s even gathered some critical acclaim this year, winning a bronze at the World Beer Cup in the Pumpkin Beer category, which is no mean feat with the popularity of this seasonal and the number of examples out there. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Pumpkin Down. If you tasted this beer or you’re enjoying one as you read this review, please share your thoughts or opinion with everyone down in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: Pumpkin Down falls into the glass a deep rich ruby color. The light tan head rises a good two fingers above the surface before quickly fizzing away, leaving only spotty islands of thin foam behind. Against good light thin streams of carbonation can be seen in the clear depths. Sweet vegetal pumpkin and rich toffee go back and forth in the aroma. Then the pie spices kick in and the dance really gets started. Some notes of brown sugar and dark fruit round out the party. Not overly sweet and some bready malts; reminds me of something between pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, or maybe a pumpkin muffin. Mouthfeel and Taste: A voluptuous round fullness greets the palate; warm, inviting, and smooth. A light mild bitterness kicks mid-palate. Spices and alcohol intermingle to build a nice low warming. The taste is all about pumpkin bread. The toasted bread and caramel sweet qualities of Piper Down play well with the mild pumpkin to create pumpkin bread. The spices are bold as a group, but each alone, is subtle enough to keep me guessing. Little bit of fruitiness around the edges. The back and finish bring some added sweetness and the “pumpkin pie” likeness takes some shape. Aftertaste is sweet and filled with spice. FINISHING THOUGHTS I love that it reminds me more of pumpkin bread or a pumpkin muffin than actual pumpkin pie. I like those bready qualities in a beer. It’s still the best lighter ABV pumpkin beer I’ve come across and maintains its place on my list of worthy pumpkin libations, alongside beers like Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale and Avery’s Rumpkin. If you see it, give it a try. If you like pumpkin beer you’re gonna love it, no doubt, but you may find yourself enjoying it even if you’re not that big a fan of the style.