Nick Carr on September 25, 2020 0 Comments Pumpkin beer — that subtle libation that shyly sneaks onto beer shelves every Autumn, half-hidden, only peaking out at the potential purchaser. If selected this timid seasonal will lavish upon its purchaser an exquisite memory-flash of the warming melancholy of Fall; with an understated amusement of pumpkin spice and slight vegetal drawings, without ever losing sight of its “Aleness.” I wish there was such a beer, but most of the time there’s nothing subtle about pumpkin beer. From the way they take center stage on the shelves and “lesser” beers are shoved aside, to the unnatural imitations of pumpkin pie spice with very little to remind the drinker of actual pumpkin — or that they’re even drinking a beer. I’ve reviewed a few good ones. Rogue’s comes to mind, as does Ballast Point’s and Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin; but all in all, I’ve had far more pumpkin beers that were either mediocre at best or downright terrible at worst. Every Autumn I come to the beer shelves hopeful. Last year I found a decent one in Wasatch’s Black O’Lantern. This year? Who knows, but it’s always an adventure, and sometimes you have to plow through the bad ones to find the good. This year I start my pumpkin escapades off with Atomic Pumpkin. New Belgium has made some great beer… and some beer I didn’t care for that much, but I am ever willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin was first released last year and seemed to run middle of the road for most drinkers. BeerAdvocate and RateBeer both have it at right around 3.5 out of 5 stars. I missed it last year (or maybe I’d already had my fill of pumpkin beer), but I was intrigued by the promise of heat in the form of Habanero peppers. Come to find out they made some adjustments to the recipe in the beer’s off-season. Last year it sported pumpkin, Saigon cinnamon, and Habanero peppers. This year they’ve upped the game a bit by adding Aji and Del Arbol peppers. Also, the pumpkin is now listed as only pumpkin juice instead of pumpkin, which makes me wonder if this was an actual change or if it was only juice last year too. The sight has a pretty funny blurb from the one-and-only Voodoo Ranger, stating: “Enough with the run-of-the-mill pumpkin beers. I’m not interested in an ale that takes cues from a frozen coffee drink, and neither are you. That’s why I made Atomic Pumpkin. Does it really feature Habanero peppers? Yep! What about Saigon Cinnamon? Ding! Aji and Del Arbol peppers? Winner. I round it all out with a hearty malt bill that makes for a spicy brew that puts the “Fun” back in Pumpkin. (Spelling was never my strength).” -Voodoo Ranger …My sentiments exactly. I hope the beer can live up to it. The Tasting Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin. Pour and Aroma: Clarity is superb. It’s a pale amber color, verging on dark golden. Carbonation spins a fingers-worth of head, tight and just off-white. Retention is fair. The aroma is pretty amazing! Spicy heat from the peppers, add the slight sweetness and it reminds me of the Red Hots I used to get at the movie theater as a kid. The Saigon cinnamon is bold and, along with hints of nutmeg, combine beautifully with the malty backbone; building a pretty accurate pumpkin muffin-type aroma. There’s also a slightly sweet cherry thing going on, especially as the beer warms. Mouthfeel and Taste: Body is medium. Mouthfeel is spicy and rich with heat rising through the middle; nicely warming between the cinnamon, peppers, and alcohol content. Astringency is mild. Malt is bready and sweet, slightly pumpkin-bread like, at the front. The Saigon cinnamon, often noted as being superior to regular cinnamon, certainly comes through robust and bold. Add to this the peppers that throw their weight behind the cinnamon, and you’ve got a spicy heat that follows all the way to the finish and lingers long after the swallow. There’s also a low hint of vegetal flavor, but whether this is contributed by the peppers or the pumpkin juice (or both), I can’t say. Finish is medium-sweet, slightly cloying. Finishing Thoughts Wow, not bad! I’d have to say the aroma alone is almost worth it on this one. Very special. It is a sweet beer and it does carry some heat. It’s definitely not something you’re gonna pound two or three bottles of back-to-back either. So, if any of these characteristics don’t appeal, this may not be for you. Style: Pumpkin/Vegetable Beer Glass: Tulip IBUs: 10 ABV: 6.4% Hops: Nugget Malts: Pale, Munich, Caramel 120 Yeast: Ale Other Ingredients: Pumpkin Juice, Saigon Cinnamon, Habanero Peppers, Aji Peppers, and Del Arbol Peppers Shelf Life: 3 to 6 months Serving Temp: 50 – 55oF Pairings: Pumpkin Bread, Hearty Beef Stew, Aged Gouda, Pumpkin Pie Availability: Seasonal I have to say I liked it. Yes, it could have been slightly less sweet, but it works for a sipper. I love the bready complexity along with the Saigon cinnamon, and the heat is awesome! If ever there was a beer to warm the cool evenings of fall this is it.