Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I’m finally getting around to posting some tasting notes for the Fall Classic.
The visual appearance is really great. Deep amber with brilliant clarity, despite all the pumpkin in the mash, and an off-white head with excellent retention and lacing. The aroma is predominately of the spices, with some nice bready and toasty notes as well, although there is a hint of a green or vegetal character. I’d had the beer several times before I noticed it, but now that I know it’s there it’s frustrating. If I had to guess, I’d say you could reduce the amount of pumpkin used to eliminate the aroma impact.
The flavor is nearly perfect, if I do say so myself. The initial impression is of rich malt that manages not to be sweet, not unlike a good doppelbock. The home-toasted malt is clearly adding quite a bit of flavor. Through the middle of the palate and into the aftertaste, the spices really come into their own. The finish has a dry, graham-cracker crispness and just a hint of alcohol heat, and the spices linger, which makes each sip a lengthy and satisfying experience.
I think the overall quantity of spices is just right, although you might have to adjust the ratios to suit your own preferences. If anything, the malt complexity may be a bit overdone. I have no trouble finishing a couple pints, but that’s about it. Which is OK, because this beer is pretty much a meal in a glass. The only foods it would really pair well with would be pumpkin pie and other spiced desserts.
Does it taste like a piece of pumpkin pie? Not really. There’s next to no sugar in it, after all. Is it the best pumpkin-spice beer I’ve ever had? Yes, and by a pretty wide margin. I’ve tried every commercial example I could find (you know, for research) and the one that comes closest is Elysian Night Owl.