View From The Road: Williamsburg Alewerks’ Pumpkin Ale

wpid-20140903_132631.jpgI had held out long enough, I suppose.  While I might leave the getting up on the seasonal beer soapbox to others, I still wasn’t quite ready for my first Pumpkin beer.  Still, I knew that the coming of cooler weather or one more page turned on the calendar would probably do it.  So roughly 48 hours before the start of September, lacking in very many other choices at the time and mostly due to the knowledge that, cooler weather or not, pumpkin beers might be gone before the first leaf actually fell, I took the plunge and ordered my first pumpkin beer of the season.  Of course, it also helped reinforce my decision that the one available to me at the time is one of the best around – and arguably, might be the best period.

For some time now, Virginia’s Williamsburg Alewerks has been turning out their wonderfully delicious Pumpkin Ale.  Deservedly so, a couple of number based ratings back up this beer’s credibility:  93/94 on BeerAdvocate.com, and 97 on RateBeer.com.  But such ratings cannot duplicate the experience of tasting any beer of course, and each year, at least for me, it happens the same way.  I tend to enjoy at least a couple while the beer is available, but once the beer disappears from store shelves, I have only those one or two memories – as strong as they are – to recall just how solid this beer is.  When the season comes back around, and the beer reappears, those memories are brought fully back to life, and I recall just how good it is.  On first sip, I instantly recall that not only does it stand out among the glut of pumpkin beers that hit each year, but it begins to transcend the “style”, as well as the “season”.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone saying “yes, it’s good for what it is” here.  It’s simply a very well done beer, no matter what the label might say.

Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale:

While many pumpkin beers lead with an onslaught of spices, the better ones often are said to taste like “liquefied pumpkin pie”, and some, as a friend pointed out recently, taste very much like the crust of a pumpkin pie (with just a bit of the filling left behind), Williamsburg Alewerks’ version delivers it’s aroma and taste on top of a foundation of rich but not overly done so sweetness.  It’s a little reminiscent of the caramelized, slightly torch-burnt sugars on top of a serving of crème brulee, possibly assisted by the use of brown sugar in the beer.  There is something else there as well, something also slightly rich but a little “roasty”, which I would imagine is the roasted pumpkin meat that is used in the beer.  There is a good amount of spices as well – cinnamon and nutmeg – but instead of taking over, the spices have melded perfectly with that rich sweetness.  So many pumpkin beers operate on sensory spice overload, but everything here works so well together.  Every sip is sturdily supported by that rich, slightly burnt sweetness, with the spices tumbling around within.  All of this is delivered by a smooth, nicely weighted body and light carbonation so as not to get in the way.  There is even a tiny bit of dry, maybe slightly bitter pie crust like quality off in the background as well, just to keep you lost deep in the enjoyment of the beer.  If the best pumpkin ales mimic a slice of pumpkin pie, this one is a slice that’s been baked in a five star restaurant’s kitchen, dialed up for a special occasion.

Pumpkin Ale, spiced beer, dessert beer, winter warmer, darn good beer – whatever you want to call it, it is without question revisiting year after year.

Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale – by the numbers:

Seasonal release “ale brewed with roasted pumpkin and spices”, 7.3% abv, available on draft and in bottle formats, out on store shelves now.

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~ by thebeerroad on September 3, 2014.

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