4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
There are basically two types of pumpkin beers: those that taste like real pumpkin and those that taste like pumpkin pie. The former tend to be more of an acquired taste since they’re usually very spicy and earthy, whereas the latter are very sweet and borderline gimmicky. I think Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale does an excellent job of walking the line between the styles.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into an English pint glass. The color is a pretty shade of mahogany with a slightly ruby red haze. It forms a good-sized, frothy, off-white head which leaves some lacing on the glass and never completely dissipates. It regenerates with a swirl of the glass.
The aroma is exactly what I like in a pumpkin beer: noticeable pumpkin scents with components of spice afterwards (mostly cinnamon and nutmeg). It doesn’t smell overly-spiced, which is nice.
When it comes to the Samuel Adams lineup, I find the "real" beer styles are solid but the seasonal/gimmicky brews tend to flop. So when I took my first sip of Harvest Pumpkin Ale I was floored. This beer is pretty much exactly what I look for in a pumpkin brew: sweet pumpkin pie-like flavor up front, satisfying spice in the middle, and a slight hop bitterness on the finish. It’s rare a pumpkin beer can be this well-balanced.
As the beer warms, the taste evolves from pie sweetness to a more earthy, organic pure pumpkin flavor. The bitterness increases too, but there’s still a tasty sweetness akin to dark chocolate in the aftertaste (which makes for a strange, but pleasant, flavor combination). Although I did find the palate began to weaken and thin out towards the end.
I don’t think I’ve ever described a pumpkin beer as having a creamy texture, but I would say that’s true here. The thicker, softer texture helps take some of the edge off the spicy kick. However, Harvest Pumpkin Ale is not what I would consider quaffable, nor is it refreshing as it definitely dries out the mouth. Drinking it slow helps to appreciate the complexity of the palate.
At 5.7% this beer has the perfect potency. Any heavier would make it too intense and any lighter might make it too mild. I think it would work well as an after-dinner beer accompanied by pumpkin pie or bread.
It’s a shame that the only way to get Harvest Pumpkin Ale is in the Samuel Adams autumn mix pack (as of this writing). It’s possible a lot of craft beer enthusiasts might be denied of such a solid example of the pumpkin beer style.