Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale

By on January 27, 2011 @ 8 PM (No Comments)

Time for some spice! This Thursday review from John and Dad is on the Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale, which came highly recommended from our pal Darrin Pikarsky, founder of The Charlotte Beer Club. When the guy who founded a beer club recommends a beer, you friggin’ try it!

It’s brewed by the Carolina Beer Company, located about 30 minutes north of Charlotte in Mooresville, NC. They’re probably best known for their Carolina branded brews like Carolina Blonde and Carolina Strawberry Ale, but for our money their Cottonwood line of ales and seasonals is where the magic happens.

The Cottonwood Pumpkin Spice is a fall seasonal for them and comes in a 12 oz bottle. You’ll find varying reports on the ABV with BeerAdvocate listing it at 4.5%, RateBeer listing it at 5.1% and Carolina Beer’s own Pumpkin Spiced Ale page listing it at 6%. The likely scenario is that the ABV has changed over the years and has probably gradually crept up into that craft beer sweet spot of around 6% to 8% that a lot of the craft beers you find these days tend to have. More ABV rarely presents a problem for the craft beer segment, who we dare say tend to be a bit more responsible than the rank American domestic segment. Ever wonder what percentage of DUIs are a result of craft beer versus domestic beer? That should probably be a line on the police report, but we digress.

Our starting beer temperature came in at 48.6 F and our initial pour gave us a slightly larger than average 2″ fizzy off-white head that left no head lacing at it dissipated quickly. It’s got a nice lively amount of carbonation and the body clarity comes in fairly clear while the color is pure amber orange.

For the smell we pull some great aromas – light caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, ginger, maple syrup, nutmeg and some other fanciful spices. There’s no real pumpkin that pops out in the smell – it’s just all spices that dominate the nose. Just a wonderful aroma.

For our initial flavor notes we get a light sweet and a light tart that ramps up to a light to moderate sweet and light to moderate tart in the finish. The tastes come in with brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, ginger, maple syrup, nutmeg, pumpkin and some more spices. Though the pumpkin wasn’t prominent in the nose it’s definitely there in the taste, but it’s not overdone like so many of the other pumpkin beers we’ve had.

The finish length is average, the mouthfeel is oily and the tongue hit is front to middle. There’s not really much in the way of body lacing and on the patented malt to hop scale it comes in 3 clicks to the left of balanced on the malty side – one click away from a malt explosion.

For our bottom line notes we got a yes to drinkable, balance, harmony, memorable, wow factor and buy again. Our only no was to to repeatable (more on that later).

We really like the spice dominance in this one. It’s like a pumpkin pie in a glass. The best pumpkin beers we’ve done hedge more towards pumpkin pie smells than jack-o-lantern smells and though that may be a personal preference, we think it’s the right path to go down.

With the Cottonwood, it’s another case of a beer really hitting the season it’s made for – it’s truly a great fall/winter seasonal beer. Thought it’s not a great session beer (the spices could be a bit much to do multiples of in a sitting), it’s a tremendous first beer. It’s extremely pleasant and a lot of fun to drink. The spices make the beer, they’re not just innocent bystanders like so many other pumpkin beers. If you’re in an area where you can get Cottonwood beer and it happens to be fall, the Pumpkin Spice Ale is definitely worth a 6 pack or two.

Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale Rating: 7 out of 10 (?)


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