Monday, September 24, 2012
Beer O'Clock: In Search of the Great Pumpkin Ale, Part 1
Let's be clear: this is not a competition.
A few weeks ago, I started collecting bottles of pumpkin ales. I wanted to do a comparison of the different seasonal ales from the breweries that are available to us beer lovers in Ottawa.
And some that aren't, but they won't be part of this taste comparison.
However, after I amassed a small stash of beer from all over Ontario, from Québec, and parts of the United States, I started thinking: I can't drink all of these beers in one sitting. I'll get pissed. I suppose I could drink a little of each, but what to do of the remainder of the bottles. When I review beer, I tend to do it alone. I don't want to be influenced by anyone.
And so I came up with an idea. I will drink two to three different pumpkin ales each week, giving my impression to you.
I'm starting with two very different pumpkin ales: one from Toronto, Ontario; the other, from Montréal, QC. In my search for great pumpkin ales, I went to Black Creek Historic Brewing and McAuslan Brewing (to the bottles, not the actual breweries).
I have never had either of these ales before this weekend, so I was tasting fresh. But I must admit: I had great expectations for the St-Ambroise Citrouille. After all, this brewery creates my favourite stout and makes an amazing seasonal IPA.
I performed this tasting in two sittings, drinking a bottle of each of the pumpkin ales in each tasting. For the first tasting, I drank a bottle of the St-Ambroise, and then drank the Black Creek. A couple of days later, I drank both ales at the same time, taking notes. Here's what I discovered:
The Black Creek pumpkin ale (5% ABV) shows a rich, murky amber-brown colour with a creamy, thick head that lasted for most of the life of the beer. I found the nose to be closed for many minutes; it slowly opened while I drank, but I could only detect faint spices. In the mouth, I was met with mild pumpkin and spice. The finish reminded me of black pepper but was short, and I caught something astringent.
Black Creek is an easy-drinking pumpkin ale. While I would have liked it to open more, would have liked a little more pumpkin-pie flavour, I did enjoy it. This is the type of beer that you could enjoy at a social gathering.
The St-Ambroise Citrouille (5% ABV), on the other hand, is very different. Starting with the appearance, this pumpkin ale is crystal-clear, with a deep amber to caramel colour. The head is white but disappears almost immediately. I thought my first bottle might have been flat, but the miniscule pearls stayed throughout, and this beer was fine. The second bottle was the same, so there was nothing wrong.
Where the Black Creek was closed, the Citrouille held intense spice on the nose, lots of pumpkin, and a freshly baked pie crust. I couldn't wait to taste it.
On the palate, the Citrouille was slightly sweet (did I detect maple?) and incredibly flavourful. The finish produced citrus flavours and great hops.
The St-Ambroise tasted more like a dessert-like beer; something that you treat yourself with.
While I liked the Black Creek, I loved the St-Ambroise pumpkin ale. But this isn't a competition. If you like pumpkin ales, go out and get both. Serve one after a meal; drink the other one when you're enjoying an evening with friends.
Next week, I'll take a look at two other Ontario brews: Mill Street and Great Lakes Beer. Cheers!