It’s September 3rd and that means the Summer season is officially over, along with summer beers and barbecues on the porch. Unfortunately, here in Canada, that does not mean the heat is over; on the contrary, today was one of the hottest days of the year so far, and no one was happy.
The coming of Autumn heralds something to be happy about though, a phenomenon well-known to Torontonians: pumpkin spice. If Christmas is the season to be jolly, Autumn is the season for pumpkin spice everything. This includes coffee, lattes, chai lattes, <insert your Starbucks drink of choice>, Tim Hortons muffins and donuts, pretty much anything that can be infused with that delicious pumpkin flavour that won’t make you barf, and some things that will.
Well for some of us, the drink of choice for any season is beer. It might still be quite early in the season but lo and behold, I have found pumpkin spice beer:
Now, I’m only a casual drinker, so honestly a lot of my choices are based mostly (read: entirely) on “Hey this looks cool! And I haven’t tried it yet!”. The Highball gets points for that, with its funky font, bright red cap and apple-green label, but Black Creek has a special place in my heart since someone close to me used to work there. Plus I’ve had another great beer from there, so I thought why not, let’s give it a shot. The flashy Highball will have to wait.
I said I’m a casual but that doesn’t mean I won’t put some structure into this review. I’m going to follow this helpful post and rate the beer on five categories: Look, Smell, Taste, Feel and Style. It goes without saying that all of this is subjective, so take it with a grain of hops *ahem* salt, and by all means try it yourself. My 0/10 could be your 11/10.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Name: Black Creek Pumpkin Ale
The label is plain simple, just like it would have been in the 19th century. There really isn’t much to say here. It’s a big pumpkin.
Now, I love amber ales myself, so its colour in a glass was a pleasant surprise, a dark translucent amber with some brown. And let no one say I can’t make a clean pour.
Really the coolest thing here is the carbonation, which I haven’t seen before. If you look closely, you can see the bubbles floating to the top. This is cool, but makes me a bit wary, plus I like a slightly redder colour. So, we end up with the rating below.
True to the label, it smells strongly of spices, and some sweetness. It’s hard to judge that it’s pumpkin spice exactly since it’s so strong, and it overpowers the sweetness or any other major smells there. Truthfully, it smells a bit like sour wine mixed with sugar; not as bad as it sounds, but not the most inviting smell either. Here I’m giving it a 5, which I’ll arbitrarily say is the cutoff point: smells below are just bad, smells above are good, and this is right on the border.
The moment of truth, let’s take the first drink!
The initial taste is carbonated and spicy, much like the smell, but not nearly as domineering. It kind of hits you for a bit, then makes way for the aftertaste. It tastes strange, not quite like most beers, and definitely not like most amber ales I can think of. It honestly tastes kind of like alcoholic, spicy root beer, if that makes any sense. If anything the alcohol itself is hard to notice, which is weird because the label says it’s 5%, slightly more than typical lagers (albeit on par for an ale).
The aftertaste is more like what you’d expect from pumpkin spice, sharp and spicy, and it lingers far longer than I expected. Several minutes after the first draft you can still faintly feel the taste, but now it’s given way to sweetness and feels the same as when you drink a lot of soda but not enough water. Like there’s too much sugar in your mouth and you just want a regular drink.
Overall it feels like someone took the “beer” part of root beer too literally and produced this concoction. Not bad, but you don’t really feel like you’re drinking real beer, root or not.
It feels thick in a way, like the extra ingredients are weighing it down, and despite not feeling the alcohol much while drinking it, it’s definitely kicking in now. The carbonation is barely there and gives it a nice crisp feel without overwhelming you. The spices give it a fresh, pleasant feel, if only for a little bit. A good combination, this is what gives you the “It’s Autumn” sensation.
This beer is plain and simple. It knows what it is and doesn’t pretend to be more, but maybe it’s not quite sure about itself. Is it a true beer or not? It knows you’ll be having other pumpkin drinks and eases you into the flavour, a flavour it knows is its photogenic side, but somehow its spent less time on its beer side. If you’re craving a nice regular amber ale, this will disappoint; you’ll be looking for that roasty flavour, and you’ll get sharp spices instead. But taken at the right moment with the right mindset, it’s refreshing, and makes you think pumpkin spice isn’t so bad after all
Not a bad beer, but not one that will become a favourite of mine. Overall I like the way Black Creek brews its beers, but with this one, the spices, the feeling that I’m drinking root beer, the smell of slightly sour wine, and the overly-sugary taste it leaves in your mouth, bring it down for me. It was a worth a try and I’ll finish my cup, but unless I feel strongly like having spicy root beer, I’ll be opting for something else next time.
Overall Rating: 6.4/10
As I said earlier, try it yourself! You might love it, you might hate it, you might feel the same. Either way, be adventurous; you never know what you’ll like until you try it.