Drinking a seasonal beer is a bit like going for a swim in waters where sharks have been seen. That’s not to say you’re going to lose a limb, but you’re always worried you’re going feel a nibble on your big toe just before it happens. Perhaps Jaws made a big impression in my childhood – perhaps I’ve just drank too many seasonal brews that have disappointed me in adulthood.
Having said that, fall is the season for all things pumpkin and if Starbucks can do it to coffee and the latte, why can’t our brewers? This is Brasseurs Illimités’, an island suburb of Montreal, attempt at the proverbial fall brew.
This isn’t the first pumpkin ale I’ve sampled, but it is the first I’ve reviewed. So, having said that, I do have some expectations because I’ve had a few good ones. What is interesting, though, is that of the half-dozen I’ve tasted, four of them came from Quebec, this one included.
The challenge with a pumpkin beer/ale, in my opinion, is to bring into balance the flavours of the pumpkin and the inimitable “spices” which are associated with everything from pumpkin pie and lattes to even my own pumpkin pancakes … or this beer. So yes, the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and even some ginger are all in evidence in this beer and work well together. And the beer is a beautiful red-amber, almost like a dark hued pumpkin itself. In a rather typical English ale fashion, it also pours with minimal head. You have to crash the waters to really produce anything, but what is produced is of large bubbles and fades quickly. The mouth feel, is soft with excellent diacetyls to impart a creamy pumpkin pie coating for the tongue. Not surprising based on the colour, but the malts are in fine form in this beer and leave a nice caramel and residual sweetness that make this a very pleasant and easy drinking beer, even at 7.7% … which makes this a beer you’ll want to share or take your long sweet time to enjoy because it’s also served in a 750ml bottle.
Really, this drinks extremely smooth which makes it a very very dangerous brew. It has a tremendous amount going for it that is truly ‘right.’ But here’s the kicker and the ‘wrong’ … I don’t taste any pumpkin!
Again, this isn’t a deal breaker and it’s not exactly a shark in the tank … but it’s more like I went for a swim in the ocean only to find myself in a salt water pool. Close, but not exactly the same thing – though I’ll grant you, sharks are a presumed non-existent factor in salt water pools. I’ll give Magouille an extra point on account of that.
All in all, a very palatable though slightly sweet ale. Very pleasant and nice spicing which is well-balanced and not over the top. However, if you’re looking for an exceptional pumpkin ale, I’m afraid this is not it.
Stats: Pumpkin Ale 7.7%. St-Eustache, Quebec.
Colour: dark amber/light brown; sur lies.
Mouth Feel: Tight carbonation with a bit of creaminess from caramels and diacetyls; a bit harsh or ‘burning’ on the palette.
Purchased: Quebec (e.g. Bières du Monde)