The benchmark in pumpkin ales.
Rating: 88 points
Stats: Pumpkin Ale. 5% ABV. Montreal, Quebec.
Size: 341mL bottle
Colour: Deep amber
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation; creamy and full in the mouth.
Price: $9.95 (4/pack)
Pairing Notes: n/a
After the first disappointment on the Great Pumpkin Ale countdown, I chose to go with a known entity … one I already knew I loved from years before: McAuslan’s St-Ambroise Citrouille — where citrouille is French for “pumpkin.”
As the label clearly warns, this beer is
Brewed just once a year, the Great St-Ambroise Pumpkin Ale returns this fall to bewitch beer lovers with a savoury blend of pale and caramel malts., hops, pumpkin and spices. If you enjoy the the out-of-the-ordinary, this seasonal offering will be sure to please you.
The only thing that doesn’t please me about this beer, I have to say, is its seasonality — and come the 3rd week of October, it is usually gone from the shelves. I only got one taste of it a couple years ago before it was gone — and last year, I missed it all together. This year I was on top of it and had it in my hands in September … and so I advise any and all who like a really good pumpkin ale, buy this now before it is too late.
So why is this the standard in my opinion? Balance, in a word … and if you want a second, that would be pumpkin. With nice wheat undertones, the same hallmark of their apricot wheat (which I adore), this beer is not a one dimensional bomb of either spices (which afflicts many attempts at the style) or sweetness (which afflicts many more). The pumpkin is hidden there in the middle, like a nice deep throbbing bassoon in the back of an orchestra. Upfront are those delicious pie spices which melt away to the sugar and pumpkin before a dry and wheaty finish closes the deal. Those malts in the middle are really well done and offer a complex balance of sugars like those in the pie itself. But what really sells this beer for me is the mouthfeel — the same thing that ruined the Black Creek’s heritage classic previously. While the other was watery, this one is creamy and full on the mouth, like a custard pie that just makes you want to take another … and another.
The only thing this beer could do better would be to be bigger … a bit more backbone. A few more ABVs … some muscle. But for a style that seeks by its nature mass-appeal and the non-average beer drinker, McAuslan has probably found the right commercial balance; but if I was making this for myself, I’d amp this up a bit more if possible.
Still, if you want to taste a good pumpkin ale, this is the place to start and from whence to measure all other comers.