Assuming you're onboard with gimmicky brews, pumpkin beer season is a wonderful time of year. Pumpkin brews are so popular, actually, that a seasonal creep (akin to Macy's setting out Christmas decorations way too damn early) has set into the beer world -- we saw the stuff for sale in the dead heat of August this year. But we figure right now, in mid October, is the sweet spot for the stuff. The temperatures are dropping, Halloween fervor is in full force, and cracking open a pumpkin ale on a brisk evening just feels right.
Plenty of breweries make their own versions, but a lot of 'em aren't very good. Southern Tier's sweet and boozy Pumking Ale usually gets credit as one of the best out there, and we agree that it's great. But the brewery's other pumpkin offering, the roasty imperial stout Warlock, is what caught our eye this season. It was divisive in our office tasting -- some people loved it, others thought it tasted artificial -- but if you're onboard with the idea of a dark, sweet stout with a fall twist, you'll dig it.
Appearance: Rich brown with a tan head.
Smell: Sweet and roasty malts. Not a lot of pumpkin here.
Taste: Some pumpkin beers are subtle. This isn't one of them. There's a big dose of caramel sweetness, dark chocolate bitterness, and syrupy pumpkin flavor, with a roasty malt balance. No noticeable hop flavor or aroma.
Mouthfeel: Medium, with a good amount of carbonation.
Overall: It's very sweet, and a little artificial tasting. But if you don't mind that, it's a great beer. The big, roasty malt base mixes well with the caramel and pumpkin flavors, and finishes with a sweet back end. You may not want to drink three of these -- it's a bit too alcoholic and syrupy for that -- but sipping one on a brisk autumn evening is a damn good way to celebrate the season.
Want some? Plug in your zip code here to see where it's available in your neighborhood.