13 November 2007

KOTBR #33 | Rock Bottom Pumpkin Ale

This week I was inducted as a Knight of the Beer Roundtable. I have been a devoted admirer of their exploits for some time now, but after having held my hand above the hops-scented candle for a full minute and getting my glasses & pint glass tattoo (I’m not saying where), I’m one of the gang. For my first tasting (as a non-groupie) we voted in an open ballot to try the Pumpkin Ale at the downtown location of Rock Bottom.

Having only tried a couple of pumpkin ales before, my points for comparison are limited. I often find myself wanting more pumpkin, but as delicate a flavor as pumpkin is, it must be difficult to make it stand out among the spices that most of us identify with pumpkin through having eaten so many tasty pies. This particular pumpkin ale was less flavorful than I would have liked. It made me want to take a bite out of a jack-o-lantern in order to augment the pumpkinosity, but no such seasonal decorations were available. Not surprising a full week after Halloween, what with mold and roving gourdivores (see Kelly’s review, below). Therefore, I give this ale 2.5 mugs.

As the newbie of the group, I have the privilege of arranging and posting the collected reviews of the Hoosier Beer Geeks (average mug rating of 2.464285714). As I am the resident library science student at HBG HQ, I have arranged the reviews alphabetically by the authors’ respective last names in accordance with millions of years of responsible librarianship.

Thanks for bringing me in. Rest assured readers, these ladies and gentlemen are a class act.

From the looks of the outside of this place, I probably wouldn't have stopped in; these sorts of places scream "Restaurant!" more loudly than they scream "Beer!” The basement was a nice surprise, cozy, pool tables, and NO WAIT (I don't like waiting for anything). This would be a good place to bring friends and hang out.

We started off with Rock Bottom’s Brickway Brown, a 2003 Indiana Brewers Cup winner. The nose had a hint of lemon and then chocolate. A thick pillowy head sits atop an opaque black body. It tasted of pretzels and chocolate, with a watery mouthfeel. I found it very drinkable...probably a 3 mug beer.

The Pumpkin Ale was appropriately colored and poured with no head. The cinnamon nose reminded me of a really good mouthwash and the toothpaste I'm currently using. Same features in the taste, and although it reminded me of mouthwash, I kinda liked it. I'm not getting so much pumpkin as cinnamon and clove. Not really a whole lot of taste altogether though. A perfectly good flavored water, not a very good beer. 2 mugs.

The Warm-Up: The good ol' trusty Brickway Brown. I'm a longtime fan of this beer, having chosen it as my first beer on just about every previous visit to Rock Bottom. This standby ale pours with a foamy tan head. It's very dark for a brown ale, almost stout-like in hue. It gives off a nice brown sugar/caramel/molasses nose. The taste is closer to a porter than a traditional brown ale, with coffee and chocolate notes. It also has a bit of a hop bite and a classic brown ale mouthfeel (a bit chewy).

The Feature Beer: The Pumpkin Ale, which is one of Rock Bottom's seasonal beers. This beer pours with a lacy white head and a beautiful clear amber color. The nose, not unexpectedly, conjures up thoughts of a nice plate of pumpkin pie--a bit of cinnamon, clove, and pumpkin in the mix. I must confess, however, that I'm not a fan of this beer style, and Rock Bottom's offering proved no different for me. The flavor was overwhelmingly clovey, almost to the extent of being cloying. I love Rock Bottom's beers, but I couldn't stand this one. It was only the second beer that I could not finish at a roundtable. But my dislike has more to do with the fact that I don't like pumpkin ales. So, I'll go with a 2 mug rating on this one, with the caveat that this rating is primarily due to my own personal taste. If you like pumpkin ales, you might want to give this one a go.

When we carved pumpkins for Halloween this year, some mystery rodent (giant, rabid rats, maybe?) made short work of them. I wish I could say I did the same thing with the pumpkin ale. I love the style, but this one was a bit watery and not exactly as hefty as I would have liked. The spicy, clove nose was fantastic, but didn’t come through in the taste. All in all, this is a solid, drinkable beer that actually made me dream about pumpkin pie on the night of the Roundtable. 2.75 mugs.

When I think of consuming pumpkins, all I think of is consuming pumpkin pie, which I love. Though I suspect that I only think of the pumpkin as a vessel for the nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices. As well as the massive amount of whip cream I put on top. When I think of consuming pumpkin ales, all I think of Ichabod Crane being chased across the bridge by the Headless Horseman and the Jack-o-lantern that he uses as his surrogate head. That's a really long way of saying that I think pumpkin beers are scary. I just don't find the strong taste of pumpkin in my booze as appetizing. So of the pumpkin beers that I have enjoyed, they have either been heavily spiced or light in pumpkin flavor. The downtown Rock Bottom Brewery's seasonal pumpkin ale, thankfully, falls into the latter category. Many of my fellow HBG knights commented on the amount of clove they picked up in this beer. I didn't notice any of that, though it may have had something to do with the massive bite of garlic cheese dip that I had just consumed. What I did notice was a light, woodsy smell. It is hard to describe unless you have ever cut or split trees, but the smell was of green timber. Someone else had said it seemed watery. I would say it is more beer and less pumpkin, which I am thankful for. I give it a 2.5 mug rating, because I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.

My feelings about pumpkin ales are that I like them, but mostly in theory. I always hope for something remarkably similar to pumpkin pie, but I should just know by now that I should stick with the real thing. Rock Bottom's offering of pumpkin ale was no exception. It fell short of the mark, but I wasn't completely disappointed. It was indeed watery, but it gave way to some pumpkin spice and clove; tastes that make me all too ready for the upcoming holiday. 2.5 Mugs.


  1. Welcome aboard - officially - Matt.

  2. Just so you know, this "Christopher Maples" character that we refer to is just a drunken figment of our imaginations.