Beer Review 0236: Big Boss Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale

It’s October — pumpkin beer season is in full swing. During this month, we’ll feature a review of a Pumpkin Ale each Wednesday, culminating with a special review on Halloween.

Big Boss Brewing Company is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Started in 2006, the company is a collaboration between Geoff Lamb, a University of North Carolina graduate, and Brad Wynn, former brewer for Victory, Wild Goose, and Native Brewing Companies.

Big Boss does not use artificial preservatives, additives, or pasteurization. They have a year-round and seasonal line, of which Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale is part of.

Brewed with real pumpkin and a blend of “proprietary spices,” (we’ll see if we can pick those spices out) the brewery says this pumpkin beer goes great with zombie rituals, vampire hunting, and walks in the graveyard after midnight. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 5.5%, and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 25.

Apparently, the recipe for this beer has changed since 2011, because the Big Boss website lists a different ABV and IBU number. The correct number is printed on the bottle and on the Harvest Time sales sheet.

Release from bottle showed an average size head, creamy and quickly diminishing. The beer was a little light by Pumpkin Ale standards; more golden with just hint of orange rather than blazing pumpkin orange. The body was clear with no particles or sediment, and the lacing left behind just a few patches here and there, nothing impressive.

The aromatics presented a traditional spiced pumpkin beer with a twist: Belgian yeast. I can’t confirm, but it sure does smell like it — along with the heavy spicing of cinnamon and nutmeg, there’s a clear doughy yeast and over-ripened banana. The malts here are bready and grainy, and hint at some sweet caramel. I wouldn’t exactly call it great or off-putting, but this aroma is very pungent and spicy.

The first thing you notice about the taste is the mouthfeel: it’s thin and watery up front, and the taste matches that, unfortunately. But there is hope: in the middle of the sip and on the finish, the flavors open up and give way to a much more robust drink filled with nice amounts cinnamon and pumpkin. Harvest Time definitely lends itself more toward the pumpkin pie end of this type beer, with a Cool Whip-like creaminess on the finish. The banana flavor is there, too, and it adds to the complexity and overall flavor profile of the brew. Who would have thought…

I see Big Boss’ Harvest Time as an average Pumpkin Ale with a yeast twist. I was let down by the mouthfeel and I think this would be a much better beer with a creamier texture. But the flavors are good and while the spices are heavy, they don’t verge into artificial territory. I could see drinking a couple of these during this time of year.

Big Boss Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale, 83 points. Price: $1.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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