Beer Review 0264: Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale

Cottonwood isn’t an actual brewery — it’s a brand name, which was purchased in 2011 by Foothills Brewing Company, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Carolina Beer & Beverage used to produce beers under the Cottonwood and Carolina Blonde names, but since the sale, Jamie Bartholomaus, president and brewmaster at Foothills, has taken charge. The original company started in 1997. In the transition, Foothills gained all of Carolina Beer & Beverage’s equipment, plus the brands; some of the beers are still made with the same recipes. No jobs were lost.

Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale, however, has been modified by Foothills. It used to be 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume); now, it is 5.3% ABV and brewed with all the traditional pumpkin beer spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger, along with real pumpkin. According to the bottle, this beer is supposed to give mom’s pumpkin pie some serious competition.

The pour delivered a golden-orange beer with an average sized, soapy, and fast diminishing head. Body of the brew was slightly hazy, but free of particles and sediment. There were only a few bits of lacing, and the head was difficult to regenerate, indicating a lightly carbonated drink.

The aromatics were just as promised: loads of spice up front, with cinnamon and nutmeg being the stars, and a solid backbone of pumpkin. Real pumpkin, not an artificial deal — it’s like you sliced one open and are carving it. There are also bits of nutmeg and clove, along with a smattering of ginger, but those strong spices are appropriately background stars here. There was a light malt base with some bready notes, with the overall scent picture being a sweet blend of spices and creamy pumpkin.

On the taste, there was light cinnamon and nutmeg up front, which is toned by a decent amount (but not overpowering) of pumpkin that not only lends to the taste, but also adds a silky creaminess to the mouthfeel. That, along with the low carbonation, makes this a delight for the tongue. The smoothness transitions into a finish of strong cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and a sweet bread — a graham cracker-esque finish. This really does taste like pumpkin pie, from the filling to the crust to the whipped cream on top!

If you’ve read any of my other pumpkin beer reviews, you’ll see that there aren’t too many of these brews that I really like. And it shocked me that perhaps out of all the pumpkin beers I’ve tried, my most favorite (so far) is produced right here in my backyard of Winston-Salem. Many beers promise to be like pumpkin pie; this one delivers. Color me impressed!

Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale, 90 points. Price: $1.79 for one twelve ounce bottle.


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