Beer Review 0503: Terrapin Pumpkinfest Lager

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What’s this, a pumpkin beer crossed with an Oktoberfest? It appears so, and it’s from Athens, Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Company.

Terrapin began brewing in 2002, founded by John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski, who both met while working at another microbrewery. The two felt they had something great to offer the beer world, and here they are a decade later, brewing and making some fantastic beers.

While most pumpkin beers are ales, this one is a lager, brewed with a variety of German hops and malts. Add in pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove, and we’ve got two fall traditions in one beer. Pumpkinfest is 6.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 23 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). It comes in four-packs and is typically available in early August.

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Pouring stirred up a small, soapy head that diminished quickly. Color of the beer was a dark golden-orange, leaning more toward rusty orange, with some golden highlights. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, while lacing was fair, leaving behind some large but very scattered sheets of suds.

On the nose, this is a pumpkin beer that has the pumpkin right up front, at least at first. There’s a quick whiff of pumpkin and then the cinnamon overwhelms the aroma; it’s not a fake cinnamon like Big Red chewing gum, but more like cinnamon sticks. There’s plenty of allspice, too; the big malt backbone does shine through, offering up notes of caramel and toasted bread. Sweet at first; as it warms, the scent takes on more of a spiced tea.

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When you take a sip, you’re hit with the spices immediately. It’s allspice versus cinnamon with a heavy hand of cloves. All of this fights initially but cleans up in the middle, offering creamy pumpkin and bready malts. I found the beer to be sweet until the finish, which brings on a light to moderate bitterness, ultimately concluding with a bevy of fall spices that is dominated by the cinnamon. Pumpkinfest is medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel. There is a residual small alcohol note as it warms up.

Terrapin have made a good beer here that would probably be a lot better if the spices were dialed back. The cinnamon is a bit much; otherwise, they’ve nailed the blend of Oktoberfest and pumpkin very well.

Terrapin Pumpkinfest Lager, 82 points. Price: $2.49 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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