My husband is not a fan of pumpkin beer. This means I am a bit picky about which large bottles I buy for myself as, well, it can be a lot to drink on my own, especially if I don’t like it very much. Since Indie Alehouse is pretty reliable, I decided to take the risk and bought myself a bottle of their Pumpkin Abbey to enjoy over Halloween afternoon as I got into the spirit of the day. Since it is a strong beer, I was careful to drink it slowly, savouring the flavour and letting it warm. This turned out to be a good thing for two reasons: 1) the flavour did improve as it warmed, bringing forth stronger spice notes and 2) I ended up having a very late dinner as my pizza did not arrive until after I had to leave. Serves me right for ordering a pizza at dinner time on Halloween I suppose.
The beer itself is quite lovely and set the stage nicely for the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies‘ Pumpkins + Porters Halloween Bash. (It was slightly overshadowed by the truly excellent Pumpkin Spice Porter that Sawdust City’s Aaron Spinney brewed up for us but that can’t be helped as the porter was pretty much perfect.) Black Pumpkin Abbey, however, is gets the nod as my favourite pumpkin beer of the season by virtue of actually be available for purchase: If you are going to try one pumpkin beer this year, Black Pumpkin Abbey is the one I would recommend.
A dark orangey-ruby colour, Pumpkin Abbey has very little head with almost no evidence of carbonation. It leaves very little lacing and is more similar in appearance to a barley wine than an ale.
The first aroma to jump out of this brew is dominant sweet caramel followed by significant orchard fruit aromas which include apple, pumpkin, and a hint of spiced orange. A strong malt backbone carries a touch of Belgian funk and there is plenty of spice and honey notes to round it out.
The sweet and decadent flavour of this beer closely follows the scent with warming, cozy hints of mulled apples and a lot of lingering ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon spices. The Belgian notes present in the aroma are more subdued, lending a nice complexity to the flavour without overwhelming the other aspects. The pumpkin flavours are not overwhelming either and the wonderful spicy notes grow as the beer warms without sticking in the throat the same way the Pumpkin Spice Porter did.
The body of this beer is heavy with a thick, almost slick mouthfeel and little carbonation. The spice tickles without irritating and the overall sensation is, again, similar to a barley wine with definite booziness and not much fizz.
This is one of the most spectacularly balanced pumpkin beers I have had and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer. The Belgian notes add a lovely edge to it and gives it a sense of history, as if the brew has been made for a long, long time in the same way. It was certainly one of the best fall beers I have had this year, maybe even one of the best seasonal brews of any kind. At $7.50 for a 650mL bottle it is a tad pricy but not exorbitantly so. and certainly a better deal than the Flying Monkeys Paranormal, priced at a slightly insane $13/bottle. Halloween may be over but Black Pumpkin Abbey is still a great choice for the colder evenings and I certainly expect to enjoy it again before its gone.