Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quaff Review #27: Red Racer Pumpkin Ale

It's not every day that I review something that comes in a can, but craft brewers these days don't just restrict themselves to bottles--it isn't just the domain of the big brewers. Still, with the weather having changed to such an extent that I can see my breath at night and my head starts to ache from the cold after walking around outside for two hours, I can only change with the seasons.

For many brewers, the changing of the seasons means opportunities to roll out limited edition, seasonal brews. Here in British Columbia, Surrey's Central City Brewing Company has demonstrated the harvest time spirit through its release of Red Racer Pumpkin Ale, based around that traditional October squash, the zucchini.

Pumpkin. Whatever. The cans are eye-catchingly orange, giving them excellent camouflage amidst the falling leaves of autumn, and the can is practically American--with only the word "bière" present in French, it's not exactly the sort of design that wold roll in Quebec. Assuming, that is, that it gets out that far--Central City's beers are most easily available in Metro Vancouver, understandable given that I can see the site of their brewpub from my window, though some of their varieties are available as far east as Ontario... mostly the pale ales, though.

Pumpkin Ale is definitely not a pale ale, and for that I'm thankful. You can find it at the BCL or at private sellers such as Central City's own liquor store for approximately $12.45 for a six-pack before taxes.

Smell is always the first encounter you'll have with a beer, and while Pumpkin Ale didn't have any particularly detectable smell when I cracked the can or after I poured--at least, not to me, I may just have a malfunctioning nose--ultimately, the important question is whether or not the taste is worth it. For some beers, the crafting of an actually flavorful beer is less important than just loading it up with alcohol until it tastes like, and could probably be used as, paint thinner. That's just the sort of thing you have to expect from the big breweries, though. For craft breweries like Central City, the situation is different.

The taste of Pumpkin Ale lives up to its name. More importantly it's a departure from the ordinary--it quickly and strongly sets itself up apart from the standard "beer." There are plenty of brews out there, in my experience, that seem to be just minor permutations of the same recipe once I pour it out. Pumpkin Ale, by contrast, isn't the sort of thing that can be mistaken for something else, unless that something else is a different seasonal pumpkin ale. Sure, there's an initial rush of the "beer" taste and the alcoholic tang, but it's quickly drowned beneath the tang of the pumpkin and the spices that follow it up.

It's a comfortable, familiar taste, really--it's a lot like drinking a pumpkin pie. With 5% alcohol by volume, it goes down smooth and it does not overstay its welcome.


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