10/11/23: Royal Docks Brewing Company's Pumpkinslayer

4:00 AM

Our second beer for the month is the final of two pumpkin-themed ales I picked up post-Halloween last year. You can tell this is last year's can because it has the old label art (which I prefer--the new one isn't as fantasy-driven, going from the check-in pictures on the ale's Untappd page).

A can of Pumpkinslayer by my Halloween countdown decoration.

Today, we're doing Royal Docks' Pumpkinslayer, which I grabbed from a bottleshop in my hometown while visiting with my folks during the last Christmas season. It came in a four-pack, and I drank three cans of it in pretty quick succession during the end of December '22 and beginning of January '23. I liked it then. Let's see if I still like it nine months removed.

Here's a fun game for you: Take a shot every time you read the word "culture" in the following paragraph.

Royal Docks is the shared vision of John and Adriana Bikis and Dave Sutula. See, John and Adriana feel in love with England's pub culture while living in London. When they came back to Canton, OH, they wanted to start a brewery paying tribute that culture. That's where Dave comes in; having cut his brewing teeth in the UK, he joined up with John and Adriana to found RDBC in 2015. You can hit up their "Our Culture" page for more information.

Unfortunately, Pumpkinslayer isn't presently present on RDBC's website (the Pumpkinslayer URL actually leads to the page for the brewery's Royal Dark). So, allow me to relink the Pumpkinslayer Untappd page linked in the first part of this post. Here, we learn not only that this 7.7% blonde ale's brewed with coffee, nutmeg, clove, vanilla, and cinnamon (so, no pumpkins were harmed in the crafting of this beer) but that Pumpkinslayer just won a bronze medal at the 2023 Great American Beer Festival*. 

The nose here is black coffee (medium roast), baking chocolate, cinnamon, and a touch (not a punch) of pumpkin spice. This smells like an early fall morning, the kind where you wake up before the sun, brew your coffee, and sit and stare dark outside of your window with your warm mug in hand. In short, it's wonderful. Háma, who's always my early morning companion, agrees; he gave my can fourteen whiffs.

Cat Háma giving my can fourteen whiffs.

Pumpkinslayer's flavor profile closely mirrors its bouquet: black coffee, chocolate (dark this here, though), and those good seasonal spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, and some allspice). There's a bit of boozy warmth in the back of my throat after each successive swig. The finish is pumpkin spice coffee, mellow earthy hops, and a bit of stand-out nutmeg. It's flavor is simple, yet effective. I can't say anything here screams "blonde ale," though.

This ale's a tad bitey, and not wholly from the carbonation: The spice blend used here is sharp on the tongue, like what you'd find in a good root beer.

You know what? Let's circle back to that dark fall morning coffee routine I brought up briefly earlier. 

One of my favorite things about summer mornings is eating my breakfast on our front porch, while the sun shines down and the rousing dawn chorus swells from the tree line beside our house. This is something that I don't do in the fall.

When the mornings get to be dark and cold, I become an inside-dweller. I wake up, take Lottie out, and get coffee brewing before hopping in the shower. When I'm out and all dried off, I pour myself a cup, which I nurse while looking out of our kitchen window as I wait for my egg to fry. I stare at the single streetlight on our road, it's brilliant orange light standing in stark contrast to the pooling darkness around it.

My morning coffee against the dark outside.
This doesn't do the orange of the light or darkness of the sky justice.
Today's ale is like that. It's the calm moment on an October morning before you start getting going.

Royal Docks' Pumpkinslayer is a mighty fine ale. I love the dark fantasy aesthetic of my can nearly as much as I love what it houses. I'm giving it a 9.5/10. I'm willing to bet this'll be hard to top this season.

*Unrelated note: A good buddy of mine went to the GABF last month and I'm super duper jealous of him for doing that.

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