10/27/23: Ellicottville Brewing Company's Whiskey Barrel Aged Craft Ale with Coffee and Pumpkin

6:32 PM

I've had two Ellicottville beers on the blog, and neither have made an impression on me that goes above "meh." Four years ago it was Pumpkinville Latte, which I gave a 7.5/10. I tried their Blueberry Maple Pancake five months later--that one ended up with a 7.0/10.

Why, then, did I grab today's can when I saw it at my local bottleshop? I have two reasons: 1) I'm easily swayed by anything with the Headless Horseman on it and 2) I'm always allured by barrel aging. 

Here in our just-east-of-Cincinnati home, our pumpkins will soon be carved and our toddler's fast asleep. Now's the perfect time to find out if Ellicottville's Whiskey Barrel Aged Craft Ale with Coffee and Pumpkin (a collaboration with Iron Smoke Distillery) is scary good or frighteningly mediocre.

A ski trip to Colorado inspired Ellicottville founder, Peter Kreinheder, to open a brewery in 1995 in the middle of New York's ski country: Ellicottville. Nearly thirty years later, Ellicottville (the brewery, not the village) operates five brewpubs and boasts a 75,000 square-foot production facility. Don't believe me? Head over to their "Our History" page to read for yourself.

Okay, here's where things get interesting for me. I wasn't sure what I was in for when I picked up today's can. Looking at Untappd, where the beer's called "Barrel Aged Pumpkin with Iron Smoke" (so I'll call it Barrel Aged Pumpkin from here on out), it says it's base is just Pumpkinville Latte. Ellicottville's website calls it "Pumpkinville Latte with Iron Smoke." I wasn't impressed with Pumpkinville Latte when I drank it. Both pages linked in this paragraph bill the beer as a 6.5% ABV ale that's aged for over half a year in Iron Smoke whiskey barrels. They both say to expect coffee, vanilla, oak, autumn spice and, you guessed it, pumpkin. The official Ellicottville also promises a certain smokiness.

Purrl gave my can of Barrel Aged Pumpkin thirty-eight whiffs! I'm not sure she liked its bouquet as much as she was intrigued by it. And, giving it a whiff or two myself, I get that. I get straight whiskey, roasted pumpkin (good and gourdy), coffee, vanilla, cream cheese frosting, and an oaky warmth. It's a super complex bouquet, with each individual component vying for the top spot on any given waft. Like I said, it's intriguing but, beyond that, I'm not sure what to make of the nose.

My first swig is sweet: lactose and some vanilla. My second's all black coffee with a hint of unmixed in non-dairy creamer. The third's a sort of charred flavor--which I'd guess is attributable to the oak of the whiskey barrels, but I'm not certain--with that lactose sweetness coming around again. There's some pumpkin spice in here, but not too much. The complexity of the bouquet added to the appeal of the beer. In the flavor profile, however, that same complexity comes across as disjointed in a way that takes me out of the experience of drinking ale. And that sweetness is just too damn much.

The mouthfeel on Barrel Aged Pumpkin is full and smooth. It's almost creamy.

Like I said earlier, Michelle and I are on the cusp of carving our pumpkins. I love setting our Jack-o'-lanterns out on the porch when we're done, lighting the tea candles inside of them so they can flicker out against the night while we turn in. I can't explain why, but that's what this evening's beer is bringing to mind.

Look, I'd like to tell you I enjoy Ellicottville's Whiskey Barrel Aged Craft Ale with Coffee and Pumpkin. But I can't. The beer itself is somehow even more clunky than its name, with an overwhelming sweetness that becomes more and more off-putting as I drink my way through this pint. I'm giving the beer a 6.0/10. This is the last Ellicottville brew you'll see here; I've finally learned my lesson.

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