Joint Review: Ballast Point Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale

For this post, you’re in for a little treat! Sonora and Amanda D have tag-team reviewed Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale for an interesting new perspective. A She Said/She Said if you will. Enjoy! -Tierney

Sonora: I am a big fan of pumpkin beers, and have tried several. One detriment to this, though, is that many of them start to blend together; I get a little tired of just seeing a pumpkin ale on a brewery’s list. I like it when breweries try new things with pumpkin, especially combining it with other beer styles. So I was excited to see Ballast Point offering Pumpkin Down, a Scotch Ale brewed with pumpkins. It helps that I adore Scotch Ales. How do two of my favorite beer styles pair up? Let’s sip and find out. I also wanted to review this with fellow blogger Amanda McGrory-Dixon, as we both love pumpkin beers and were excited about this one in particular.

Sonora's Glass
Sonora’s Glass

Amanda: If you hate the seasonal creep of pumpkin ales, you might not like me. I’m part of the problem. I love pumpkin beers and rush to buy as many as I can once they hit the shelves and tap lines. Ballast Point brews some amazing beers, so I was thrilled to hear about Pumpkin Down’s release. In fact, Sonora and I first connected over Twitter about our excitement for this beer release, so it only seemed appropriate to write a joint review. Now on to beer tasting.

Amanda's Glass
Amanda’s Glass

Appearance

Sonora: This beer is dark brown, almost like molasses. There wasn’t much of a head, but there was a little lacing on the top that disappeared as I sipped. There were bubbles maintained throughout the glass, almost giving it a cola appearance. I poured this into a skull pint glass for fun, but as you’ll see in Amanda’s thoughts below, it will pour well in a tulip or goblet glass.

Amanda: This is the prettiest pumpkin beer I’ve ever seen. When you put it against natural light, you get a gorgeous mahogany tint, and the sun brings out small flecks of ruby. Please do yourself a favor and drink this in good lighting if possible. A dark bar can’t do this brew justice. After pouring into a tulip glass, I was left with about two inches of fluffy head with large eggshell-white bubbles that quickly dissipated to a thin layer.

Aroma

Sonora: The first two scents to hit my nose were cinnamon and peat — expected, given the combination of styles. This is not your average pumpkin pie beer, as the spices came through more as an accent than the normal nose bomb you get with pumpkin beers. It has a nice smoky scent that you would expect from a scotch ale.

Amanda: As soon as I started pouring the beer into my glass, I could smell your traditional pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The spice profile was the dominant aroma for me, but there was a bit of underlying toast on the nose.

Photo by Amanda.
Photo by Amanda.

Flavor

Sonora: This beer sips like a slice of pumpkin pumpernickel bread. It’s bitter on the finish, but not in an unpleasant way. You definitely get hints of pumpkin, especially as the beer warms, but the scotch ale side of the beer prevails. It mostly tastes of smoke, earth, and malt. The added pumpkin downplays these aspects of scotch ales a bit, but you see more of the scotch ale downplaying the pumpkin.

Amanda: Despite the strong spice aroma, I didn’t get much in the actual beer. The spice was definitely more of an undertone. Pumpkin is such a subtle flavor that doesn’t always come through in these ales, but I picked up hints of roasted squash. For a scotch ale, I would have liked stronger caramel and toffee notes, but maybe that’s because I was hoping for more sweetness from a pumpkin ale. The smokiness gave it more of a bitter flavor than I was expecting.

Texture/Mouthfeel

Sonora: The beer is thin but flavorful, and not too rich. There is some bitterness left on the tongue, but the taste of it sticks around more than the resiny feel you get from other beers. It’s an easy sipper despite the strength of a scotch ale.

Amanda: For me, this is on the lighter side of a medium-bodied beer. You don’t get the stickiness that comes with some scotch ales. Rather, Pumpkin Down has a dry finish.

Overall

Sonora: I’d classify this as a good Fall beer in general as opposed to a good pumpkin beer. It is good, but the pumpkin flavor is more muted than I expected, and may disappoint people looking for something more pumpkiny. I’d recommend this more to someone who likes scotch ales or maybe brown ales, especially fans of two of my favorites in these categories: DC Brau’s The Stone of Arbroath and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog. Pumpkin Down may not be a good intro to pumpkin beer, but it’s something different for people looking for a unique pumpkin beer entry.

Amanda: If you’re looking for pumpkin pie in a glass, this isn’t for you. A few of my favorite picks for that type of pumpkin ale are Avery Brewing Co. Rumpkin, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Pumpkinator and Stevens Point Brewery Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale. That said, pumpkin pie in a glass isn’t for everyone. If the typical pumpkin beer doesn’t do it for you, Pumpkin Down is worth a try.

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down

ABV: 5.8 percent
Bitterness: 22 IBUs

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