#186: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – Saint Louis Brewery, Saint Louis, Missouri
Saint Louis Brewery opened in 1991 and was the first new brewpub in Missouri since Prohibition. It was founded by Dan Kopman and Tom Schlafly with the goal of establishing a quality microbrewery in St. Louis. After moving into the renovated Swift Printing Company building (which had been vacant since 1969), the brewery opened to the public on December 26, 1991. Two years later, the brewery began bottling its beer and selling to groceries, bars and restaurants, with their bottled beer contract-brewed by Minnesota’s August Schell Brewery. In 2003, the Schlafly Bottleworks was opened, using brewing equipment that was being built for Gordon Biersch. The Saint Louis brewery now brews and bottles all of the beer under the Schlafly (pronounced “Schlaugh-lee”) beer brand, which is available throughout parts of Missouri and Illinois, and is being shipped to Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and more. Today, they carry the Pumpkin Week flag with Schlafly Pumpkin Ale.
The beer poured with a moderately sized, sturdy light tan head, which maintained a foamy, slightly rocky stature and left a dense network of webby lacing on the sides of the glass. The color was a warm, yet radiant shade of dark red, with an ambery glow at the base of the glass. The aroma was about as perfect as it can get as far as pumpkin ales go. Of all the pumpkin ales I’ve had so far (and most of them have been lovely), I feel as if this one has the most straight-forward aroma, but the quality of the aroma is above all of its contenders. It smells as if you’re dipping your nose above a fresh pumpkin pie. The beer uses cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and all three of those are accounted for, with clove edging out the rest by a narrow margin. It’s potent in a contained manner, as a bit of alcohol creeps to the surface.
This beer is fall in a glass. It tastes like every little imaginable component of a pumpkin pie. On the palate, the spices come rushing over the tongue, providing a warm tingle. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove all pass across the palate, and they’re all blended together flawlessly. It’s like a friendly social gathering of spices amid fallen leaves, cornucopias and football. Pumpkin is, of course, one of the beer’s larger flavor components, and it blends with the spices and complementary flavors exceptionally well. In addition to all of this, the malt flavor is sweet, nutty and toasty, with a little buttery caramel in the background. The component that puts this beer over the top, though, is the gentle warming alcohol sensation on the back of the throat. In conjunction with the spices and malt, it gives the beer a warm pumpkin pie impression and enhances all of the beer’s flavors considerably. The mouthfeel was medium, with a full, rich body and warm, boozey finish.
This is, without question, the best pumpkin ale I’ve ever had. It’s subtle in its complexity, rich but not decadent, welcoming yet intriguing, it’s the finest example of the style I’ve encountered. It’s versatile in that it’s superb for session drinking, or as a dessert beer coupled with a slice of pumpkin pie. It’s just outstanding, and if it finds its way into your pint glass, I would bet it would find its way back very quickly once it’s gone.