The words “pumpkin” and “chai” awaken a deep-seated “back-to-school” horror in this former Harvard Square Starbucks manager. The moving trucks blocking one way streets, the row of students walking down the sidewalk like a phalanx, the giggling occurring as cold beverage straws are jammed into hot beverage lids on Chai with Pumpkin Sauce lattes, the horrors. I approached this Michigan brew with trepidation, yet excitement from my last foray in black tea as a spicing agent (Downeast Cider, I’m looking at you) and cracked open a bottle that thankfully did not break in my checked bag from a wonderful wedding weekend in Saugatuck itself. Clearly the best additional wedding favor to grab was a local brew from the city hosting my lovely friends and their celebration. This ale poured a lovely burnt umber and gave off a sweet, malty aroma peppered with an herbal bouquet of black tea. The ale itself unleashes a full-on dunking of chai – so much so that the pumpkin has drowned in a basin of light ginger, faint cinnamon, a dash of cardamom, and strained out with astringency. Thankfully, the malt combo placates the bitter with toasted barley and minimal caramel chunks making me want to happily reach for my flannel and welcome Fall.
This Pumpkin Chai is a great first draft of an ale. It’s peppery finish makes you want to read it all over once all the red pen marks have been adjusted, namely, more pumpkin, please. This grad student needs more substance and less flowery words to really sell a fresh way of spicing seasonal pumpkin – the caffeine will help with staying awake to research how to make the pumpkin find a spot in your tea thesis. 82/100