Highballer Pumpkin Ale | Grand River Brewing

very good
49 Reviews
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Highballer Pumpkin AleHighballer Pumpkin Ale

Brewed by:
Grand River Brewing
Ontario, Canada

Style: Pumpkin Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.20%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
Pumpkins for the Highballer Pumpkin Ale are all grown by our owner Bob Hannenberg in his Garden.

Added by Viggo on 09-29-2007

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Reviews: 49 | Ratings: 94
Photo of Reinheitsgebot71
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: A small off white head reminiscent of milk foam tops medium amber semi opaque body. The retention is low and leaves some ok lacing.

S: Strong pumpkin up front followed by curious fruity scents of unripe mango, chayote and grapefruit rind. Some cinnamon and cardamom spices hide behind roasted pumpkin seeds and dried apple. There is a faint hint of shortbread.

T: A strong amber malt spine supports assertive pumpkin and cinnamon flavours. The rest of the profile is made up of sweet bready tastes; gram cracker and shortbread. There is next to no showing of hops. The carbonation is medium low and the beer coast the mouth somewhat.

A good effort if a little one dimensional.

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Photo of ThatWineGuy
3.72/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Brewed October 13th and dropped on me by biegaman, thanks; it got lost at the back of the fridge until now. On opening, there is a hazy, featureless orange hue under a one finger beige head that appears that it will stick around (alas it didn't, at least not for long). There is a tangerine fruity smell at first that gives way to cinammon-spicy odour that generally pleases. Big flavour in the mouth with cinammon, nutmeg, allspice, pleasant low bitterness and hops, refreshing cleansing mouth and a malt that weighs in on the lingering finish. Medium to light body for the style, not overpowering, rightfully labelled a pumpkin ale and although not the best I've tried, it certainly has potential as a sessional for that time of year. Decent brewery in my experience, not a bad pumpkin ale either.

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Photo of mrnobody
3.84/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into a Grand River pint glass.

A: Pours a clear amber with a thin white head that quickly disappears. No lacing.

S: Smells of nutmeg, pumpkin and brown sugar.

T: Not particularly sweet tasting. One can taste some of the spices but they're not overwhelming. There is a bit of hop bitterness in the finish.

M: The mouthfeel is light to medium with medium carbonation.

D: The drinkability is pretty good for a pumpkin beer.

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Photo of hopsolutely
4.17/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The 2010 Highballer knocks it out of the park.

Have enjoyed bottle, draught and cask versions and they are all well balanced and nicely spiced. Would highly recommend this beer to anyone who enjoys pumpkin ales.

Much prefer the 2010 release to that of 2009, and strangely enough am already looking forward to 2011...

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Photo of biegaman
3.4/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Highballer, like nearly all other pumpkin ales, is orange in colour. Its tone, however, is a little square, without any highlights and only when held directly against the overcast autumn sky does it, by contrast, appear at all luminous. Its complexion is crystal-clear as a lager. Its carbonation is too weak even to support the beer's slinky, soapy outline.

The aroma get's my approval - it is well perfumed, but not overly perfumed. Spices are appreciated but can't be pin pointed, which is good because all I care to be able to do is acknowledge (but not catalog) them. The savoriness wafts gracefully beneath the nose along with a good portion of caramelly sweet, biscuity, nougat-y malts.

I've drank enough Grand River to recognize a certain 'house character' of theirs, I speak of a distinguishing maltiness that is chunky and enthusiastically bready. That particular brand of maltiness is perfectly suited for pumpkin ales because it almost starts to emulate the doughy taste of pie crusts. And add a lovely graham cracker flavour to boot. Yum.

But the mouthfeel is a tremendous let down. It reveals not even a trace of savoriness or spiciness, not a trickle of caramel sweetness, not any of the doughy maltiness. I was optimistic things would improve with warmth but the glass is reaching room temperature with little changes to note. I hate to use the 'W' word but, frankly, this is watery.

Session ales don't have to be watery or weak in flavour, Grand River has proven that with a regular lineup of exceptionally brewed mild and lower alcohol beers. Unfortunately few of the brewery's seasonals, this included, have lived up to that standard of flavour and character. Highballer Pumpkin Ale is a nice beer, just fine for a fall-time pint or several, but (at least in bottle) it's far too feeble to earn the high marks.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the UW Grad House. I wasn't as impressed with the bottle version this year, but on tap, this was some quality stuff! Keg was tapped previously that afternoon.

Poured into a Grand River ale glass. Amber copper, about a 1/2 inch head, terrific retention. Every sip yielded sheets of lacing, with patches scattered here and there. Looks terrific.

Nose is primarily that of spicy pumpkin pie, with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and molasses asserting themselves, and with pumpkin and malty sweetness providing the backing.

The taste is quite good for a pumpkin ale - really hit the spot on a cold, rainy October day. Pumpkin flavor was rich and hearty, a touch of molasses and piecrust, with nutmeg and cinnamon proviing a sharp spicy tang. Finishes clean with a slight hop bitterness. Keeping the whole thing in check was a lovely red ale base, malty and crisp. Quite enjoyable, and not an artificial-tasting flavor in the lot.

Mouthfeel is creamy, with an assertive carbonation that peppers the tongue with spicy goodness.

I've had this ale three different years now, and I've got to say that Rob and Bob have nailed it with this year's edition, at least on tap anyhow. Rich, satisfying, but drinkable (as far as a pumpkin beer goes). All the great flavors of pumpkin pie, but with enough of a pale ale base to make it easier to down a pint or two in an evening. A fine effort!

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Photo of kwjd
4.04/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a bright orange colour with white head that dissipates without much lacing. Smells of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, some hops and bready malt. Flavour has a nice level of sweetness, but not incredibly sweet like some pumpkin beers. Very well balanced. Medium bodied carbonation. A very nice pumpkin beer.

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Photo of Mit
3.3/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

s-Pours a nice dark amber with minimal head.

a-pumpkin, banana, spices(nutmeg, clove)

t-Earthy, spicey, pumpkin flavours coming through. Aftertaste reminded me of a nice pumpkin dessert bread.

m-solid, not watery in the least.

d-very drinkable, could have a few of these.

Had a Great Lakes Pumpkin earlier in the day and found this to be very comparable.

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Photo of MrHall
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500 ml purchase at the brewery - bottled on Dec. 28. I've had this for about a months, and probably waited a little too long to drink it.

pours a clear orange/light amber, small white head that disappears fast with very little lacing (I wonder if that's due to the freshness.)

smells well, like a pumkin ale, nutmeg, cloves cinnamon,

taste is pretty balanced. an early sweet and spicy, followed by the mild hoppy finish.

I actually find the carbonated too light (again, freshness?)

As such, you could probably drink this till the cows come home.

even though I'm drinking it out of season, still probably my favourite Ontario pumpkin ale.

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Photo of GodOfBeer
3.82/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle from the LCBO. Pours a deep slightly hazed orange, thin white head that fades away, absolutely no lacing...

Smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie, all the good stuff pumpkin beer should smell like.

Not too strong on the spices, more lagerish than anything. Grassy, bready, somewhat buttery and finishes with cinnamon spices and slightly hoppy bitter finish. Not much body, seems kind of watery but still pretty good.

Overall decent but for a pumpkin beer, but nothing special.

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Photo of mrmanning
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle from the brewery- Slightly hazy, deep gold pour pours a frothy beige cap. Nose of pumpkin pie spices...nutmeg, cinnamon, some allspice, a bit of coriander, followed by earthy malts. Tastes of hoppy pumpkin pie with all the aforementioned spices. A bit of caramel malts with fresh hops leading to the finish. Bitter, spicy, good.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.72/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle: poured a clear deep copper color ale with a large foamy head with good retention and not much lacing. Aroma of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are well balance. Taste is also a well balanced mix between some ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg with not much pumpkin per say abut a nice and easily drinkable caramel malt backbone. Body is about average with good carbonation. Very well done with great balance and easily drinkable.

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Photo of cratez
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle at Chancey Smith's in London, Ontario. Packaged on October 13th, consumed three days later. Very fresh!

Appearance: dark orange body with brown hues and a thin layer of white film on top. Not much head or lacing, but the colour is intriguing.

Smell & Taste: aromas of pumpkin pie, buttery crust, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with hints of clove. Taste is identical, though the pale and caramel malts produce some wheat cracker and biscuit flavours towards the end. Nicely balanced malty-sweet aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: medium palate with spicy carbonation. Smooth in the body, drying parched finish.

Overall: a tasty, straightforward pumpkin ale with appetizing flavours and aromas. No real twists, though, aside from the crackery-wheaty-biscuity flavours. I think a stronger hop presence would add more complexity, and distinguish this brew from other pumpkin ales. Still, this is well worth a quaff in its current form.

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Photo of HopHead84
3.82/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Consumed on 8/28/09 and poured into a snifter. I received this as an extra somewhere along the road so thank you to whoever gave this to me. The beer pours dark gold with a creamy white head and scattered lacing.

The nose comes across as authentic and is one of the best I've beheld on a pumpkin ale. Notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice are immediately noticeable. This smells like fresh pumpkin pie. The malt is crackery and biscuity.

The flavor isn't quite as good. It's spicy like the nose, with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and some clove. The malt is biscuity and the finish is dry. No alcohol is noticeable.

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Photo of markaberrant
3.28/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - light amber, very clear, some sediment chunks (could be settled out spices), white head, good retention, some lacing

S - big pumpkin spice nose, the usual suspects, peppery, not hot, but almost phenolic-like, some sweetness backing it up, no hops

T - very dry, almost no residual sweetness, spices are balanced and not bitter, which is surprising considering how dry this is, but still have that phenolic taste, and low bitterness. Almost no aftertaste. This honestly tastes like a really bland, bone-dry ale, with almost no hops, and some spices.

M - body is medium, carbonation medium, creamy, overall ok.

D - This really doesn't deliver on what I'm looking for in a pumpkin ale

The spices come off as phenolic, and there is absolutely no sweetness to round things out, which is absolutely critical to me with a spiced beer. I realize this isn't the freshest example (7 months old), but this is a huge letdown.

Thanks to Viggo for the bottle!

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Photo of DrJay
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice orange/gold colour with faint haze. A hard pour produced a one inch cap of off-white foam, but this settled fairly fast to a collar with some spotty lacing on the glass. Pie spices were evident in the aroma as soon as the cap was popped. Cinnamon, allspice, and clove along with some caramel and malt, plus a bit of vegetal pumpkin character. Same in the flavour, but with more of a biscuity malt character and fruity sweetness in the finish. Light bitterness overall, but it was certainly present. Light, lingering spices. Great balance. Medium bodied with light carbonation that ended up giving it a pleasant creaminess. Fairly dry. This is easily one of the best pumpkin ales I've had, and I make it a point to try them whenever I can. I've waited quite a while for my first beer from Grand River and I hope they're all this good.

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Photo of demcorhip
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another 500ml bottle courtesy of Derek. Thanks man! Another good looking brew from Grand River, with a nice, clear, bronzish amber body. Managed 1 finger of off white head that subsided to leave a thin yet decent collar.

A very nice nose on this brew. Pumpkin, caramel malts, and pumpkin spice, led by allspice, then cinnamon and a hint of ginger and clove.

A nice tasting pumpkin as well. Slightly nutty with a touch of caramel, as well as a nice touch of pie crust. A decent yet somewhat mild flavour of roasted pumpkin is enhanced by the use of spice as described above regarding the aroma. A nice clean kick of hop bitterness comes through at the finish.

Almost medium bodied, and quite nicely balanced, especially in terms of spice and hops. Pumpkin spice is strong without being annoying or overpowering, and the nice clean bitterness with a slight woodiness helps, along with the spice, to balance the caramel malt sweetness. A touch more pumpkin and this would be the pumpkin beer bomb.

A nice, drinkable pumpkin ale. I didnt try to many this year, mostly because i didnt notice my favorites from Smuttynose and O'Fallons this year. This brew ranks right up there with them. Highly recommended to fans of the style, as mentioned earlier, the only thing that would take this over the top would be a greater pumpkin presence. Another very solid beer from Grand River. Hopefully we can find a way to get a few cases of their offerings sent up to the Northwest.

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Photo of Derek
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Copper-bronze with an off white head, some retention, great lacing.

S: The pumpkin pie spicing is bang on, with some nice biscuity malt (somewhat reminiscent of pie crust).

T: Not as quite as bitter as last year, the hop flavour isn't upfront, and the spicing is perfect. Nice biscuity malt & a slight fruitiness. I think this has surpassed the Great Lakes Double Pumpkin, making it the best local pumpkin of the year. Their water really brings the bitterness forward, and I'd prefer a little residual sweetness (with perhaps a hint of vanilla), but this damn good.

M: Lighter than moderate body with a crisp, fairly dry finish.

D: VERY drinkable.

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Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this at C'est What at the Fall Beer Festival.

The pint is served cloudy with a creamy smallish head. Loads of lace coats the glass. The mouthfeel is incredibly smooth, I need to drink more cask ale. The aroma is nutmeg, pumpkin spices and thick sweet malts. The taste is spicey and very much like a pumpkin pie. Pithy, vegetal pumpkin flesh has a subtle presence. Hops are very restrained with a mild bittering effect on the malty finish.

This is a very nice pumpkin ale. Very full bodied and creamy. The pumpkin spice tends to take too much focus away from actual pumpkin flavors though.

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Photo of bobsy
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I tasted this at the C’est What? fall beer fest, and found it to be a good brew. Lovely orange colored pour with a frothy white head. Abundant peach and pumpkin in the nose. Sweet pumpkin and fruit in the flavor, and a smooth finish. A nice fall drink.

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Photo of funkengruven
4.12/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Fresh Growler from the brewery, dated today (October 21, 2007)

This poured a nice dark amber with some head that dissipated quickly. Smell is floral, with some spice in the nose, Pumpkin Pie comes to mind. This is also reflected in the flavor, very fresh, lots of pumpkin in the initial flavor, aftertaste contains an affirmative malt aroma with a touch of hops. Mouthfeel is a touch astringent, likely from the pumpkin, but still very nice.

Drinkable, flavorful, a very good example of this style of ale. I wish Ontario brewers would take on this style more.

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Photo of Sammy
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A malty-spicy aroma. A slightly brown appearance with lace and decent head. High carbonation. Sourish taste that barely let out the spices. Not much of any flavour came out, indicative to me of injection and end of batch or not good batch at all.On-tap at Cask Ale Fest Volo 2007.

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Photo of pootz
3.77/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Fresh sample from the brewery:

A shimmering dark amber-gold in color with a decent 2 finger white cap

Aroma is distinct and interesting...you get spice (cinnamin/nutmeg) over some fruity esters ( peach-strawberry) and a nice whiff of crystal malt that carries the musty botanical tones of pumpkin.

Pumpkin is less defined in the flavor which is a very tasteful blend of spices and savory hops, bready-sweet malts with light fruit/pumpkin tones...all in a extraordinary balance where none over power the other. Finishes slightly bitter but pleasant. The 5.2% ABV makes this a satisfying and more substantial ale.

A very decent ale and a good attempt for this brewer’s first specialty offering. My favorite ale from GRB so far.

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Photo of Viggo
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at C'est What? Festival of Small Brewers. Nice to see brewers here doing some pumpkin beers for the fall.

Pours a slightly hazed golden orange, thin white head, few lace spots, head disappears to a thin wispy ring. Smell is sweet, caramel, light pumpkin, spices, not bad but slightly weak. Taste is more of the same, light caramel and pumpkin, spice, weak finish, just spicy, pumpkin doesn't really come through in the flavour. Mouthfeel is thin, light bodied, low carbonation. Not bad, but leaves me unimpressed.

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Highballer Pumpkin Ale from Grand River Brewing
3.78 out of 5 based on 94 ratings.
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