New Holland Ichabod Ale
New Holland Brewing Company
STYLE: PUMPKIN ALE
3.4 / 5.0
Look: 3.0 | Smell: 3.5 | Taste: 3.5 | Feel: 3.5 | Overall: 3.4
Brewery at a glance: Oh, New Holland! A few years back, Aly’s mom discovered that I was starting my, what was soon to be, lifelong obsession with craft beer. For my birthday, she brought over a twelve pack of bombers from various breweries. What kind of a mom does that? Seriously. Best. Gift. Ever. Included was the entire series of 2013’s Mad Hatter bomber series along with a few other bombers I hadn’t tried. If memory serves me correctly, this included White Hatter, Rye Hatter, Oak Hatter, Black Hatter, Farm Hatter, and a few others that years of drinking beer have obscured from my memory.
Trying to think back on two years ago and separate the bombers from everything I’ve tried since then is an incredibly difficult task. I remember almost all of them being very solid with my favorites being Farm Hatter and Oak Hatter. It renewed my interest in the brewery and I’ve paid attention to everything they have done since then. Flashback to a year before that. Aly’s mom, once again, purchased Aly and I a six pack of New Holland’s very excellent oatmeal stout, The Poet, and a sixer of the beer I reviewed for this series, Ichabod Ale. We mixed the two together for a beer cocktail (probably my first) and discovered the wonderful blend of coffee, chocolate, and pumpkin spice. Seriously, go find both of these beers and try this soon. I discovered then that oatmeal stouts were among my favorite styles and that New Holland’s offering was a pretty solid one that I continue to pick up regularly today.
Flashback before that. My first experience with New Holland was when I tried Dragon’s Milk on my birthday (New Holland an birthdays are apparently synonymous) at my favorite bar in New Haven, The Trion Tavern. I had a beer with the owner and, after suggesting how much I loved what he was doing for craft beer, he bought me glass of Dragon’s Milk. I should mention that the beer was not the most commonly stocked brew at local pubs or liquor stores in the area at the time and had a ridiculous price tag to match that exclusivity. It almost seems silly by how easy it is to get almost anywhere today. Since then, I’ve had it several times and it is consistently the first beer I recommend to those wanting to try New Holland’s offerings or to those wanting to get into imperial stouts.
At the time of this writing, I have a bottle of one of the four reserves (coffee & chocolate) that New Holland released this year and I definitely plan on reviewing this for the blog in the very near future. Check back in, let’s say, a week. It isn’t my birthday but it might as well be.
Look: Pours a deep coppery color that borders on being almost crimson brown. There is a finger of white head that dissipates quickly due to its rather light carbonation. This one pours cloudy and has a bit of yeast debris that settles to the bottom of the glass. For those that are completely opposed to yeast in their beer, this might be one to avoid since the slimy yeast cake does move around after each sip after it initially settles. Despite this component, it is a very attractive beer that seems to promise a very bready, sweet caramel, malty body.
Smell: The smell on this one is a little more unusual than most pumpkin brews. It almost hits you with an intense sweetness that borders on a tart sour smell. Once this settles, you are greeted to hints of cinnamon, cardamon, pepper, and nutmeg. There is very little earthy pumpkin smell to this one and doesn’t really highlight any earthy hops after a few sniffs. It definitely smells a little like toffee and promises a bready, malty beer.
Taste: Bready and malty it is! This one has little sweetness and hits you right up front with its caramel bread flavor that settles into the subtleties of its spice profile of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. While most pumpkin beers I’ve had have been almost too sweet, this one is a breathe of fresh air in that it barely tastes like the sweet pumpkin latte that so many breweries are trying to emulate. It first tastes like beer and then reminds you that there are some pumpkin flavors thrown into the mix to comply with the style. It has a bit of a alcohol bite despite its relatively low ABV and almost gives it a spicy, bourbon-like quality. While it doesn’t have much earthy pumpkin flavor in its smell, it is definitely there in its taste. The malty body lends itself to the roasted vegetable pumpkin flavor in most pumpkin ales. It weirdly had a bitter component which came through most prominently in the way that the roof of my mouth seemed to constrict with every sip.
Feel: It has a watery component that I wasn’t a huge fan of given that the taste is more malty and should be huge. This beer seemed to keep tricking me into thinking it was bigger, bolder, and badder. The mouthfeel is what eventually convinced me it isn’t that big. Its light but has a warmer alcohol feel that almost confused my pallet. The carbonation did little to help the flavor and became still after just a few sips.
Overall: Let me begin by saying that I’m not sure if I bought a bad bottle or if this beer is simply not as good as I remember it being. There was something that tasted uniquely off about this one and I tried not to grade it as harshly on the fact that this one might have been an old bottle that has mellowed into a faint reflection of what it used to be. In fact, I went back to check the bottle and it doesn’t seem to have any indication on when it was brewed or bottle. This used to be among my favorite pumpkin beers so I’m not sure what has happened since my initial taste of the beer and now. I really don’t think something would have changed so drastically in the formula that would have caused such a drastic change of taste but I’m really hoping that this was just a dud bottle. Even when I poured the beer, there was a sudden rush of foam that came out of the top of the bottle that usually indicates that a brew is past its prime. However, I do want to encourage you to try New Holland’s offerings. They make quality stuff that isn’t to be missed and they remain one of my favorite breweries out of Michigan. As a side note, years ago, I used to mix this one with New Holland’s other fall seasonal, The Poet. The mixture of a coffee rich oatmeal stout and the malty subtle pumpkin flavors of Ichabod were a delightful combination. If you bought six pack and aren’t a huge fan of the beer, consider buying a sixer of The Poet and trying the mixture.
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.