To be honest, I have mixed feeling about Night Owl these days. Back in 2008 when I first reviewed it, it was a pure rave: I declared that it “might well be my new favorite pumpkin beer.” Indeed, it was a first-class pumpkin beer. But since then (and especially this year), I noticed there was something different—it has taken on a more filtered, “clean” quality—I want to say “commercialized” because that’s how I think of it, though there’s nothing wrong with being “commercial” with a beer. What I mean when I say is, the beer doesn’t have that “artisanal” character that I remember, instead seeming as though it’s gone through more commercialized industrial processes like filtration.
And you all know I think a pumpkin beer should never be filtered. Filtering a pumpkin beer strips away the essential pumpkin characteristics, which give it body and mouthfeel that help to buffer against the harsher notes that spices by themselves can lend to a beer.
Let me clear though: this is in no way a bad beer. It’s still one of the best examples of pumpkin beer available.
Appearance: Orange-tinted amber and very clear; thinnish light tan head.
Smell: Nice, sweet brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices. Some cooked-pumpkin aromas as well, I think, punctuated by caramel.
Taste: Malty amber base with caramel malts and light on the spicing. Touch of cinnamon at the back of the throat. Decent, but more “amber ale” than pumpkin from what I remember.
Mouthfeel: Crisp, medium-bodied but clean—filtered.
Overall: Not as good as when I first had it. Better than many, but definitely “commercialized.”