Recently in Pumpkin Ale Category

Punkel Dunkel Pumpkin Wheat Ale

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Even amongst pumpkin beer haters, there's a tacit acknowledgement that yes, The Bruery's Autumn Maple is awesome even though it kinda, sorta fits the category, despite using yams instead of pumpkins. Aside from the yams, it differs in a few other key ways. First you've got molasses and maple syrup, which, you know, sploosh. But the yeast is what ties it all together. The Bruery's house strain of Belgian yeast is fantastic and pairs well with the traditional pumpkin pie spices, not to mention all that other junk.

So those punkels up at Neshaminy Creek, not wanting to do the same old thing in the oversaturated pumpkin beer market (i.e. bland amber base, pumpkin, and shit tons of spices), went all German on our asses. They amped up their recipe for Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen, added the requisite pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and fermented using traditional Bavarian weizen yeast. The result is something Autumn Maple-like, which is high praise. Definitely worth checking out, even for the pumpkin haterz.

Plus, check out that label, it's awesome. And for those of you disgusted by pumpkin beers showing up in July, those fine Neshaminy Creek folks made sure to release this after the "unofficial" end of summer, Labor Day Weekend. Not that any of that really matters, but still. Oh yeah, beer:

Neshaminy Creek Punkel Dunkel Pumpkin Wheat Ale

Neshaminy Creek Punkel Dunkel Pumpkin Wheat Ale - Pours a very murky, cloudy brown color with a cap of light tan head. Smells beautiful, huge spicy character, and while some of that is typical pumpkin pie spice(cinnamon, ginger, clove, brown sugar, etc...), it matches really well with the weizen yeast character (bananas and even more clove). Taste is similar, lots of Weizenbock spice and wheat, brown sugar, with the pumpkin pie notes (cinnamon and the like) hitting in the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouth feel is medium bodied, very well carbonated, spicy, and yet somehow almost creamy. Hint of sticky booze, but that works well here. Overall, a very good, uncommon take on the pumpkin genre, well worth trying even for folks who don't normally go for pumpkin beer. It actually reminds me more of The Bruery's Autumn Maple than anything else... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/5/13.

Rich suggests they make a Doppelbock pumpkin beer next year, which, yeah, sounds awesome. Of course, due to the lagering period, they'd either have to make it without fresh pumpkin (though it's not like most pumpkin beers actually do that these days) or release it much later than normal, but I'd totally be down with applying pumpkin to other beer styles (pumpkin stouts are actually pretty great). Anywho, Neshaminy Creek continues to make some interesting stuff, so you'll probably hear more about them in the future...

Spring House Braaaiins!

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As expressed recently, I love this time of year. Horror movies, candy, and beer, what else do you need? From a seasonal beer standpoint, you've got the old standby of Oktoberfest beers that have a big following, and I certainly give one or two a shot every year (I certainly quaffed that Oktoberfest Revolution a couple weeks ago), but they've never really blown me away and made me look forward to the season. As the Beer Rover notes, the most exciting fall beers are the "fresh hop" ales... but he lives in San Diego, which has a better proximity to fresh hops than us East Coasters. We certainly get our fair share of them (I really enjoyed Tröegs' take from last year), but nothing like the glorious insanity that overtakes the west coast.

But the most popular seasonal tipple appears to be pumpkin beers, though plenty of folks just don't care for them. There's also this constant whinging about pumpkin beers showing up on shelves earlier and earlier every year, which is a bit odd to be sure, but no one's forcing you to buy this stuff in July either. The Beer Rover himself calls it a novelty and sez he's "good for one about every three to five years." It's a fair point, but he also mentions that "better beer bars" in his area don't seem to stock pumpkin beers. That doesn't really hold up around here though. The first place I checked, Teresa's, has Pumking on their menu right next to Pliny the Elder, and other decent beer bars out here in the burbs have similar lineups. Not that any of this means anything, no one sez you have to like every style and is it really worth spending this much time on it? As someone who just wrote this post, I'll say no (I'm wasting time so you don't have to).

So while I can certainly understand the lack of enthusiasm from some corners of beer nerdery for this style, I'm personally always down for trying a few during this season. After all, It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers, and why not chuck those gourds into some beer and spice the crap out of it. What we have here is semi-local brewery Spring House's zombie-themed offering, a decidedly cinnamon-forward take on the style that's been popping up in the area regularly for the past month or so.

Spring House Braaaiins!

Spring House Braaaiins! Pumpkin Ale for Zombies - Pours a clear golden orange color with a finger of dense white head and decent retention. Smells strongly of cinnamon with a sweet, bready note, like pie crust. Maybe some maple and pumpkin in the nose as well. It's a great aroma, but the taste doesn't quite follow through. That cinnamon is still in full force throughout the taste, but that bready note from the nose never quite materializes, and neither does the maple or pumpkin. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, spicy, medium bodied. Overall, well, I hope you like cinnamon, because this thing is filled with it. I happen to like that particular spice, but it could have used perhaps a few other tweaks for complexity, as this comes off as a sorta one note beer, though I enjoyed that note well enough. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/28/13.

I've got another Spring House seasonal, Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, that actually has pretty good word of mouth, and I've got at least one or two more pumpkin beers in the hopper too. Stay tuned!

September Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folk from my work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. I should note that what I call beer club is offically called "social club", and there are frequently attendees who want nothing to do with beer. We've often had folks who bring wine or even stuff like sake or just plan, non-alcoholic root beer. In short, usually, only a portion of attendees are drinking the beer. Well, we had a great turnout tonight, and most everyone drank most every beer. I think only one beer was left unopened (a Brooklyn Oktoberfest), and most everything else was kicked almost as soon as it was opened. So it was an impressive showing tonight! Check it:

September Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, these are not ideal tasting conditions and I was only half paying attention and you'd be a fool to trust most of these ratings. Except for the ones I've had before. Those are mostly awesome. Here goes:

  • Ken's Homebrewed Pumpkin Ale - Really nice pumpkin ale homebrew from my friend Ken. He had kegged it and transferred to a growler this morning, so the carbonation was a bit on the low side, but it was otherwise a pretty damn good take on the style. I was going to say that it's the best homebrewed pumpkin ale I've ever had, but it's also the only homebrewed pumpkin ale I've ever had, so that doesn't really tell you much. But it was good, and I liked it. B+
  • Stone Enjoy By 09.13.13 IPA - I know, heresy! We drank this almost a week after we were supposed to "enjoy by", and yet, I can't help but thinking that I enjoyed this more than the fresh bottle I had. I didn't get that weird plasticky character that I had from the fresh version, though I could kinda see where it came from. The slightly faded hops actually improved this for me! I know, heresy, right? I still feel like I'm pretty sensitive to faded hops these days, but this one tasted fine. Perhaps it was stored better than my last bottle? I'll still leave it at a B, but better than the last bottle I had (which was also a B)
  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I've not reviewed this, but I've mentioned it before on the blog, and I enjoy it. A local brew, this is your typical East Coast IPA, well balanced, more malt character than your West Coast IPAs, but a nice light hop character too. B or B+
  • Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - My regular ol' homebrewed saison is still drinking pretty well. The hop character has mellowed a bit and never quite achieved the Nelson Sauvin awesomeness I was hoping for, but it's still a pretty kickass saison and seemed to be very well received by the beer club crew. The Brett version of this is still in secondary, and probably has a solid month or two left it in before I bottle. I'll leave this at a B+
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - Proof that "Bourbon Barrel Aged" does not always translate to "good"... this wasn't especially bad or anything, it was just sorta bland. It was pale in color, and I didn't get much bourbon or oak out of this at all... nor did I get much else. Which is to say, it's better than most macros, but nothing to write home about. Perhaps it would fare better in a non-sampling context, but for tonight it was a lowly C+
  • Erie Brewing Mad Anthony's APA - Oh wow, this is just awful. It's got a certain blandness to it, but also a diacetyl note that I always hate. Some might be willing to put up with that, but not I. F
  • The Alchemist Heady Topper - I don't need to say much beyond my review, but yeah, it went over pretty well with the beer club peeps. Still a solid A in my book.
  • Saucony Creek Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress - Extremely sweet and a little boozy, this is an interesting take on the pumpkin ale. It's got some spice, but not quite your typical pumpkin spice, and I can sorta detect that maple syrup character as well. It's unbalanced, but in a sorta endearing way. One of those beers that's excellent in this sort of sampling context, but which would probably become cloying if you tried drinking a whole bottle. I enjoyed it well enough and will give it a B
  • Finch's Fascist Pig Ale - I didn't really get much of this, just the dregs of the can, but it seemed like a nice enough amber ale. I'll give it a provisional B, but even considering the context of beer club, I need more of this to really give it a fair shake.
  • Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin - You know what, I really enjoyed this beer. It's a more-or-less traditional take on a pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie flavors all the way, but perhaps the lopsided affair of Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress made this one appear better by comparison. It's not as interesting, but it's maybe a better crafted beer. B or B+
  • Cascade Kriek Ale - One of my contributions for the night, this sucker is just as good as I remember it, maybe even better. It was a big hit with beer club peeps as well, and definitely the most unique beer of the night. I love this stuff and might be tempted to upgrade it to A status, but I'll leave it at A- for now, trusting my previous judgement.
  • FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Heaven Hill Rittenhouse Rye - My other contribution, and another eye opener for the beer club crew. I've had this before and absolutely loved it, which is one of the reasons I wanted to bring it to beer club. Happily, it went over very well. A
And that just about covers it, another successful night, and I am already anticipating the next meeting!

I actually had this at a beer club outing last year, and I loved it so much that I went out and bought a bottle. It was a big, rich imperial stout mixed with typical pumpkin pie flavors, but very well balanced. Or was it? This was a beer that really shined in the beer club setting, where I was only trying a few ounces, if that. And as pumpkin beers go, this was the first time I'd had a pumpkin stout, a combination of flavors that was surprisingly good. But maybe I've fallen prey to a classic market research problem. Fair warning, serious nerdery ahoy. Feel free to skip to the review below.

Remember the embarrassment that was New Coke? Longtime readers know I'm a huge fan of Coke and I really freakin hate Pepsi. Why did Coke reformulate their time-honored, classic formula? Well, Coke had been losing ground to Pepsi, and then this classic ad campaign came out: The Pepsi Challenge. Basically, Pepsi went out and asked a bunch of loyal Coke drinkers to take a sip from two glasses and pick which one was better. The participants preferred Pepsi by a rather large margin. Coke disputed the results until they started running their own internal sip tests... and got pretty much the same results. So they started fiddling with their fabled formula, making it sweeter and lighter (i.e. more like Pepsi). Eventually, they settled on a formula that consistently outperformed Pepsi in the challenge, and thus New Coke was born.

Of course, we all know what happened. New Coke was a disaster. Coke drinkers were outraged, the company's sales plunged, and Coke was forced to bring back the original formula as "Classic Coke" just a few months later (at which point New Coke practically disappeared). What's more, Pepsi's seemingly unstoppable ascendance never materialized. When it comes to the base cola brand, people still prefer Coke to Pepsi, sip tests be damned! So what's going on here? Why do people buy Coke when sip tests show that they like Pepsi better? Malcolm Gladwell wrote about why in his book Blink:

The difficulty with interpreting the Pepsi Challenge findings begins with the fact that they were based on what the industry calls a sip test or a CLT (central location test). Tasters don't drink the entire can. They take a sip from a cup of each of the brands being tested and then make their choice. Now suppose I were to ask you to test a soft drink a little differently. What if you were to take a case of the drink home and tell me what you think after a few weeks? Would that change your opinion? It turns out it would. Carol Dollard, who worked for Pepsi for many years in new-product development, says, "I've seen many times when the CLT will give you one result and the home-use test will give you the exact opposite. For example, in a CLT, consumers might taste three or four different products in a row, taking a sip or a couple sips of each. A sip is very different from sitting and drinking a whole beverage on your own. Sometimes a sip tastes good and a whole bottle doesn't. That's why home-use tests give you the best information. The user isn't in an artificial setting. They are at home, sitting in front of the TV, and the way they feel in that situation is the most reflective of how they will behave when the product hits the market."

Dollard says, for instance, that one of the biases in a sip test is toward sweetness: "If you only test in a sip test, consumers will like the sweeter product. But when they have to drink a whole bottle or can, that sweetness can get really overpowering or cloying." Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, so right away it had a big advantage in a sip test. Pepsi is also characterized by a citrusy flavor burst, unlike the more raisiny-vanilla taste of Coke. But that burst tends to dissipate over the course of an entire can, and that is another reason Coke suffered by comparison. Pepsi, in short, is a drink built to shine in a sip test. Does this mean that the Pepsi Challenge was a fraud? Not at all. It just means that we have two different reactions to colas. We have one reaction after taking a sip, and we have another reaction after drinking a whole can.


The parallel here is obvious. Drinking a small dose of a beer in the context of beer club (where I'm sampling a whole bunch of beers) can lead to some distortion in ratings. I usually mention this bias in my beer club posts, but despite my usual snark when bringing it up, I do think those ratings are a bit suspect.

In this particular case, the beer did not fare quite as well upon revisiting it in a more controlled environment (sheesh, I'm a nerd), though I suppose the fact that I aged this beer a year or so also has something to do with it. Yet more distortion! I suspect a fresh bottle would have more of that rich, chewy stout character and a more biting spice presence, whereas this aged bottle showed a lot more pumpkin and less in the way of stoutness. Spicing was clearly still strong, but not quite as bright as they seemed last year. Ok fine, I admit it, all of my tasting notes are unreliable. I hope your happy. Anywho, here's my notes:

Cape Ann Fishermans Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout (2011 Vintage) - Pours a black color with minimal, rather light colored head. Smells very sweet, with a huge pumpkin pie component, with both pumpkin and spice asserting themselves. Taste is again very sweet, with some caramel flavors, a little in the way of chocolate, and even a little roastiness, but those pumpkin pie notes are here too, and they get stronger the more I drink. This seems to have lost some of its punch from last year, though it's still big and flavorful stuff. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, a little spicy, but this doesn't drink like an 11% beer. Definitely not as great as I remembered, but still very solid and overall, as pumpkin beers go, this is still one of my favorites. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 9/29/12. 2011 vintage.

Yeah, so maybe I'll try to find a fresh bottle of this stuff and see if it fares any better. I've actually never had any of Cape Ann's other Fisherman's beers, so I should probably get on that too...

Lost Weekend

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No, I didn't get blackout drunk this weekend, but I did lose a bunch of reviews due to a hardware failure on my host. All is well now, but I lost last Thursday's review, and any notes I took over the weekend. Also, some comments were lost, so sorry about that (for what it's worth, they were about the recent and awesome trend of non-sour beers aged in wine barrels and other fancy non-bourbon barrels).

But I've got a steel trap for a brain, so here are some thoughts on recent drinkery. I'll include ratings, but I'm sure the nerdiest among you will be wary of their reliability or something. I suppose there's something to such claims, but that's no fun and you should probably get over yourself, so here goes (in order of consumption):

  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - Yeah, it's that season again. I know there are lots of folks that freakout about early availability of these brews, and in July, they might have a point, but it's mid-September at this point, so I think it's time to start easing into the seasonals. This is my favorite time of year, when it's socially acceptable to watch bad horror movies, mutilate pumpkins, and decorate your house with faux-corpses. Oh, and we start to get seasonal beers that are actually distinctive... like this beer. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster example of the style. It's got the typical elements - pumpkin and assorted pumpkin pie spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...) - but it came off flabby and limp. It's a relatively low-ABV beer, which I think lent to the more watery feeling (not that low-ABV automatically means bad or anything - there are beers that do that well). It's not the worst beer ever or anything and I'd totally favor this over any macro offerings, but I found it disappointing. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.84% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/12.)
  • Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps - Probably my favorite beer of the weekend, a Scotch Ale made by those wacky French Canadians at Dieu Du Ciel. I've previously enjoyed their pale ale, but this thing makes me want to stock up on everything of theirs I can find. It's a Spring seasonal and apparently not much makes its way down here, but I lucked into a bottle:

    Dieu Du Ciel Equinox Du Printemps

    Thick and chewy, with a burst of delicious fruity malts and rich, syrupy caramel. It's got a richness that I normally associate with barrel aged beers, though there's obviously no bourbon flavors or anything like that. Apparently this is made with Maple Syrup, which probably explains some things (maybe the syrup was oak aged?) A big, eye opening beer, but well balanced, complex flavors make it something to seek out, especially for malt lovers. Right up my alley, and a good way to follow up with that pumpkin beer. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.5 oz twist off) Drank out of a snifter on 9/14/12.)
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest - As near as I can tell, this is the best reviewed Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate (at least, of beers with more than 50 ratings), even beating out the Germans. It's not really my favorite style, but I always like to sample a few during the season, just to keep sharp. I actually really enjoyed this one. Not sure how close to authentic style it is, but whatever, it's really solid. Maybe a little sweeter than expected, but it's got that trademark toasty, nutty malt flavor, along with some atypical (to me, at least) caramel malts. It goes down quite smoothly, and I'd certainly put this towards the top of my rankings for the style (along with Live Oak and Ayinger). B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a big ass mug on 9/15/12.)
  • Boulevard Brewing The Sixth Glass - I found myself relatively unimpressed with my previous exposure to Boulevard's celebrated Smokestack series, a double IPA that just wasn't doing it for me. Fortunately this one, a Belgian-style quadrupel, fared better. Perhaps not a top tier example of the style, but it's a respectable and welcome redemption for Boulevard. Lots of Belgian yeast, musty and spicy, along with some fruity malt character. Perhaps a little too much sweetness, leading to a slight stickiness that's not really characteristic of the best of the style. Still, this was a really nice beer, a fitting nightcap to a late Saturday night. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/15/12.)
  • Emelisse Barley Wine Ale - Bonus review! I had actually written up and published a full blown post for this one, and it was witty and brilliant stuff, but it got lost in the ether. Fortunately, my tasting notes were still available, so you get more detail here: Pours a deep, cloudy amber brown color with minimal head. Smells of ripe fruit, caramel, and maybe some booze. Taste is filled with rich, fruity malts, caramel flavors, a little booze, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, minimal carbonation, very smooth, a little boozy warming going on, some slickness in the finish before it dries out. Overall, this is a very well crafted, if pretty straightforward English barleywine. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/1/12.)
So there you have it. A solid weekend, and I'm excited to enter Halloween season. I've got a couple unusual pumpkin ales coming up, as well as an accidentally aged Autumn Maple that's just calling my name. Harvest beers are starting to show up too, though I get the impression that West Coasters benefit from such practices moreso than we do, though I'm sure I'll get my hands on some local harvest stuff from Victory and the like. Stay tuned...

Novembeer Club

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Another month, another beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is just a monthly gathering of friends from work for dinner and, of course, lots of beer (and often other alcoholic wonders). We had an average turnout, but still lots of fun and we had so much beer that we couldn't even get to all of it... A transitional period in terms of seasonal beers. Some leftover fall seasonals, some holiday beers, but the majority of beers were regular offerings:

beerclub-nov11.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or as sacred scripture (as I'm sure you do with all my other posts). The choice is yours. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat - A very solid Hefeweizen from semi-local Tröegs. I've actually had this a few times before, but there's nothing particularly unique about it. A really nice example of the style though. B
  • Amager Julebryg 2008 - Dark color, with a wonderful aroma that is filled with crystal malts and caramel flavors (and maybe some subtle spicing). Taste is a little more roasty than I was expecting from the nose, with some coffee and maybe a little chocolate apparent. Full bodied but smooth, a really nice beer. It feels more like a solid stout than a holiday beer, but it's good either way (Beer Advocate calls it a dubbel, which sorta fits, but I probably wouldn't have guessed that from the beer itself). The bottle sez it was spiced, and it was certainly complex, but nothing particularly stood out (this is actually a good thing). Brewer Amager warrants further exploration. B+
  • Guinness Black Lager - This feels like a more crisp, carbonated version of Guinness' famous dry stout with less roastiness. It's an easy drinking beer, but the flavor seems oddly muted (perhaps because of the other brews of the night). Nothing wrong with it, but not a particularly special beer either. C+
  • Abita Turbodog - A great name for a beer that turns out to be a standard brown ale. Certainly nothing wrong with it and a solid example of the style, but not particularly special either. B-
  • Wychwood King Goblin - According to the bottle, this beer is only brewed under a full moon. It's got that typical Wychwood style label which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the beer doesn't quite live up to the branding. Lots of head and perhaps as a consequence, a little too light on the carbonation. Not quite flat, but it wasn't a good mouthfeel at all. Taste was hoppy, but not in the typical American pale ale way - perhaps this is more of an English pale ale (BA has it pegged as an English Strong Ale). Not a horrible beer, but not something that I could really connect with either. I don't know, Wychwood beers seem to be hitting me the wrong way lately... C
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - An interesting example of the style as it seems to emphasize the pumpkin more than the spices (which are still there, but not anywhere near as prevalent as they typically are in pumpkin ales). Smooth, tasty, and easy to drink. Nothing revelatory, but a good example of the style. B
  • Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes - One of my contributions for the night, this is a really interesting combination. Basically a Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it features the hallmarks of both styles. Unlike a lot of style mixtures, I think these two styles complement each other well. Very sweet and malty, with that typical Belgian yeast character coming out in a prominent way. I actually have another bottle of this sitting around, so look for a full review at some point...
  • Fegley's Brew Works Rude Elf's Reserve - Another beer I'll probably review separately, but I will say that this is a hugely alcoholic (10.5% ABV) spiced beer. Kinda like an overspiced pumpkin beer without any pumpkin (I had one of these earlier, along with a pumpkin ale, and found this one sharing a lot of the pumpkin spices)... Look for a separate review sometime this holiday season...
  • Dana's Homebrewed Dubbel - A nice dubbel style beer, only recently bottled, so it could probably use some more time to condition, but it's still pretty good. Nice traditional Belgian yeast character with a medium body. Easy to drink.
We didn't get to try a few of the beers in the picture, including Troegenator, Hoptober, and Amish Four Grain Pale Ale. All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, as we will most likely be drinking all Holiday beers (aka, my favorite seasonals).

The Fear of 120 Minute IPA for Halloween

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I don't normally talk about where I work, and I won't go into specifics, but I always wonder who on earth signs up for our emails. We're a retail company, and I guess if you're into some stuff, the emails could be beneficial, but in my personal life, I don't think I've ever actually wanted an email from a retailer (aside from order/shipping confirmations, which are a different beast). Except, of course, for my local beer and liquor stores. So when Pinocchio's sent out their Halloween specials, notably featuring the long absent Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I was all aboard. I now know what it means to be an email subscriber, despite the fact that I've never really cared before (I mean, aren't emails so 1990s?) So yeah, I got to have a long sought-after beer (hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some bottles that I can age (more on this later)), and Pinocchio's always has a huge selection of great beer in the coolers as well, so I brought home some interesting stuff as well. Let's just call this a beertastic Halloween. But enough babbling, let's get to the good stuff:

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Many moons ago, Dogfish Head was among the few breweries shooting for the title of highest ABV beer. Their entry was a whopping 23% ABV IPA that was basically an extension of their 60 and 90 minute series of IPAs. The central conceit behind the series is that they are continually hopped beers. Small amounts of hops are being added to the boil continuously, eventually yielding a large amount of hop character. The 120 is boiled for a full two hours (an hour longer than most beers) and it features a huge amount of hops and malts too. And then the beer is dry hopped and further aged with hops for more aromatic characters. Anyway, as the race to highest ABV beer evar went on and breweries like Brewdog started really pushing the envelope, Dogfish Head bowed out and actually decreased the amount of alcohol in this beer to make it a bit more manageable and well balanced. This was probably for the best, as I can't imagine a higher ABV beer tasting this good.

Pours a mostly clear but dark golden color with minimal head. The aroma is full of citrusy hops, orange and grapefruit notes, just a hint of herbal hop character and alcohol heat. Taste is sweet with a very well matched booziness. It's obviously a strong beer, but I don't know that I would have guessed just how high the alcohol is... There's surprisingly little hoppiness in the taste, with just a hint of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. The mouthfeel clearly features that alcohol burn character, and yet it's relatively smooth for it's strength. Overally, it's quite good, complex, and well worth seeking out. I'm having trouble picking a rating, as I value the extreme and experimental nature of the beer, but it's not exactly the most delicious beer ever or anything. I'll give it an A-, because I really enjoyed it and would love to get me a 4-6 pack of the stuff to try over the period of a few years.

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 10/31/11.

Now, after the beer (and after I ate something), I headed to the back room at Pinocchio's, which has a massive (800+) selection of beer varieties available. A few folks were tasting some of the beers, and I spied an open 750 of the 120 minute. Knowing that I'd love to have a bottle or two of the stuff, I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any for sale and he laughed and pointed at the date on the bottle. It turns out that the bottle was from 2003. The guy kindly poured about an ounce into a shot glass for me to try out (for which I am very grateful), and damn, this is clearly that same beer, but with a much more complex array of flavors. It was too small to really rate, but damn it was good. I really need to find me some bottles of this stuff and age it in my cellar (aka my fridge).

Anyway, before I went to the store, I had myself another beer (with my dinner), this one a more festive Halloween beer:

Flying Dog The Fear

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Hey, look, another dark colored pumpkin ale. Very dark brown, almost black color with some amberish highlights and a finger or so of tan head. Light pumpkin pie spices in the nose. Taste is full of sweet malts and a well balanced portion of pumpkin pie spicing (I know lots of folks don't like overly spiced pumpkin beers, but these darker beers really do seem to stand up better to the spicing). Well carbonated, but either my palate was obliterated by the 120 Minute or it was a light bodied beer. I would have expected something with a little more heft to it, but it certainly wasn't bad. It's a really nice beer, but not something that really stands out. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip on 10/31/11.

I grabbed a glass of water, finished off my meal, and then headed over to the bottle shop, where I picked up a nice selection of exciting beers, including:

Phew. I've clearly got my work cut out for the next few months (not to mention all the stuff I still have sitting around, including a few cases of homebrew). Too many beers, too little time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish watching Halloween. Speaking of which, have a good Halloween!

Happy Hour

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The hour so happy it lasts 5 hours! Usually bars around here have a handful of craft taps to go along with the usual macros, but tonight, I went to a place that unexpectedly had a huge selection of big craft beers. I wasn't expecting it at all, but when I arrived, someone handed me the beer menu (the fact that there's a beer menu in itself is pretty awesome) and scanning through it I saw a few beers I didn't recognize (always an interesting venture) along with some heavyweights like The Bruery (rarely seen around here), Lagunitas, and some other worthy beers. Good times. Here's what I had:

  • Bavarian Barbarian Grumpy Pumpkin - Well, most pumpkin beers tend to be on the lighter side, but this marks the second time in a few days in which I've had a dark pumpkin ale. This time it's more of a pumpkin porter, and it was a very solid beer (not quite as good as the imperial pumpkin stout we had at the most recent beer club). Very muddy brown color here, with almost no head. Lots of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...), but it doesn't overpower the typical dark beer flavors as well. This wasn't quite as well matched as the Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout I had earlier this week, but it's along similar lines. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Wild Ale - I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one. The description on the menu talked a lot about Belgian characteristics, but I would have called it more of a DIPA or Imperial Red than a Belgian Pale Ale. That being said, there is a hint of that Belgian yeast in the taste, enough to differentiate this from the throngs of other hoppy beers.


    Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild

    But the hops are really taking center stage here. Filled with pine and resin flavors, with a full body and a sticky finish, it was quite a beer. I suppose it's not a super bitter beer, though it's clearly there. Once again, I find myself resolving to seek out more Lagunitas beers. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 8.85% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

  • Boxcar Brown Ale - After two approximately 9% whoppers, I had to slow down a bit, so I picked this uber-local 5% brown ale. Boxcar is basically right down the street, and they only have a couple of beers. Their launch beer was solid, though not particularly special. They've since expanded to a couple other standard styles, including this brown ale. It's super cloudy looking (you can tell despite the even brown color) and bursting with flavor. Lots of caramel, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and even some chocolate. Indeed, I got the impression that I was drinking a sorta liquid brownie at some point, though that notion doesn't really survive the whole session. I've actually had this before, but it was from a bottle and it was very different. From the bottle it was much more muted. On tap, it was quite a bit more assertive. Full bodied, but still easy to drink. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint.)
  • Avery Maharaja - Well, so much for moderation. Here comes another 10.5% ABV monster. It's actually the only beer of the night to be even remotely clear, with a pale orangish color and a finger of head. Features a lot of the same characteristics as the Lagunitas beer I tried earlier, but this strangely had a lighter body and seemed like it would be a more refreshing brew (if it wasn't already the 4th beer of the night). Perhaps a bit more bitter, with a similar pine and citrus character, but less of the stickiness in the mouthfeel and again, lighter bodied. A really solid beer, and something I should probably try again with a cleaner palate... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

I had really wanted to get a glass of The Bruery's Rugbrød, but apparently the keg had just kicked. Damnit! But that's ok, because as the ratings above show, I had a pretty great night. Did I say that I was going to cut down on my beer intake? Well apparently not this week! That being said, I had a great time tonight and I've found a new local place to get some good craft beers.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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