Monthly Archives: September 2013

Alaskan Pumpkin Porter (2013)

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Alaskan Pumpkin Porter is 7.0% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz  bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: After a steady pour, I got a finger or so of thinnish light brown head which dissipated over the course of a few minutes. This has a dark brown color mostly impenetrable by light. This appears to have carbonation on the light side.

Smell: This smells sweet, roasty, and lovely. There is some dark roast, some notable vegetable pumpkin, and some sweetness and spices. The sweetness has some definite brown sugar to it, while the spices I get are cinnamon and clove. This smells like it will have a lot of flavor, and will be rich. I also get some vanilla-sweetness which pairs great with the dark and roasty malt. Just a great and somewhat sweet aroma. It is so nice to be able to taste this for the first time. I’ve been looking at this in my fridge for too long without tasting it.

Taste: This has just wonderful flavor. It has great strong pumpkin that is mostly vegetal, but also has some roasty tones. The dark, smokey, and roasty malt flavors are there, but don’t overtake the palate. The spices and sweetness are well balanced. The spice I am getting is cinnamon and clove, and some definite brown sugar. I am also getting some smooth vanilla. What is really impressive about this is that it has the roast of a porter, a nice spice profile, and great pumpkin flavor. This has more pumpkin flavor than any other pumpkin porter or pumpkin stout I’ve ever had. It is wonderful. This finishes to let some more of the fruit of the pumpkin shine through. The aftertaste has some of the roast and spices and a bit of the vegetal pumpkin flesh hanging on for a good bit. Just great flavors.

Feel: This is medium bodied,with light carbonation. The feel is lighter than I was expecting. It is smooth and has some roast that gives it some texture. The bit of brown sugar also adds some texture to the feel. Finally there is some warmth from the pumpkin pie spices. So, good marks here.

Drinkability: This is quite good here. It is smooth and velvety, with nothing too coarse or caustic on the palate. The sweetness is also not too pronounced or overpowering. The alcohol is also tame. This is very smooth and easy to put a dent in without realizing it. Great marks here.

Overall: This is the best pumpkin porter that I’ve had, and has more pumpkin flavor than any darker pumpkin beer I’ve ever tasted. The flavors are all good, and nicely balanced. I love the powerful vegetal pumpkin. I also like how the dark and roasty malts pair with the pumpkin and the other spices. This beer has a whole lot going for it. I am a big fan, and would certainly get some more of this for myself or for a seasonal tasting with friends. I wish it was easier for me to get! It is a must-try, especially for those folks that love pumpkin in their pumpkin beers.

Overall Rating: ****

image (10)Alaskan Brewing Company and their Pumpkin Porter: Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986 by Marcy and Geoff Larson, who were then in their 20’s! This was the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Marcy and Goeff aimed to make beers that were inspired by and similar to some of the beers made during the Gold Rush Era, where beer had a central role in the lifestyle. Geoff was a chemical engineer as well as a homebrewer. His wife Marcy was an accountant and adventurous pilot. When doing research about the beer history of Alaska, Marcy discovered some records from the Douglas City Brewing Company, which existed from 1899-1907. These records detailed ingredients for its historically popular brews, and included a newspaper article that had information about how their beer was brewed. Geoff brewed a batch of this beer at home.This beer would later become Alaskan Amber. Alaskan Brewing now distributes to 14 states, and is among the most decorated winners at the Great American Beer Fest. They have won over 100 major medals across the big beer competitions, where over half of these are golds. One of their most popular beers, which I really hope to try some day, is their Alaskan Smoked Porter. This beer has won many medals. At the Great American Beer Festival alone, it has won 6 gold, 6 sliver, and 6 bronze medals since 1990. This beer brought a real gold rush for them between the years of 1991 and 1995.

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The Alaskan Pumpkin Porter is part of their pilot series of limited edition specialty ales. Being brewed in Juneau, it can be a serious challenge to brew real ales. But they’ve done it, and done it well. They use over 11 pounds of Red Hubbard pumpkins per barrel for this delicious pumpkin treat! The water is  glacier-fed, and soaks up a big grain bill. 6 different malts are used, including the Alaskan alder-smoked malt. For more of the pumpkin pie flavors, they throw in brown sugar and a spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  Magnum and Goldings hops takes this to 25 IBU’s.

I spoke with Andy Kline from Alaskan Brewing, who was quite generous. Everyone else I talked to along the way was also so helpful with this project. My girlfriend often jokes that great breweries are how she gets me to travel. Bankrolling this trip might be  a bit more difficult, at least right now! If you get the chance to grab this beer, grab a couple. The beautiful label shows a pickup carrying some giant pumpkin. This is a reference to the Alaska State Fair, known for growing some of the worlds largest vegetables, including pumpkins weighing in at over 1200 lbs. Hey, Alaska is massive! And Alaskan Brewing has massively good beer.

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter (2013)

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter is 8.2% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  can into a stout glass.

Appearance: I poured this steadily, with a little vigor at the end. I got some espresso-crema head, which slowly dissipated to a ring around the sides of the glass. There was no lacing. The color on this is an impenetrable dark brown. I see bubbles suggestive of light carbonation.

Smell: I get a great roasty malt aroma to start, and some just solid earthy dark malt. There is a molasses sweetness, alongside some vegetal pumpkin. I also get some warm spicing of something like cinnamon and something else harder to discern, and some notes of dark fruit. This smells rich and robust.

Taste: This has powerful dark and roasty malt, some sweetness of molasses and chewy dark sugar, vegetal pumpkin, and a warm spice profile. For the spice profile I am getting cinnamon, and something sort of woody and rustic. The flavors are great, and artfully crafted. There are also some notes of dark fruits and earth. The pumpkin in this is on the vegetal side, stands up pretty well to the strong roast from the malt, though it isn’t incredibly strong. This finishes with the dark molasses sweetness coming in a bit stronger and fading into the roast. The aftertaste has quite a bit of roast on the palate.

Feel: This is medium to full bodied, though a bit lighter than I was expecting for body. The roast, spices, pumpkin, and sweetness are balanced pretty well such as to not overwhelm in any one direction. This is on the sweet side, but it is not sticky or cloying or anything. The warmth from the roast and some of the spicing makes the feel really enjoyable.

Drinkability: This is pretty good on this score. It is more full-bodied, which would make this hard to gulp. But it is so smooth, doesn’t feel like it is 8+%, and doesn’t assault you even though it has powerful flavors. For something this bold, good marks here.

Overall: This is a very tasty beer, with nice roasted malt, some earthiness, and a more subdued spice profile. It has some vegetal pumpkin that comes through clearer in parts. And the flavors are all nicely balanced. I could go for a bit more pumpkin, and maybe a bit less sugar. But in any case, this is a good craft beer. It is a lovely alternative to the army of “pumpkin pie” ales (many of which I love) that typically dominate the market. I will certainly get some of this when it hits here.

Overall Rating: ***

image421st, Elysian, and the other “He Said”: I’ve written about the other face of this two-beer collaboration, the “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel, as well as the story behind this big pumpkin beer project in my last post. That “He Said” was delicious, as this beer is. 21st Amendment, famous for their great beers and their off-the-beaten-path watermelon beer, “Hell of High Watermelon” has done some other serious collaborations in the past. I remember their lovely collaboration with Ninkasi, “Allies Win the War”, which was a strong ale brewed with dates. In any case, Shaun Sullivan, who is the brewmaster at 21st, is no stranger to good and interesting brewing ideas. I asked him about his collaboration work, and how he is able to take on such big projects that involve a lot of moving pieces outside of his brewery. His answer was simple. He loves to brew beer, and experiment with friends. The secret is just to return the emails.

“He Said” Baltic-style porter is brewed with 2-row, Carafa II, Carafa III, Cara-Vienne, and Dark Munich malts. As in the other face of this 2-beer collaboration, they use both pumpkin juice and pumpkin puree. They also add a bit of spice in the whirlpool to add to the complexity of flavor. Dick Cantwell, master brewer at Elysian, spoke about liking the ability to dry spice at the end. For this beer and that purpose they use Vietnamese cinnamon (which also goes in Elysian’s “Dark O’ The Moon” pumpkin stout) image (8)and caraway seed. Shaun and Dick spoke about having a hard time getting the light spices in the kettle, and agreeing on how much to add. Dick wanted to add 17 pounds of cinnamon into the whirlpool. For the milder hop presence that this beer has, they use German Northern Brewer and Syrian Golding hops. As I said about the other “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel, I suspect that these won’t be lingering at beer stores for long.

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel (2013)

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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel is 8.2% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  can into a Belgian-ale glass.

Appearance: The pour gave some nice frothy bright off-white head, which was gone in just a few minutes. This left no lacing, and nothing much else either. The color is a bright and very clear honey with just a touch of orange. It looks like it has light carbonation.

Smell: This has a nice funky and strong-with-yeast aroma. The funkiness has some sour notes, and some earthiness like from a farmhouse ale. This has some spicing to it, but is not so easy to pinpoint. I am not getting very much pumpkin, maybe just a little. Though if you didn’t tell me this had pumpkin in it, I wouldn’t have mentioned it from aroma alone. There is also some white pepper to this. Overall this smells like a yeasty tripel.

Taste: Right off the bat I get a nice yeastiness, and a complex and unique spicing to this one. The spicing is just wonderful, and really interesting. Pumpkin-pie spiced pumpkin ales step aside! This has some woody licorice-like herbaciousness and a sweet wildflower honey character to it. The yeast is still there, earthy and a little bit funky. The yeast is less pronounced than in the aroma, though. There is some vegetal pumpkin to this one, that is noticeable more towards the end. The flavors are way more complex than the aroma gives them credit for. This finishes to let the spice quality give way to more of the sweet and smooth honey, with a bit more coarse candi sugar thrown in. The aftertaste has some light bitter notes from the spice and earthiness that stay with you for quite a bit.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. It has great character and structure: some yeastiness, pepper, bold sweetness, astringent pumpkin, and unique spice. So the feel is dynamic. Moreover, despite the bold spice in this, it doesn’t drag on the palate. Good marks here.

Drinkability: This is a bold beer, with a lot of complexity. So naturally, it is not super sessionable or easy-drinking. Even so, the 8% doesn’t advertise itself. The spicing and sugar really helps that here. And nothing is over-done or detracting. So decent marks here.

Overall: This has really interesting flavors. I love the complexity, the use of spice, and the overall balance. It has nice sweetness, some pumpkin, and good earthiness. I love farmhouse ales and lots of Belgian-style beers. So this one is a great one for me. I do wish the pumpkin were more present. If this had a bit more front and center pumpkin, it would be even more wonderful alongside the deep flavors and unique spicing. So I say, anyway. In any case, I am certainly going to buy some more of this once it hits markets. It was a real pleasure to drink.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

image221st Amendment, Elysian, and this beer: I had the privilege of joining a webinar (21st calls these their “weBEERnars”) this past Tuesday to taste and get some information about how this beer came about. This is one of two beers that is part of a new pumpkin beer collaboration 4-pack between 21st amendment in San Francisco, California, and you guessed it, the mecca of pumpkin beers, Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. Both of these pumpkin collaborations are called “He Said” (with the other being a Baltic-style porter). The collaboration project is named after the beginnings of a relationship between Dick Cantwell, master brewer of Elysian, and Shaun O’Sullivan, master brewer at 21st Amendment. Though the guys disagree about when they first met, and when the idea of doing a pumpkin beer first got aired seriously, they agree that there were some drunken conversations about the prospect of 21st joining the pumpkin beer movement more seriously with a collaboration. Dick says he has to work hard to get breweries to brew a pumpkin beer, and that they initially don’t like the idea. He even claimed that he wants to get every brewery to make a pumpkin beer. This is serious and good commitment to a great cause. Dick Cantwell is now something like the pumpkin king of professional brewers, brewing more pumpkin beers than any other brewery in the world. The original idea between Dick and Shaun was to do something that no one else had done before, some unusual styles that they could pair together: a darker and a lighter pumpkin ale in a mixed package.

I asked Dick what started all of this enthusiasm for pumpkin beers, and all the work that goes into his giant pumpkin beer festival that is now in its 9th year. He had a funny story. He said is was partly boredom, as he was looking for something that was funny to brew. He brewed a pumpkin beer that sold really quickly, and decided to brew an imperial pumpkin beer for the 1000th batch of beer at Elysian. This was apparently the first imperial pumpkin beer on the market. Apparently, when he was trying to recreate that beer on his smaller system, he missed the gravity. After realizing he then had 3 pumpkin beers, he thought that if he brewed 3 more, he could have a small festival. As he said, from there it just kind of snowballed.image (7)

This Belgian-style tripel is brewed with 2-row and Aromatic malt, with some Belgian Candi sugar thrown in. They use both pumpkin puree and pumpkin juice in the mash and boil, which is then made very interesting and tasty with spice additions of galangal and tarragon. I’ve never before had tarragon in a pumpkin beer before. I don’t think I would have thought to use that (or galangal, for that matter); but they work great! Shaun and Dick talked about using a huge 4 and 1/2 foot by 2 foot sack of these spices for the whirlpool. They showed us some blurry but still somewhat informative picture of this overgrown mutant tea bag that was captured from someone’s camera phone. The hop profile in this beer was intentionally restrained to let the pumpkin and spice shine through, and consists of German Norther Brewer, US Golding, and Sterling.

This beer is certainly one of the most interesting pumpkin beers I’ve had. It has great flavors, a respectable pumpkin presence, and is just an artfully crafted beer. Once these 4-packs have seriously hit market, I expect they’ll be gone pretty quickly. See my thoughts on the partner “He Said” Baltic-style Porter.

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Fire Island Pumpkin Barrel Ale (2013)

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Fire Island Pumpkin Barrel Ale is 4.8% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  bottle into a Belgian-ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this with a steady hand, which tossed up about an inch of creamy off-white head. This settled down a bit, but was still covering the surface of the beer after 5 minutes or so. This has a copper color, and is quite hazy. It seems to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: I notice strong, crisp, and slightly sour vegetal pumpkin to start. This also has a standard layer of pumpkin pie spices, which seems to consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The spices aren’t so discernible, though. I also get notable grassiness, some hints of lemon, and some honey sweetness.

Taste: To start there is strong vegetal pumpkin, and strong spicing. The vegetal pumpkin comes with notes of lemon, and some less pronounced grassiness than one would expect from the nose. There is more of a roasted pumpkin seed/pepper profile than the standard pumpkin pie spicing I was expecting. The pepper is quite notable in this. The sweetness has some honey to it, and some smooth and soft caramel-malt qualities. There is a more aromatic hop presence towards the end. This finishes to let go of the pumpkin, giving a pop from the pleasant and peppery spices. The aftertaste has the spicing hanging on for quite a while.

Feel: This is light bodied, with moderate carbonation. The feel has some sour and grass notes which add to the depth of the feel some. The peppery notes really hang on, and dominates the otherwise totally smooth feel. I wish the pepper were a bit more restrained.

Drinkability: This is ok but not great on this score. The heavy pepper qualities to the spicing keep this from being so sessionable. The pepper isn’t harsh. It is just quite prominent, and hangs on in the aftertaste quite a bit.

Overall: This has good flavors in it: nice vegetal pumpkin, some lemon, and a non-traditional take on the traditional spice combinations. The malt is also nice and soft. What I’m wondering about is whether the strong bitterness and the pepper qualities are too strong. In any case, I’d go for this over a number of pumpkin ales that are widely available on the market. I do like that this has both the non-traditional spice/pepper profile and the light body, but doesn’t lose all the pumpkin flavor.

Overall Rating: **1/2

DSC03542Fire Island and their Pumpkin Barrel Ale: Fire Island Beer Company is located on Fire Island, off the coast of Manhattan Island in New York. This deer-filled island is only reachable by ferry, and doesn’t allow any cars over. The guys from Fire Island had previously started The Shack, a place on Fire Island to relax and enjoy beer. After first serving their home-brew at The Shack, they later discovered that there was quite the demand for good craft beer on Fire Island. So they began, putting out their first two beers: Lighthouse Ale (an American Amber/Red Ale) and their Red Wagon IPA. In an apparently relaxed atmosphere, Fire Island hopes that folks remember their slogan, “Beer. People. Both are better when they are chilled.”

I spoke with Simon Leonard, head brewer, who told me a little about their Pumpkin Barrel Ale. He noted that they use pumpkin puree and a pumpkin spice combination that he didn’t get into. For their recipe, pumpkin consists of around 6% of the bill. Something unique is that Simon adds some roasted barley to give the beer a little more depth in its flavor. Fire Island has produced 300 barrels of this beer a year for the single batch that they brew of it. Despite more demand, this production has remained steady over the last few years. I asked Simon about what else interesting was going on at Fire Island, and he told me about their Blonde Ale. It is called “Sea Salt Ale”, and was released earlier this year. For this beer, he used Pilsner malt, American Ahtanum hops, and American Ale Yeast. Simon also uses real sea salt that gets incorporated before the boil. Apparently it was just a great beer for the summer. I myself have had a lot of problems with pesky deer running in front of my car and eating all my home-grown tomatoes. However, if I could watch them hang around the beach while drinking Fire Island’s Sea Salt Ale, I think that would be quite nice. The whole relaxing “no cars” deal sounds like a perfect location for a good craft brewery. If you are near their area with some time to relax, I’d say check them out. They also have one of the most unique and interesting websites I’ve seen for a brewery.

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Fordham Spiced Harvest Ale (2013)

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Fordham Spiced Harvest Ale is 6.6% ABV.

I poured some of a 12 oz  bottle into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: An aggressive pour produced about two fingers of off-white and thin foam. This didn’t last long, even while I was getting a picture. The color on this is a hazy light orange/amber that looks somewhat like iced tea. It looks to have light carbonation.

Smell: At the front, I get vegetal pumpkin with some slight sour notes. The pumpkin is clear and smells fresh. There is also a nice spice background to this. I get cinnamon, allspice, and clove. The malt in this has caramel qualities, a little toast, and some grassiness. This has a good and fresh aroma to it.

Taste: I get some smooth caramely malt, some vegetal pumpkin, some honey sweetness, and a pleasant layer of pumpkin pie spicing. The malt presence has some toast and grassiness to it, which pairs nicely with the crisp vegetal pumpkin. This is also mildly astringent. I also get some smooth honey, which works nicely with the toast and grassiness. As for spice, I find some cinnamon, allspice, and clove. Maybe there are more too. This finishes to let the smooth malt give more of the spotlight to the slightly bitter spicing at the end. Some of this lightly peppered spice is noticeable in the aftertaste.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied with moderate carbonation. The honey sweetness, smooth malt, and balanced spice make this one pretty good for feel. It is smooth, but with some warmth. The spices do give a little bit of bitterness at the end. This also imparts some earthiness, though. Good marks here.

Drinkability: This is pretty easy to drink. It is not high in ABV, has smooth flavors, and doesn’t hang on the palate like some others. The slight spice on the aftertaste adds some texture, which makes me less apt to drink this fast. Pretty good marks here.

Overall: This is definitely a worthwhile pumpkin ale. It reminds me quite a bit of Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale. Both this and the Wolaver’s have nice fresh-tasting pumpkin, a decent but not overwhelming spice bill, and a smooth malt presence. The Fordham is warmer with the spices than Wolaver’s, and has less pumpkin presence to it. But the flavors in both are good and well balanced. Overall, I say this offering from Fordham is a good beer.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03533About Fordham and their offering: Fordham was founded in 1995 in Annapolis, Maryland. Originally, Fordham consisted of a brewery that made beer for The Rams Head Tavern. The brewery was named after Benjamin Fordham, who recieved a charter from Queen Anne in 1703 to start a brewery. As they picked up more and more fans, they eventually relocated in 2003 to Dover, Delaware.

In 2007 Fordham merged with Old Dominion Brewing, which started as a brewpub in 1989 in Ashburn, Virginia. In 2009, they then merged into one outfit for operations. They do regular tours at their location in Dover, Delaware, which from what I hear, fill up fast.

Fordham makes their pumpkin ale by adding a few small pumpkins that they grow in their own patch. These go into the boil. Like a number of other breweries, Fordham aims for more of the pumpkin pie style of pumpkin ales. To keep their beer sweet and smooth, they put honey in during the boil as well. They also spice in secondary, with real ginger, and cinnamon, clove and allspice.

I spoke with Lauren Bigelow over at Fordham. She noted that they have been needing to up their production of Spiced Harvest Ale every year since they began with it in 2010.  Their first year brewing it, when they only distributed it in their variety packs, they brewed 100 barrels. In 2012, they brewed 200 barrels, and sold out of it in three weeks.  This 2013 season, they brewed 400 and sold out of it before the beer could leave the building. So, grab this one while you can. It’s worth it.

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Cigar City “Good Gourd ” Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Cigar City “Good Gourd ” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml  bottle into a Belgian-ale glass.

Appearance: I gave a heavy pour which made two fingers of off-white and bubbly foam. This hung on pretty well for a few minutes, then dwindled and left minimal lacing along the sides of the glass, as well as some bubbles that still covered the surface of the beer. This has a deep reddish-orange color, and some cloudiness. It looks to have mild to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma on this is very strong. This has intense roasted pumpkin, warm and punchy tropical spices, and some nice vanilla and brown sugar sweetness. This is definitely on the maltier side, with some smooth caramel-like malt to it. The spices I am getting are like some kind of cinnamon and nutmeg, but with more of a flare than your grocery store “pumpkin pie spice”. This also has some tropical fruit notes, maybe something like papaya. The smell on this is just incredible. Robust, full, and inviting. Now I get to taste it.

Taste: Wow. What a complex, full-flavored, rich beer. This is incredible. It has absolutely delicious roasted pumpkin, some wonderful tropical spice notes, bold but not overdone spicing, nicely blended sweetness, and some overall great tropical fruit notes. The spices give me the impression of cinnamon and nutmeg, and maybe something darker and more woody like clove. But the spices are also so different than your standard fare “pumpkin pie spices”. They are fresh, earthy, and incredibly aromatic. The pumpkin flavor is solid throughout, only being accented by the tough to pin-down tropical spices. This, as in the aroma, also has some tropical fruit notes as well. I get papaya, just great juicy but not too acidic tropical fruit notes. All of this balances so well with the powerful base layer of strong sweet vanilla, that has some dosing of brown sugar thrown in. This finishes to let the juicy fruit and roasted pumpkin fade away, leaving some strong vanilla and a little texture of spice. The aftertaste has some of the spice, and some vanilla hanging on but not dragging.

Feel: This is medium to full bodied, with just such a warm and full feel to it. There is a little bit but not very much by way of alcohol poking through. The powerful pumpkin, sweetness, and spices are what you really get on the palate. The spices add some lovely texture to the feel, some great character. I quite like the feel on this one, though I don’t mind some aggressive or robust profiles demanding attention.

Drinkability: This is easy to drink, as it is so delicious. It is not, however, an “easy drinking” pumpkin ale. The flavors are powerful and captivating. So it is more of a sipper. Even so, for something between 8 and 9% ABV, it is quite smooth.

Overall: This is an absolute must try. For someone like me, it is a real winner. That is, it has things I really like: great bold pumpkin flavor, great character from its interesting flavors, and great texture. This is especially impressive with texture. Moreover, the spices and sweetness and pumpkin are all unforgiving. Yet their presences don’t create conflict, the mark of an artful craft beer. This is as close to the gold standard as I’ve ever seen a pumpkin beer get, though there is the wonderful  Steven’s Point “Whole Hog” that is worth mentioning as something of a gold standard as well. Even so, I find the “Good Gourd” more intense and more full with flavor. The Stevens Point is an incredible beer. For my tastes, though, this bolder, more rich offering from Cigar City has the slightest of advantages. If it wasn’t for the little alcohol bite this has at the end, this beer would be perfect. If you live in Florida, and this is easy for you to get, I am jealous of you. I think I like this even more than I did last year.

Overall Rating: ****3/4

ccgg2Cigar City and their “Good Gourd”: Cigar City began in Tampa, Florida in 2008. Joey Redner (Jr.), who is from Tampa, got together with Wayne Wambles. Wayne was a seasoned professional brewer, so Joey hired him as brewmaster. Cigar City has received just astounding recognition for their work, being rated in the top 5 breweries in the world by numerous publications. They assert two main goals: to make the best beer in the world, and to bring the unique and wonderful Hispanic culture of Tampa to folks all over the world. As of April 2013, Cigar City opened up a brewpub, to provide great food for accompanying their marvelous beers. A friend of mine lives in Gainesville, FL. When she last visited in the Summer, she brought me some of Cigar City’s lovely Jai Alai IPA, and their Maduro Brown Ale. It is always such a treat to have their beers, and to have generous friends.

Cigar City makes their “Good Gourd” in 750 ml bottles. They add pumpkin into the mash- a lost art in many breweries today. For their spicing, they use Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, Zanzibar cloves, and nutmeg. And what a spice combo it is. In even more limited quantities, they release “Good Gourd Almighty”, which is “Good Gourd” aged in rum barrels. Getting your hands on that beer I hear can turn out to be more than a bit of a challenge.

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Indian Wells Spicy Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Indian Wells Spicy Pumpkin Ale is 5.5% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A heavy pour produced a few fingers of off-white and thick head. This hung on for about 5 minutes, settling into just a few dollops of thin foam along the sides of glass, with just minimal lacing. This is clear and bright light orange. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: The first thing I get is very strong almost syrupy vanilla. This smells pretty sweet, and has a strong almost piquant spice profile. I get some more pungent cinnamon, and some other spice notes that aren’t manifest as particular spices per se. Maybe some nutmeg. This has a strong aroma of mostly sweet vanilla and spicy cinnamon.

Taste: This gives strong artificial-tasting cinnamon, as well as some vanilla. The cinnamon tastes a bit like Big Red gum, that spicier sting-y cinnamon. The sweet vanilla is also there, though somewhat clunky and artificial. The vanilla is much stronger in the nose than in the taste. There are some other spice components in this that help the flavor be something more than just fake cinnamon. I also also get a little bit of vegetal pumpkin before the finish. This finishes with the strong spice, and the sting-y cinnamon. The aftertaste has some of the cinnamon hanging onto the palate. The taste reminds me more of how a cinnamon broom smells than I’d like.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. It has some nice spices that add something to the feel. It doesn’t give off that warmth that one would like, as the sting-y artificial-tasting cinnamon hangs on and makes the feel unpleasant.

Drinkability: This is not so drinkable. The spices really drag, and aren’t so smooth or pleasant. I keep wanting another sip to get the spices off my palate, but then they come back again.

Overall: This is unfortunately not a successful pumpkin ale. I get a lot of Big Red gum, and not a whole lot of pumpkin. This also sits with me sort of odd, giving a harsh sting-y flavor that hangs and drags on the palate. The pumpkin flavor is overwhelmed, and unfortunately, not by something interesting or pleasant. This is supposed to be a spicy pumpkin ale, so I could certainly adapt to the spices giving a big punch. Even so, these spices just drag, sort of burn, and aren’t so pleasant. I would recommend against this one, as it feels very artificial.

Overall Rating: *1/4

DSC03527Indian Wells and their Spicy Pumpkin: Indian Wells was founded in 1995 in Inyokern, California. Inyokern is home to the Historic Indian Wells Spring, which has been thought to have saved numerous desert travelers’ lives. This natural spring also gravity-feeds into the brewery, and is used to make all of Indian Wells’ beer. Indian Wells Brewing prides themselves on using fresh local ingredients, including their barley, hops, yeast, and fruit. With a care for the environment, the brewery also focuses on energy-efficient and low carbon processes, so it sounds like it would be a cool place to visit and check out.

They make their pumpkin ale with their pure spring water, a blend of spices, and fresh pumpkin. They have been brewing this beer for about 3 years now, and it has become one of their most popular seasonals. Starting with about 20 barrels, they made 120 barrels of this seasonal this year. Of course, it isn’t as popular as their some of the beers in their main line, like their Mohave Red (red lager) and their Lobotomy Bock (German Dopple Bock).

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