Tag Archives: Belgian pumpkin Ale

21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Belgian-style Tripel (2014)

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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: An easy pour produced just a finger of thinner but bright off-white foam, which slowly resolved itself into a thin layer of creamy foam atop the beer, along with some foamy lacing along the sides of the glass. This has a mostly very clear golden to light amber color. Really bright color, with lots of light coming through. There is just a little haze amidst the many carbonation bubbles rising, suggesting moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: Here I get some nice Belgiany yeast, some candi sugar, and some milder vegetal pumpkin. This certainly smells on the sweet side, and has a nice blend of spice to it. The spices are sort of earthy, but more herbal and somewhat medicinal (in a good way). There is also a kind of fresh subdued sage-like minty thing going on, which is nice. Not the standard pumpkin pie spices at all. The malt is smooth and sweet, with some bread to it. Nice and very interesting aroma. Now for a sip.

Taste: This gives me a nice yeasty earthiness and an herbal profile of spice. The spice is sort of like a woody herb like, sage, which is set against sweet tripel flavors. There is also some anise. I get some candi sugar, and some sweet (but not overly heavy) and smooth flavors from the malt. There is a breadiness to this, laying down a nice base layer of malt. I do get some vegetal pumpkin in this, but it takes a little bit of a backseat to the herbs and the sweet candi sugar. The hops in this are really nicely balanced: great complex bitterness with some floral and citrus notes. This does have great flavors, with really interesting and enjoyable spice. This finishes with the sweet tripel flavors giving way to more of the restrained bitterness from the hops, yeast, and woody and earthy spice. There is a noticeable but not overwhelming alcohol bite towards the end, which is noticeable a still into the earthy and herbal aftertaste. Not a standard pumpkin ale at all. A great Belgian-style offering, with a really unique spice profile.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate plus carbonation. The feel is really nice. You get smooth malt with that belgian sugar kind of pop. This is then set against some herbal spice and some earthy yeast to add a richness and more of a roundness. I love saisons and, more generally, Belgian-style offerings. So I say great here.

Drinkability: This drinks really well for a beer of 8+%. The smoothness and round complexity of the feel helps. The only real detractor, save from mote bitterness lingering more on the palate than I’d like, is the mild alcohol bite. So pretty good here.

Overall: This is a very tasty offering. For those folks that want to try Belgian pumpkins, I’d say this is ertainly worth a try. The real downside to this is its lack of prominent pumpkin in the flavors. The spices are just so well done, and balanced with the hops so well. It is interesting, earthy, and has lots of good qualities. The more I drink this the more I’m apt to mention anise a bit more. As a pumpkin offering, it is something I’ll probably revisit in the future, but not top tier for me. As a tripel, I’d gladly have this over a lot of other Belgian-style offerings.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03808About 21st Amendment, Elysian, and this beer: I’ve previously written about this beer, and this collaboration project, in my 2013 review. This beer first came out last year, and is one of two beers in a collaboration 4-pack between 21st Amendment out of San Francisco, California, and Elysian out of Seattle, Washington.

This Belgian-style tripel incorporates pumpkin and interesting spicing of tarragon and galangal, and again, gets much more detail in my 2013 review. I still really enjoy it, thus my drinking it again this year. Cheers.

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

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

Appearance: I poured this carefully and got about a finger of thin off-white head, which was gone pretty quickly. This had substantially different head than the non-barrel aged offering I reviewed yesterday. This has a very clear light orange/amber color with what appears to be light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma of this is fairly mild. Not a whole lot of earth or yeast. I get some light booze from this, as from whiskey. There is some mild spice, like from white pepper. Perhaps some of that spiciness is coming from the rye. This doesn’t have much of a hops presence, nor much sweetness on the nose. The nose is so different from the non-barrel aged offering.

Taste: Up front I get pretty strong whiskey, with the spiciness of a rye. You get the pumpkin, but much less in this than in the non-barrel aged offering. The pumpkin has some roasty dimensions. This has a great spice to it, from the added spices and the spiciness of the rye, as well as a little earth. I get some nutmeg in this, and not a whole lot else by way of pumpkin pie spices. The rye whiskey takes hold of the flavors a good bit. The malt in this has a restrained sweetness with something like a mild burnt sugar to it. There is also some vanilla and oak, which I’m guessing is coming from the barrels. Not a whole lot by way of hops noticeable, save for some non-descript brightness that lingers around the edges. Really rich and strong flavors. This finishes pretty dry with some more of the rye whiskey notes taking hold and fading into an aftertaste of vanilla and oak and mild rye. Great flavors, a real nice fall sipper.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with mild carbonation. The feel is very warm, with a definite warming alcohol bite. It isn’t boozy in a bad way, but definitely lets you know it was aged in whiskey barrels. The oak and vanilla round things out a good bit, changing the feel of this so much from the offering I had yesterday. It really feels like a different beer. Nothing is harsh on the palate. And it feels a little thinner.

Drinkability: This is a 10.5% beer, with some spiciness and notable alcohol. So it is not a chugger. It is a good sipper, and has the roundness and warmth allowing it to drink pretty well as a sipper. So, given the style, I’d say decent here. The alcohol does detract a little, and some of the flavors don’t quite stand up to the strong rye whiskey. But, in any case, it drinks pretty well.

Overall: This is a real nice fall beer. Again, it is remarkably differing in flavor and feel than the offering from last night. It loses a good bit of the bright and rich pumpkin, but gains some warmth and spice from the rye whiskey. This also feels thinner and a lot less sweet than the standard offering. Barrels change a lot of things, it seems. This is the first rye whiskey pumpkin beer I’ve had. I think the spice from the rye and the pumpkin pie spices is kind of a cool combo, set against the booze from the whiskey, the pumpkin, and the seemingly light sugar. There is also some burnt sugar and mild earth that add new dimensions which you don’t get in the other offering. That gives this some added complexity. I really like saisons, and strong roasty pumpkin. And, just as this one does, their original farmhouse pumpkin offering has great complexity with much more of a saison quality. So, though this version is something I’d love to drink, I do not find it as compelling as their original farmhouse pumpkin.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 5About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park is from Richmond, Virginia, and has been putting out some great beer there since 2011. I’ve previously written about them and what they’ve got going on.

Last night I reviewed their original Farmhouse Pumpkin, which they’ve been making since they opened. This Rye Whiskey barrel version was a real treat. Apparently, this year this rye version replaced the “Rum Pumpkin” they were thinking of doing again, due to some barrel acquisition issues. They had previously made “Rum Pumpkin” last year. I’m happy to get to try them all.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

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

Appearance: Carefully pouring produced under 2 fingers of frothy white head, which reduced over about two minutes to leave a little lacing and settle into a bubbly ring atop the beer. This has a beautiful bright orange color, with a lot of haziness and no real sediment to speak of. It looks to have moderate carbonation, judging by the many tiny bubbles rising.

Smell: I get roasted pumpkin up front, with some vegetal dimensions. This is paired against a funky and earthy yeast presence, some spices- think I am getting nutmeg and clove- as well as a bright citrus quality like from tangerine. There is also some warm sweetness as from brown sugar or molasses. The yeast comes off as almost having some smoke to it.  This smells complex, and warm and inviting. 

Taste: Really rich and enjoyable flavors. You get the roasted pumpkin up front, and it is clear. You also get more sweetness than the nose suggested, some brown sugar and some honey-like sweetness. The spices are nicely balanced, and I think again include nutmeg and clove. The yeast presence isn’t as pronounced as it is in the aroma, but is still a major part of the flavors in this. The spices work well with this to add more complexity to the sweetness and roasted pumpkin. Real earthy with some slightly bitter notes, and some restrained funkiness. The yeast gives off something like smoke and white pepper and earth. This finishes a little dryer with that sweetness and roasted pumpkin moving into mild earth and white peppery yeast. The earth and yeast hang out for a while in the aftertaste. The finish is long on this one. I say this has wonderful flavors, great complexity, and great roasted pumpkin presence.

Feel: I’d say this is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. The carbonation is very pleasant. This has a very warm feel, and has the spice and yeast notes set against the sweet sugar and roasted pumpkin. This adds complexity to the feel. This is heavier than I remember it with respect to the sugar. Still, really nice feel, especially for a saison-style beer.

Drinkability: Given its 8.5% ABV, I say this does pretty well. There is a little bit of an alcohol bite to this, but nothing too much. For an 8.5% farmhouse ale, it drinks pretty smoothly. The spices and the yeast do interrupt the smoothness, but they pay huge dividends in flavor and complexity. Good here.

Overall: I like this one a whole lot this year. I have always really enjoyed this offering, but am particularly liking it this year. It has great roasted pumpkin, and wonderfully complex and rich flavors. The more I drink this the more I get more tangerine too. There is that alcohol bite, but I’d rather have that than a ton more sugar to knock that out. Unless you actively dislike saisons, I’d call this a must try among pumpkin beers in VA. I included this in a blind VA beer tasting, where I didn’t put in any votes, and no one voted for this for gold, silver, or bronze. That was surprising to me, as I think this is just a great offering. Soon I’ll be trying their rye whiskey pumpkin offering!

Overall Rating: ****

DSC03805About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park Craft Brewing hails from Richmond, Virginia, and has made quite a splash there since they opened in October of 2011, when I first reviewed this beer. I enjoy it every year.

Last year, they also made a “Rum Pumpkin“, a version of this beer aged in rum barrels.

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Troegs “Master of Pumpkins” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Troegs “Master of Pumpkins” Pumpkin Ale is 7.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 375 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: My pour gave less than a finger of off-white head, which dwindled to leave some mild lacing along the sides of the glass, and nothing else on top. The color is a medium burnt orange amber, with some moderate haziness and definite sediment to it. It looks to have light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: This gives off a lot of spices up front, as well as some Belgian-like yeastiness and earhtiness, as well as some nice strong vegetal pumpkin. As for spice I have a hard time pulling them out, but get something like cinnamon and nutmeg, and ginger too. This has some sweetness, as from Belgian candi sugar and a little light brown sugar. There is also some nice brightness in hops, on the citrisy side. The malt is smooth with some toastiness. Overall a strong aroma, and a great aroma. Really looking forward to tasting it now.

Taste: This has a really nice complexity up front: strong roasty pumpkin with some vegetal tones, complex and strong earthy spicing, Belgian-like and somewhat peppery yeast, as well as some nice citrus from the hops. As for spices, I think I get ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The spice also has something earthy to it, perhaps some clove, though perhaps that is coming from the yeast. I also really enjoy this real sweet malt along with this good toastiness and a little bread. The hops have some good citrus notes. This finishes with some definite candi sweetness, fading into more of the punchy spice, which lingers with some roasted pumpkin and slight sourness in the aftertaste. There is overall a good balance of earth and spices to roasty pumpkin and strong but not over the top sweetness. Very enjoyable.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. This has a lot of complexity in feel, strong sugar, strong spice and yeast, as well as some bright hops in the mix. You do get a little bit of an alcohol bite, and the earth and the spices do hang a bit on the palate. Still, I say this does pretty well.

Drinkability: This is a fairly bold offering, not for those looking for the light lager. It drinks at about what I’d expect for a 7.5% beer, maybe with a little more alcohol bite. The strong sugar does detract a bit, as does the aggressive spice and yeast. For the style, which I’m guessing is something like a belgiany farmhouse, it drinks pretty well.

Overall: I like this one. I was surprised by how much spice and earth you get up front. It also has just great complexity, with nice roastiness. I’ve had a few other belgiany pumpkins, and this is my favorite so far. It nicely balances the belgiany farmhouse side with the smooth, homey, roasty pumpkin and pumpkin pie elements that go so well in a pumpkin ale. I wish the alcohol didn’t have that mild bite. And I also think it is a bit on the sweet side, and maybe with a bit too much spice hanging out. Even so, I really like how it all comes together for a very rich and complex offering. This is certainly a good alternative to the typical pumpkin pie offerings you see. It came out a bit later in the season, at least in VA. I wonder why.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

photo 2 (4)About Troegs and their offering: Troegs Brewing was established in 1997, and is located now in Hershey, Pennsylvania. There is a lot to say about them, much more than I have time and space to get to here. Their impressive lineup of beers includes many great ones, especially their “Nugget Nectar” amber ale, “Troegenator” Doppelbock, and their monstrous and much celebrated winter seasonal, “Mad Elf”. I look forward to making it out there soon.

I know this beer was available some last year, but this is the first shot I’ve had at it. Troegs notes that this beer is made from Pennsylvania honey, cane sugar, and roasted Pennsylvania Neck pumpkins, as well as a spice bill of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. It is also a nice homage to the great Metallica album, “Master of Puppets”!

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

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

Appearance: A careful pour quickly tossed up well over two fingers of foamy bright off-white head, which slowly dissipated to leave thick lacing along the sides of the glass. This has a clear and very bright burnt orange color. Judging from the head and the bubbles (and the sound when I uncorked this), it looks to have very heavy carbonation.

Smell: To start I get some strong and warm rum that brings some booziness. There is also some warm pumpkin pie spicing, though it blends in with the rum such as to not project any one spice so clearly, save for maybe some ginger. The spice does have a bit of an earthy white peppery or gingery sting to it. This beer also has strong floral notes to it, and some citrus. All in all, strong rum with some added complexity. Nice aroma.

Taste: There is quite strong rum to start, which is joined by some earthy and warm spicing with some roasted flavors. The roasted flavor isn’t unimpeachably pumpkin, but I think it does get across some pumpkin. This also has a strong but not overdone sweetness like from some honey and brown sugar, though with some definite dark rum thrown in as well. A lot of spice contributes to the flavor of this, moreso than with the non-rum-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin that I reviewed last night. I get a slight bitter pop from the spices in this, as from white pepper or ginger. This also has less of a yeast presence, with the barrel aging rounding out some of the otherwise funky and citrusy qualities had by Hardywood’s non-barrel-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin. This has some of those funky qualities, though they are fewer in number and a lot more subdued. This finishes with a good bit of dark rum and brown sugar sweetness with some citrus notes. It has some residue of yeast in the aftertaste. Great strong flavors with solid rum throughout.

Feel: This is medium bodied to heavy bodied, with heavy carbonation.The feel is bold, and quite warm. There is definite booziness to this, though the sweetness smooths some of this out. The warmth and strong rum stays with me. So a good and bold feel, even if a bit boozy.

Drinkability: This is a strong beer with strong rum. So it is far from something that merits the label drinkable. It is a definite sipper, especially as the more I sip this, the more I notice flavors coming through. Some lemon comes through.

Overall: This is bold, with intense flavors of rum and earthy spice. The strong rum in this is quite nice, as it imparts a great warmth and some enjoyable sugar. There are some enjoyable citrus and spice contributions that come through more strongly in parts. The pumpkin is there, but is not as front and center as the non-rum-aged version, especially given the strength of the rum. This also, like its non-rum-aged version, has a great earthiness to it. This would be great with a savory dinner, or nice as an after-dinner drink. It could even stand up to a cigar if someone was so inclined. So it is good. Even so, I do prefer the non-rum-aged version I reviewed here, as it has more nuance and complexity in flavor. The rum is tasty, and adds great flavor. Yet it does cover up some of the complex parts of Hardywood’s farmhouse pumpkin ale. In any case, you can’t go wrong either way. You trade off some wonderful nuance for some great rum, rounded flavors, and serious warmth.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

image (21)About Hardywood Park and their “Rum Pumpkin”: Yesterday I wrote a little about Hardywood Park, when I reviewed their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”, the beer they age in rum barrels to make this “Rum Pumpkin”. They are a great brewery, which has really changed things for both the beer scene in Richmond, Virginia, and more generally, for Virginia beer.

Hardywood Park makes “Rum Pumpkin” by aging their farmhouse pumpkin ale in dark Caribbean rum barrels for months. The aim is to impart great flavor from the white-oak barrels, and to allow some dark molasses notes. This beer was released for the first time on October 12th, 2013 with a two bottle limit per customer, just as a number of Hardywood’s other Barrel Series beers have been set to. At $14 for a 750ml, it isn’t cheap. But it is worth it, especially for rum enthusiasts or those searching for the perfect full-flavored autumn beer to bring to Thanksgiving.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

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

Appearance: A careful pour gave a finger of bright off-white foam, which slowly dissipated to leave some froth on the surface of the beer. This is slightly hazy with a bright burnt orange color. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: To start there is nice roasted pumpkin along with some bready yeast and funky notes. Smells like a roasted pumpkin farmhouse ale. I get some earthy white pepper, bright citrus, brown sugar, and some warm spicing. The spicing isn’t so easy to individuate by its component, due to the strong yeast and other flavors. I get some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, I think. Really great aroma. My favorite things: roasty pumpkin and saison qualities.

Taste: The first sip was just so flavorful: roasted pumpkin, and great complexity from the yeast, citrus, spice, and sugar. This just overtakes with powerful flavors. The roasted pumpkin is noticeable throughout, as the bready yeast is. This isn’t as funky as I was expecting from the aroma. I guess the sugar rounds things out a bit. This just has great earthy flavors, with spices of (I think) allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This also has a white peppery bitterness with the spicing, adding a great match to the citrus and funky yeast. This finishes with a little more white-pepper-like bitterness and yeast along with a citrus tang. Some mild yeast and peppery bitterness in the aftertaste. What a great example of a non-traditional pumpkin ale with great roasted pumpkin flavor.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has an earthy feel, with the yeast, citrus, and spices adding texture, while the roasted pumpkin and sweetness round it out. The pepper notes do grab hold and attract some attention.

Drinkability: This is a full-flavored beer with a substantive yeast presence. So it is not a paradigm drinkable pumpkin ale. Even so, the sugar and the roasted pumpkin smooth things out some. Because of the bold and contrasting flavors in this, it isn’t one to really barrel through.

Overall: I like this beer quite a bit. I love saisons and other farmhouse ales. Having one with a roasty pumpkin presence is quite nice. I’ve had this beer in the past, and look forward to having it each year since it came out in 2011. This year I like it even more than I remember. The sugar was well-balanced, the citrus notes were bright, and the yeasty elements substantive but not overwhelming. And all that paired well with the roasted pumpkin and the spicing. Given all that is going on in this beer, it could get busy quick. But it doesn’t. It is an artfully crafted beer, another very good offering from Virginia. Check in tomorrow when I review Hardwood’s “Rum Pumpkin”, their farmhouse pumpkin aged in rum barrels!

Overall Rating: ***3/4

DSC03649About Hardywood Park and their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”: Co-founders, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh opened Hardywood Park in Richmond, Virginia in October of 2011. As the story on their website goes, McKay and Murtaugh had been lifelong friends, and were inspired in 2001 during a trip to Australia to make some of the best craft beer in the world. Since then both have done a lot en route to achieving this goal, much of which can be read about on their website. They have also done a lot for the beer culture in Virginia, being instrumental in getting Senate Bill 604 to pass. That bill allowed on-site consumption of beer at breweries in Virginia, a privilege already enjoyed by wineries in the state. Moreover, the folks at Hardywood seem to pride themselves on being involved with the local community, by locally sourcing their ingredients, hosting community events, and participating at a number of farmers markets. If you come near Richmond, Virginia, Hardywood Park is located near the historic Fan neighborhood, just north of Broad street, in a massive 12,000 square foot warehouse. During release days for their beer, you can expect a big crowd.

Hardywood makes their Wallonian-style farmhouse ale with a saison yeast and barley, rye, and wheat for their grain. They add roasted Virginia-grown sugar pumpkins, brown sugar, and spices fresh or bought at local businesses. For spicing they use allspice, Ceylon cinnamon, fresh organic ginger root, Grenada nutmeg,  and Madagascar cloves.

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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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