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21st Amendment/Elysian “He Said” Baltic-style Porter (2014)

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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 porter glass.

Appearance: A slightly splashy pour gave up about a finger and a half of light brown and creamy foam, which had good retention and clung to the sides of the glass as it slowly dissipated. The color is a very dark brown/black, with very little light getting through. It looks to have moderate carbonation, with some bubbles rising along the sides of the glass.

Smell: This has a great roasty malt aroma, along with a mild spice bill and some mild vegetal pumpkin around the edges. The malt is dark with strong roast, some smokiness, as well as some coffee and cocoa. I get some spicing, with the likes of cinnamon and nutmeg, perhaps some clove too. The beer has a dark burnt sugar and molasses smell to it. Not much by way of a hop profile. Good aroma, strong roast.

Taste: This has strong roastiness to it, with dark, earthy, and bitter (but pleasant) malt. I get cocoa, some smoke, and dark molasses flavors. There is some very mild pumpkin that sets in a little later, but nothing remarkable.  This dark roast is set against some smooth sweetness of molasses, dark chocolate, and a blend of spices. The spices are hard to discern, given the strength of the roast, but I get something like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. There is little by way of a hops profile in this, save for some balancing hops. This finishes to let the roastiness of the malt break past the smooth sweetness and hang out for a long while in the aftertaste. The roast is not going anywhere after the sip. Some dark roast and bark-like bitterness stay in the aftertaste for a good stretch.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, though it is surprisingly thin in body, given the strength of flavor and intense roast. This has that real punchy and attention grabbing roast, which persists throughout, and gives a texture to this beer. There is a little creaminess, but it otherwise doesn’t have more complexity to its feel. A slight alcohol bite at the end. Pretty good here.

Drinkability: For a strong and roasty Baltic-style porter, this drinks pretty well. The relentless roast and the mild alcohol bite do detract some. This is not one to drink all night. Not quite a sipper, but something you won’t breeze through. It is not your smooth 4% fresh stout.

Overall: This is a really enjoyable Baltic-style porter. It has outrageous roast, which doesn’t go away. This is balanced fairly well by a strong and somewhat smooth malt backbone. But the roast is still a bit aggressive for me in this. Because of this, both the spices and (to some extent) the pumpkin get lost. After having about 8 sips, I don’t get much pumpkin at all. In fact, at this point I wouldn’t say it has any pumpkin. I still really enjoy the flavors, and the little pumpkin presence it does have. It is a really enjoyable drink. I am just not apt to point to this one as a top pumpkin porter.

Overall Rating: ***

photo 5 (1)About 21st Amendment, Elysian, and this beer: Last year I wrote about this beer, and this collaboration project, in my 2013 review. This is one of two beers that came out last year, both called “He Said”. They are sold as a 4-pack, and are a collaboration between 21st Amendment from San Francisco, California, and Elysian from Seattle, Washington. Last night I reviewed the other beer in this collaboration pack, a Belgian-style tripel.

This Baltic-style porter, just like last night’s Belgian-style tripel, is 8.2% ABV. It is brewed with pumpkin and some spicing of caraway seed and Vietnamese cinnamon. The ingredients in this beer, and the process for making it, get much more attention in my 2013 review.

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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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Twisted Manzanita “Witch’s Hair” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Twisted Manzanita “Witch’s Hair” Pumpkin Ale is 8.8% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour with a splash at the end put up about a finger of light tan/grey head, which slowly dissapeared to just a light dollop on top of the beer. The color is a very deep red/orange, with some cloudiness. Really rich looking color. This looks to have mild to moderate carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get strong warm spicing with prominent clove, as well as what seems to be some cinnamon and nutmeg. Really nice spice profile. There is also some strong  roasty pumpkin with some vegetal qualities, some light brown sugar and some caramel, as well as a slight sourness. The pumpkin really does have that roasty quality, almost like some beers I know that use butternut squash instead of  pumpkin. The spice gives this a kind of woody aroma, which is perfectly inviting. Very nice aroma.

Taste: This tastes quite similar to how it smells, with really nice spicing of clove and some of the other pumpkin pie spices- cinnamon adn nutmeg. This does a little more of a sour tinge to it than I was expecting, and a bit more booze. Even so it bursts with flavor. The pumpkin is on the roasty side, with some vegetal components. And this beer almost tastes like it has pumpkin seeds that were used as part of it. Really interesting. On top of the strong spiciness is a great amount of sweetness, as from brown sugar. This hangs out more towards the still-sweet finish, leading to an aftertaste with the spice gaining clearer focus. Really enjoyable flavors here.

Feel: This has a medium plus body, with moderate carbonation. It has a bit of a boozy bite, and a bit of intensity with the strong sweetness and the strong spice of clove. So a real waking up of the palate.

Drinkability: This is not your incredibly drinkable pumpkin beer. This is your drink it with a hearty turkey dinner, something you could enjoy with some fall food. The intense spice, sweetness, and boozy bite are great, but hold it back a bit here.

Overall: I say this beer is nice. I love the warmth of the spices and the roasty character of the pumpkin. The spice profile is powerful. It reminds me of a more clove-heavy and perhaps more complex spice profile than Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin, which has just a great spice profile. So great marks there. The heavy sweetness is not ideal for my palate, but is not detracting too much for this beer. This is a great one to try.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

IMG_3340About Twisted Manzanita and their offering: Twisted Manzanita Ales and Spirits is located in San Diego, California. They opened in 2010, and like Dogfish Head, also have a distillery component to their operations.

This beer sits at 8.8%, and is made from real pumpkins and a spice blend of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. They also note than brown sugar and vanilla are used in the brewing process, making this beer one of their “fan favorites”.

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Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour (2014)

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Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour is 7% ABV.

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

Appearance: I got about between a quarter and a half inch of light brown and creamy foam atop the beer, which had good retention and stuck well to the sides of the glass. As I hold this to bright light, the color is a murky and very dark reddish brown, with some sediment towards the bottom and a little light coming through. This looks to have mild carbonation.

Smell: I get some great round sour notes, some nice oak, some sweet molasses and definite dark malt, as well as some bright vegetal squash. I get a little mild nutty spice, but not much by way of a hop profile. This smells round, complex, like a nicely blended sour. Great dark malt.

Taste: This has a complexity in flavor from a lot going on, all contributing to a pleasant sourness with lots of additions from dark malt, oak, and what seems like other adjuncts. I get good strong sour notes, which are smooth and round and rich, with nothing biting or sharp. These are complemented by the dark malt adding a mild pleasant dark sugar sweetness. This is sour and earthy. I maybe get some vegetal squash, but there is not a whole lot of pumpkin or spice that is easy to pick out among the bold sour tones in this. Maybe some nutmeg. This does have great wood tones, but nothing peaking my interest by way of a hop profile. This finishes with some of the bold sour tones fading a bit to reveal some earth and bark, which linger in the aftertaste along with some hints of sourness.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has a bite to it, as one might expect from a sour. For a sour, it has a nice roundness, and nothing that makes my lips pucker. The mild sweet dark malt works nicely with the sour tones, as does the mild spice, oak, and earth. So good complexity in feel.

Drinkability: This drinks nicely for a sour. As mentioned, the dark malt really helps along the sour tones and makes the sips a bit rounder. It is certainly a sipper, and something that demands attention. So, for the style, pretty good here.

Overall: I think this is a nice, round, and enjoyably complex offering. It doesn’t showcase much pumpkin. In fact, the more I drink it the harder it is for me to pull out pumpkin. It has a lot of good things going for it. I like how the dark malt and wood work with the sour tones. This makes for a pleasant drinking experience. The earth and bark in the aftertaste invite another sip, which bursts with nice flavor. So all of that is really good. I’d definitely try this one if you are a sour fan and like pumpkin offerings. Even so, again, this doesn’t showcase the pumpkin so well. So not a big winner for me. This is the first year Almanac put this beer out, and it sits alongside another pumpkin barleywine I already reviewed. For my money, I’d go for the barleywine over this. That has much more pumpkin flavor, and has a richness that this doesn’t. It is also the style that I prefer a bit more.

Overall Rating: **3/4

DSC03801About Almanac and their offering: Almanac started in 201o, with an emphasis on Northern California agriculture in their beers. I reviewed their Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine last night, but wrote more about them in my 2013 review of Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine.

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Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (2014)

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Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine is 12% ABV.

I poured some of a 375 ml bottle into a round wine glass.

Appearance: My pour gave less than a finger of thick off-white head, which had good retention. There was some settling of the head into a thick cloud atop the beer, and leaving definite frothy lacing along the sides of the glass. The color is a very bright red/orange, with a lot of haziness. It is a bit murky, with definite sediment to it. It looks like it has mild carbonation. Great color.

Smell: The aroma is not as strong as I was expecting, and gave off some nice pumpkin with both roasty and vegetal dimensions. I also get a warmth, as from oak, as well as some pleasant bright notes, as from hops of vegetal squash. This also has a fairly mild spice profile to it, with spices not coming across so clearly. I get some dark fruit like plum and date, adding to a complex sweetness like from a heavy malt offering. I get some mild rum as well. This smells like it has a real smoothness to it, with some good round sour notes.

Taste: This has a very complex and enjoyable flavor from the first sip. I get some pleasant and round sour notes, as well as strong pumpkin with that fleshy vegetal quality to it. This is not as sweet as I was expecting, and has great balance for all the richness and maltiness. The malt is very smooth, very little bread or toast. You get some spicing in this, as from some nutmeg and maybe cinnamon, but it is blended in very well. I also get something a bit peppery- like coriander and black pepper. This has vanilla as from wood aging, and some mild liquor notes to it, like from very smooth bourbon. As for hops, I get some bright hops, but they get lost in the sour notes, which are pretty strong for a barleywine. This finishes with that peppery spice setting in a bit more among some round sour tones. The wood and sour vegetal pumpkin linger a long time in the aftertaste. This is a very complex beer, with really great pumpkin and great wood and sour notes. Not a typical barelywine, and much more sour than I remember from last year.

Feel: This is medium bodied to heavy bodied, with mild carbonation. The feel has a lot of roundness to it, but the prominent and lingering sour tones, though adding complexity, detract a bit for feel.

Drinkability: This is a very strong beer, again with strong sour notes. So it is certainly a sipper. The sour notes linger more in a barleywine than I’d expect. But they aren’t so sharp. Nothing so great here by way of drinkability.

Overall: This offering is really complex. It has great roundness, wood, pleasant sour tones, good pumpkin, and some mild liquor around the edges. It is much more sour than last year, which is interesting. It also doesn’t have the sweetness I usually associate with barleywines. It is an enjoyable drink, and something I’d probably grab a bottle of again, but not what I was expecting. it is 11 bucks for this, which is not cheap. I’d say last years was definitely worth that. This years is either a ‘not quite’ or a ‘borderline’ worth it. Upon closer inspection, this bottle doesn’t say ‘Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine’ as last years did. It just says ‘Heirloom Pumpkin’. It does mention that caramelized pumpkins were added to an American-style Barleywine, which was then aged in barrels. Another difference in this year is that it was aged in rye barrels and brandy barrels, whereas last year was just in brandy barrels. I wonder what is up with the sour notes, which are admittedly not bad. Still, even given how smooth and complex this beer is, I’d rather have what it turned into last year. Almanac also makes a Dark Pumpkin Sour, which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow. Given their having a sour pumpkin offering added in this year, I think it would have been better if this were a more typical barleywine. I wonder if there was an unexpected change during barrel-aging. Really great complexity, though the pumpkin gets lost a bit after a few sips.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 4 (1)About Almanac and their offering: The Almanac Beer Company was founded in 2010, and puts emphasis on Northern California agriculture in their beers. I wrote about them, and a bit about last years version of this beer in my review of their 2013 Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine.

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Anderson Valley “Pinchy Jeek Barl” Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Anderson Valley “Pinchy Jeek Barl” Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 7% ABV.

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

Appearance: I poured it pretty easy, which gave a little light brown creamyish head, which was fairly thin, and gone pretty quickly. This left a thin ring around sides of glass. The color is a medium-dark brown, moderately cloudy, and blocking some light. This looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: At the outset I get buttered popcorn, butterscotch sweetness, and caramel. This is very candyish, with not much of a hop profile. I maybe get a little fruitiness, and some brown sugar. There is a little spice, with (I think) cinnamon, and some light bourbon. The aroma is mostly butterscotch, buttered pop corn, and a little bourbon. The aroma smells very malty, sweet, kind of sickeningly sweet. I’m nervous this is going to be too sweet.

Taste: This is not as sweet as I was expecting, which is good. I get some malty sweetness of caramel corn and brown sugar,as well as something kind of like marshmallow. There is some roastiness to the malt, adding a nice dimension to the flavors. I get some spice, but it really blends in among the very sweet malt and the bourbon notes. The bourbon is pretty round, with just a few unkempt edges. There is a little bit of vegetal squash, but it is not so pronounced. There are basically no hops present in this. This finishes with the sweetness fading into a dryer finish, and some more definite bourbon popping through a bit. The sweet malt and buttery popcorn flavor continues in the aftertaste. This has some diacetyl hanging out, and a few sourish notes. I’d say it has OK flavors, but is not so balanced. I wish there were more pumpkin.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with light to moderate carbonation. It is sweet, and ends up a bit heavy on the palate. The heavy sugar at the outset is sort of coarse,and returns a bit after the sip is over. The more I sip this, the more the sugar is harder to work with. Some more spice and hops could balance this out a bit . The dryer finish is good. So the feel has some different parts to it, but is still too heavy for me.

Drinkability: This is OK but not great here. There is something coarse with the sugar. The bourbon is round enough, but this buttered popcorn and sweet trend in this hangs, and stays on my palate.

Overall: The more I drink this, the more the sugar hits me. There is not enough pumpkin in this, and the spice profile doesn’t really come out. It has a whole lot of that buttered popcorn and sweet marshmallow-like sweetness. So, something like diacetyl. For me, it is a bit much. I like the dry finish and the bourbon having a presence but not taking over. But I could go for a lot more pumpkin, and some hops to balance this out a bit more. I wouldn’t recommend this, especially given the higher price. This was about 12 dollars at a competitively priced beer store. I would recommend Anderson Valley’s 2014 “Fall Hornin'”, which I reviewed a few days ago

Overall Rating: *3/4

DSC03786Anderson Valley and this offering: I recently wrote about Anderson Valley, with my 2014 review of their “Fall Hornin'”.

“Pinchy Jeek Barl” is part of Anderson Valley’s “Barl Series” of beers, beers aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. For this beer, Anderson Valley uses Pale Two-Row, Munich, Maris Otter, Crystal 120L, and Dark Chocolate malts, as well as some pumpkin puree. Bravo hops takes this to 20 IBU’s, and the beer  sits in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels for 6 months. Other “Barl Series” beers include a stout, and imperial stout- “Huge Arker”, and an amber ale.

 

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Anderson Valley “Fall Hornin'” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Anderson Valley “Fall Hornin'” Pumpkin Ale is 6% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz can into a “craft beer glass”.

Appearance: An easy pour gave over a finger of light tan head, which had a creamy texture and some substance to it. This left some lacing on the sides of the glass, and settled into a thin layer of foam atop the beer. The color of this is a beautiful dark red/amber, with good clarity and just a bit of haze. From watching bubbles at the surface of the beer, this looks to have mild carbonation.

Smell: Right at first I get strong vegetal pumpkin with some definite sour notes. Following this is some milder spicing with some earthiness. It has something like clove, bark, and some ginger and cinnamon. The sour notes are certainly present throughout. I get some toasty malt, as well as some sweetness of burnt sugar. This also has something like a marshmallow sugariness to it. Nice aroma.

Taste: This does start out with that vegetal pumpkin, which is joined by some nice wood-like spicing. The spices add a warmth, and I get clove, nutmeg, and something nutty and earthy. The spices work nicely along with the vegetal and astringent pumpkin in this. There is also a good malt presence, with some toastiness, and a nice base layer of mild sweeteness. I get a little hops presence in this. As in the aroma, there is something like burnt sugar, like the top of a crème brûlée fired with a heavy hand. This sugar is nice and works well with the earthy spices. This finishes with that sweetness giving way to the woody spices, which linger along with a bit of vegetal pumpkin in the aftertaste. Good flavors.

Feel: This is light to medium bodied, with moderate carbonation. It has a smooth and creamy feel, which is very pleasant. The spices add a bit more complexity to this otherwise totally smooth beer. Great here.

Drinkability: I’d say this is pretty drinkable. After a while, the earth from the spices hangs a bit. But even so, the smooth feel and the restrained sweetness help this to drink well. For a pumpkin beer with definite flavor, it does very well here.

Overall: I like this beer. I like the vegetal pumpkin alongside the warm and woody spices. I really like the feel, how creamy and smooth the beer is. So this is certainly a good choice, especially for those that want something that drinks well with something of a good but not overdone spice presence. The pumpkin in this gets a little lost for my tastes. And I also think that the dark spicing becomes more univocal the further into this beer I get. But again, the flavors are good, and this works well as a darker and still not too heavy pumpkin offering. I say good and worth trying.

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03781About Anderson Valley and their “Fall Hornin'”: Anderson Valley is located in Boonville, California. I wrote more about them and this beer, which was first on the market last year, in my 2013 review of “Fall Hornin'”. This year Anderson Valley has a new bourbon pumpkin offering, which I’m looking forward to reviewing in just a few days.

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