Pumpkin Beers: I Found One That I Really Like, Sort Of

October 11, 2011

I dislike most pumpkin beers.  Most of them try to create the illusion that you are drinking a glass of pumpkin pie, so they tend to be sweet and loaded with nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and cloves.  Dogfish Head makes a good (but not great) pumpkin beer, and they manage it by being subtle with the flavor profile and muting those spice flavors, which is unusual for them.  All of these attempts at a liquid pumpkin pie trompe l’oeil effect are unnecessary.  There is a long tradition in American brewing, dating back to the earliest settlers, of using pumpkin as a source of fermentable sugar in the mash.  While it appears that the use of pumpkins in those days was born of necessity rather than flavor, I would like to see the better American brewers move away from the spicy sweet pumpkin pie ales, and try their hand at making a true pumpkin beer.

Neither Cisco Brewers’ Pumple Drumkin nor Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale are what I am looking for in a pumpkin beer.  The Pumple  Drumkin pours a deep copper, and the nutmeg, cinnamon and clove is right up front in the nose and the taste, with the brown sugar coming in on the aftertaste.  Cisco does not over spice this beer, so I do not find it as objectionable as other samples of the style, but they still go for that pumpkin pie effect.  This beer is subtler than other pumpkin beers, but nothing great, 6/10.

Weyerbacher makes no attempt at subtlety with their Imperial Pumpkin Ale.  It is aggressively spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamon, and even the 8% ABV does not cut the brown sugar sweetness.  If you like heavily spiced pumpkin beers, this is the beer for you.  If, like me, you do not, stay away from this one, 4/10.

Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead is a bit closer to what I am looking for.  The nutmeg and cinnamon are faint, while the pumpkin flavor is more pronounced, and there is a honey like sweetness to it that is a nice change of pace from the standard brown sugar flavor profile in pumpkin beers. This is not a great beer, but it is one of the few pumpkin beers that I would open a second bottle of, so it gets a 6.5/10.


Weyerbacher Unfiltered Double Simcoe IPA

May 17, 2010

In my Garden of Eden, there would be a few things I’d absolutely require.  My two dogs would be there with me, and my nieces could come and visit them anytime.  There would be a perpetual barbecue pit going, and a never-ending supply of brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and lamb shoulders would always be just ready to come out of the smoke, along with a few chickens when I feel like dining light.  Apple would make a 160 gig Ipod Touch for me, so I could have all of my music, plus the web surfing capability of the Touch.  There would be a small library with enough books to keep me occupied.  Scarlett Johannson and Chan Marshall would be in a perpetual cat fight over me, and Christina Hendricks would pop in every so often just to see how I was doing.   Finally, instead of a river of crystal clear water, there would be several babbling brooks of good beers that I could dip my mug in and savor at my heart’s delight.  Remember Augustus Gloop and the River of Chocolate? It would be like that, except beer instead of chocolate, and there would be no pain in the tucchus Wonka to gripe about me contaminating the river.

One of those brooks would be an Imperial IPA, and the Weyerbacher Unfiltered Double Simcoe IPA is a candidate to be the beer bouncing over the rocks.  This poured a hazy deep burnt orange with a sticky head.  Some mango and pine on the aroma, but the hops taste was a blast of pineapple, with a good malty undercurrent to balance it out.  The 9% ABV is prominent in the nose and the taste.  This may not be the one to make it to the Garden of Eden, I have more beers to sample before I make that decision, but it is a good one, 8/10, and I hope there are at least a couple of kegs of this in Purgatory.


Saisons on a Sunday Afternoon

April 20, 2010

Mr. JK emailed me on Saturday night with some interesting news.  His son had become buddies with an exchange student from France, and the French student had smuggled in some unique cheeses (a raw milk cheese for starters) when he came to study in Bernardsville.  As Mr. JK had been given a selection of these cheeses, why didn’t I come in to NYC on Sunday and try some?  Sure thing, I said, as long as it was copasetic with Mrs. JK.  Late Sunday morning I got the green light, all systems were go, so I hopped on the PATH, grabbed a few beers when I got to NYC, and headed to their apartment.

mmmmmm, cheese...

Mr. JK set out the raw milk brie type cheese (which felt like velvet on my tongue), a goat cheese rolled in ash (which was brilliant), and an interesting roquefort, among some others.  He also made some salsa and hummus.  Mr. JK is a gourmand, like me, and an excellent cook.  I have never had a bad meal made by Mr. JK, although whatever he can make, I can make better, and he knows it.  Enough about him, let’s get to the beer.

Although we had not coordinated beforehand, Mr. JK and I both picked up a couple of saisons for our afternoon of beer and cheese.  The first one that we cracked open was the Weyerbacher Muse Farmhouse Ale. Mr. JK took one sip and said that he hoped I was going to pan it.  I didn’t think it was that bad, but of the three saisons we sampled, it was the lesser of the group.  The Muse poured a cloudy orange, with some herbs and orange zest on the tongue.  Not awful at all, in fact it was quite drinkable, but it lacked the complexity I associate with saisons, and Belgian style beers in general, and it fell well short of the next two beers we tried.  5.5/10.

Jolly Pumpkin has an excellent reputation, and I was looking forward to cracking open this bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale. I was not disappointed. It poured cloudy and orange, with that funky yeast aroma that I love, along with some coriander and lemongrass on the nose.  I noticed some fruity flavors, apple and pear, and a very subtle hops bitterness.   Mr. JK was less impressed with the Jolly Pumpkin than he was with the Weyerbacher, giving it a “three at best.”  I disagree with him, giving it a 7.5/10.

We finally agreed on the Bruery Saison de Lente.  This is the Bruery’s spring seasonal, and it is light and refreshing and perfect for a warm spring afternoon.  It has a pillowy head that lasts to the bottom of the glass.  I picked up some lemony notes in the aroma and the taste, with the subtle funkiness from the yeast adding some fennel seed flavors, all tied together by the flowery hops.  I am not sure what Mr. JK gave it, but I am giving it a 8.5/10After we kicked the saisons and the cheese, I accompanied Mrs. JK to the Post Office across from the Garden to help her mail some packages.  We replenished our beer supply (reviews to come later) and got Mrs. JK some wine, and retired to the roof deck for drinks and laughs.  I have been advised that any photos taken that evening of the participants are not to be published.


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