Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tasting Notes - Pumpkin Beer: Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 7.0%

Date Poured: October 2009

Brewed since 1994, this is another old favorite. Brewed to honor the Punkin Chunkin Festival in southern Delaware, this may be the oldest pumpkin beer currently brewed.

Pours an orangey copper with a quarter-inch tan head. Smells spicy. Clove and nutmeg and light cinnamon in the nose. Sweet spice. Tart and fruity underneath, spiced baked apple aromas.

Lots of spicy flavors as mentioned in the smell. Nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon. Some pumpkin flavors in there as well. Fruity malt behind all the above. Some hops in the finish. Good body and lightly sour. A bit creamy. Pretty easy drinker around the holidays. It's a regular at my place every fall

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tasting Notes - Pumpkin Beers: Clipper City The Great Pumpkin

Brewery: Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, MD
Style: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.0%
Date Poured: October 2009

Clipper City has been doing their Heavy Seas series for awhile now which features their big beers like imperial stouts, double IPAs and such. Now they have a subset of the Heavy Seas series called Mutiny Fleet that have limited runs and come in 22 oz bombers. I picked one of these beers, The Great Pumpkin.

From Hugh Sisson's blog on the Clipper City website:

To be sure that we created the best possible recipe, small 5 gallon batches were made using different yeasts, spice blends and other ingredients.

Then the entire crew got together and held a taste test, discussing what was working and what could be improved. Recipes were assigned a number so ingredients were not known to the tasters.

Then we tested one more time just to be sure... Everyone cast a vote for their favorite recipe.

And here it is.

This beer is a very hazy pale orange with a thin head that disappears completely. Pie spice in the nose,(clove and cinnamon) with some alcohol detectable too. Lesser aromas include some fruity malt and some pumpkin.

In the mouth, big flavors, not the least of which is the alcohol. Lots of pumpkin spice, especially clove. Big fruity malt and sweetness. However, outside of the hotness from the alcohol, the beer is well balanced. Spice and malt are equally strong and provide a nice stasis. Spice dominates the aftertasteand sweet malt dominates the aftertaste.

Really tasty and pretty drinkable, even with the strength. I would like to get a bottle for the cellar just to see how it is once it calms down. After a full bomber, the 8% ABV will leave you a bit woozy. Split with a friend if you need to drive!

Clipper City Brewing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tasting Notes - Pumpkin Beer: Smuttynose Pumpkin

Brewery: Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, NH
Style: Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 6.3%

Date Poured: October 2009

When I lived in Maine, this was the best Pumpkin beer available in New England and it was a fall tradition at my house. Smuttynose became available in Georgia this year and this fall saw the return (for me) of Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale.

From Executive Brewer Dave Yarrington's notes on the Smuttynose blog about the first batch of Pumpkin Ale in 2003:

So we started with a base beer that is orange in color and fairly hoppy. We knew the spices would need some sweetness for balance so we used a mixture of crystal and carastan malts. To this we added pumpkin pie spices at the end of the boil. We actually found that adding pumpkin into the fermentor at the end of primary gave us the most interesting pumpkin flavor, and so that's when we add the puree. We've gotten a great response to the beer which I think is well desreved. (sic)

It's hazy orange in the glass with a thin ivory head. Lots of bubbles rising in the glass. Smells of clove and just a touch of nutmeg.

Very fizzy in the mouth. The malt is masked by the carbonation. Bitter in the finish, herbal hops. Detect just a little pumpkin flavor, especially in the finish. Cloves and cinnamon in the mouth. Crisp and a fairly clean finish.

It doesn't deliver the pumpkin and sweet spice flavor at the same level as Terrapin Pumpkinfest but it's a pleasant beer, well crafted and very drinkable.

Smuttynose Brewing Company

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tasting Notes - Pumpkin Beers: Terrapin Pumpkinfest

Brewery: Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, GA
Style: Pumpkin Beer

ABV: 6.1%
Date Poured: October 2009

After taking a break from the pumpkin beers last year, I decided to jump back in this season with a couple new selections and a couple of my old favorites. Thus, a mini-theme for the week leading up to Halloween of pumpkin beers of various varieties.

First on the list is the latest from the Side Project series from Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, GA. This is #8 to be exact, a beer they call Pumpkinfest. According to their website, this beer is a traditional Oktoberfest beer melded with ingredients for a typical pumpkin ale. So you have all the maltiness of a traditional German fest bier (Munich and Vienna malts) coupled with 1 pound of pumpkin per barrel with pumpkin pie spices (allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon). Side Project has rarely disappointed and I am looking forward to see how they pulled this one off.

This one pours a crystal clear orangey copper with a thin ivory colored head. Clove and all spice in the nose. Maybe cinnamon. Sweet caramel malt too.

First sip tastes like pumpkin pie. Sweet caramel malt, lovely mix with the spices, sweetish finish with the sweet spice in the aftertaste (allspice, cinnamon and ginger). Sweetish finish and creamy body.

Terrapin does it again. They manage to strike the right note while combining two disparate styles.

Terrapin Beer Company

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tasting Notes: Modus Hoperandi

Brewery: Ska Brewing Company, Durango, CO
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.8%

Date Poured: October 2009

As a fan of ska music and a fan of beer, this brewery has always intrigued me. The beer has made it into North Carolina this year and this was one of the Ska Brewing products I picked up on a recent trip north. I find an IPA is rarely a bad place to start when you're checking out a new brewery.

If you needed a picture of what an IPA was supposed to look like, this beer could be the example. It pours bright copper and is topped with a frothy ivory head. Intricate, fine lacing left on the glass. A lovely aroma, grassy and herbal hops with a strong grapefruit smell wrapped around it all.

As the aroma indicates, the mouth is filled with tons of juicy hop flavors. There's the grapefruit but also orange rind, lemon zest and a bit of tangerine. Moving past the citrus, there are piney, herbal and floral hops. Underneath, the malt gives a nice caramel and biscuity malt profile. A creamy texture. Smooth and finishes with a bitter citrusy aftertaste.

It doesn't break any new ground but it delivers all you would want from an IPA. Tasty!

Ska Brewing Company

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tasting Notes: Southern Tier IPA

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.5%

Date Poured: August 2009

Another selection from the Southern Tier mixed 12-pack I picked up in Maryland.

Pours a coppery gold with a wisp-thin ivory head. Citrusy hops in the nose, apricot with a hint of lemon, some herbal notes too.

Bitter herb in the mouth, orange rind, grapefruit and a piney quality from the hops. A honey-like sweetness imparted from the malt. Medium bodied, a sweetish finish and the lingering piney bitterness dominates the aftertaste. Well-balanced IPA, the bitter citrus from the hops and the honey from the malt blend nicely.

Southern Tier Brewing Company

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tasting Notes: New Belgium 1554

Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO
Style: Belgian Black Ale

ABV: 5.6%
Date Poured: August 2009

New Belgium recently showed up in Georgia albeit in a kind of limited capacity. I used to have to go to Arkansas (at least) to find New Belgium but today I picked up a bomber at my local Harry's Farmer's Market.

Pours a rich nearly opaque brown with tinges of auburn. Thin but creamy tan head with almost a reddish tinge. A roasted, fruity nose. Light burnt malt and an odd fruity smell, almost like kiwi fruit. Spicy.

Taste is all over the place. Spicy like cloves or nutmeg. Roasted smokiness in the malt. A tropical fruity flavor, like kiwi or mango more so than apple or citrus. Also a crisp bitter hoppiness through out, especially in the finish. Medium bodied and creamy with a smoky chocolate bitterness that lingers and turns into a sticky maltiness. I enjoy this beer alot, lots of different tastes happening here. Good show.

New Belgium Brewing

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tasting Notes: Terrapin Maggie's Farmhouse Ale

Brewery: Terrapin Beer Company
From: Athens, GA
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.0%
Date Poured: August 2009

OK, time to clean out the notebook. Tasting notes!

This was a bomber of Maggie's Farmhouse Ale, #7 in the Terrapin Beer Side Project series of one-off beers.

Fills the glass with luminous and lightly hazy golden hue, frothy but fleeting ivory head. Very lemony nose, sweetish with pointed herbal hops.

Distinct juniper berry flavors in the mouth, bitter and crisp. The body is light but fruity like new apples. But the bitter lemon and citrus is always there too. Herbal and tart. Finishes fairly clean with that juniper berry bitterness closing things out.

Nicely balanced and delivers what you need from a saison. It won't beat you over the head but it serves as a nice refreshing summer beer with some complexity on flavor to keep things interesting. Nicely done.

Terrapin Beer Company

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Session #32: Eastern Beers

This installment of The Session is hosted by Girl Likes Beer and the requirements were to select a beer brewed to the east of where you live and far enough east that it is brewed in a different country.

I am in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. So the beer I picked is technically brewed east of here...but much farther north than east I suppose. But it counts!

I am picking one of the fine beers from the Unibroue brewery in Chambly, Quebec, Canada. I selected Trois Pistoles, a dark Belgian-style ale and this particular bottle I've selected tonight has spent just under 5 years in my cellar.

Canada is best known for it's widely exported industrial lagers like Molson and Labatts but Unibroue was the first Canadian craft beer I ever tries and they were doing beers in a Belgian style, something that was rare for North American breweries at that time.

This beer pours a very dark brown with a thick and creamy light tan head. As with the beer when young, lots of ripe dark fruit in the nose. Raisins, plum and currant. Almost smells more like a ruby port than a beer.

Still a bit of alcohol in the mouth at first sip. A caramel sweetness still remains but the body has thinned out considerably and it's much drier than the last time I tried it. Still the dark fruit, still there is oakiness in the body but the flavors are harder to identify as everything has blended nicely as the age has taken effect. No unpleasant flavors from oxidation can be detected. A warming as it finishes, lightly sticky in the mouth but a fairly clean finish for such a big beer (9% ABV).

So what's different with this beer after 5 years? The spiciness that you expect from Unibroue (and that this beer displayed when young) is very muted and at most times undetectable. As a result, the malt shines through more than it once did. Not as balanced but the flavors all blend wonderfully.

Get some to drink now and some to drink later. Still fantastic after 5 years!

The blog Girl Likes Beer is hosting this month's edition of The Session. Head over there to link to more entires.