Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category

Quick Hits II – Jaw Jacker, Punkel, & Sweet Yamma Jamma

GPBR

We know, we know, it’s been more than a second since our last post. We have some good reasons though. To add to our lists of delays like marriages, moves, honeymoons, and the like, we can now add babies and hospitalizations. Everyone’s ok now, we assure you, but it’s a little difficult to accurately review beer when you haven’t slept in a week or are on massive pain killers. (Though the reviews might be more entertaining).

We’ve crossed some wires both literally and figuratively, but we won’t abandon you before Turkey day cometh. So without further ado, here are a few, albeit tasty, impostors of pumpkin. These suckers are 100% pumpkin free despite their trappings. We won’t say that’s bad, and they are mostly pretty honest about it, but we felt it was our civic duty to let you know the truth.

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Name: Jaw Jacker

Place of Origin / Brewer: Battle Creek, MI / Arcadia Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Spiced Ale / 6.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Jaw Jacker is an ale with spices (specifically cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) added.

This was definitely one of our “duh” moments for the season. We all gathered to review this ale, quietly typing and scribbling away our notes (We don’t discuss the beers until after we have reviewed them individually). At the end, we all sat around the table and asked where the pumpkin was and, after digging on the internet a bit, found out it was “nowhere”. It’s still a little confusing to us why Arcadia decided to slap a giant fanged pumpkin ala “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” on the front of this one, but hey, we won’t complain about accidentally drinking an extra beer.

The glass greets you with a familiar burnished bronze and a nose of earthy spice and cherry cola fizz. In the mouth though, it’s a bit thin and quite bitter and earthy. This is one strange palate blower. While it’s not exceedingly clove, or cinnamon fire, the blend tends to come out as a soapy numbing pungency. Maybe they should put a little pumpkin in this after all to balance some things out.

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Name: Punkel

Place of Origin / Brewer: Garland, TX / Lakewood Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Spiced Dunkel Lager / 5.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Punkel is a Munich Dunkel style lager based on the flavor of the dessert pumpkin pie. It is spiced with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and includes no pumpkin.

There is an unfortunate mentality that comes out of the mouths of many of pumpkin beer’s critics, chief among them being the idea that “Pumpkin imparts little to no flavor”. We here at the GPBR simply disagree with that mindset, but we won’t hold it against Lakewood, we just aren’t sure why you’d set out to make a beer based on pumpkin pie and skip the pumpkin. That said, there are some nice things going on in and on this bottle!

The first impression is a sleek design job on the label including a wooden barrel stave logo (that is close to our hearts and our blog format, a nice selection of pairing recommendations (Smoked Gruyére! Good call!), and yes, the name is quite clever.

This tasty brown ale has gorgeous ruby highlights, and a nose of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger over a hearty malt sea. In fact, this really does come quite close to achieving a pumpkin pie vibe, with a delicate pie crust body that’s malty and exceedingly well balanced. It’s smooth, silky, and makes a great session lager for those who can’t decide between Oktoberfest or Halloween.

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Name: Sweet Yamma Jamma

Place of Origin / Brewer: Minneapolis, MN / Indeed Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Sweet Potato Ale / 5.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Sweet Yamma Jamma is brewed with 480 lbs of sweet potatoes in the mash along with European malts, and then canned yams and spices are added to secondary fermentation to infuse flavor.

We can always appreciate a cool can design, and you can be assured that any brewery that includes schematics of its brewing system on their website is into the details. The sweeping, epic font of the name elicits 70’s funk throwback, and the beer delivers on said funk. This is like the exploitation film of pumpkin ales.

On the red side of orange with a thin white head, the first thing that pos into your head is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Savory vegetal yam plays against a good bit of biscuity malt, a hint of ginger and pepper, and a punch of brown sugar to sweeten it up a notch. This doesn’t play at being a pumpkin ale so much as it passes you the wrong dish when you reach for one. And for that we applaud it. It’s clean, refreshing, and though it’s a bit one note, it’s a good note. Sweet Yamma Jamma, Indeed.

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Count Orlok Black Pumpkin Ale (Revolution Series #666 STL) – Urban Chestnut Brewing Company

Orlock II

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the estate of Bram Stoker would probably disagree. Feel as you may about the overwhelming plethora of blood sucking freaks that have made their way pervasively through popular culture, there is no denying that some rip offs are better than others. On that subject, the seminal 1922 release of “Nosferatu” certainly rises to the head of the glass, so to speak. During the first World War, Germany had essentially banned all foreign films, and the side effect was the rise of the German Expressionist movement. Combining geometric absurdist design with intellectual explorations of dark themes, the films became a massive influence on many filmmakers, and remain cult classics to this day. Of course, while the presentation may have been wholly original, Nosferatu encountered more than a bit of a problem in borrowing content, namely the underlying plot of a slightly more famous vampire, “Count Dracula”.

Despite the iconic performance of Max Shrek as the less than suave, more than terrifying, rodent faced “Count Orlok”, there is no scorn quite like that of a widowed Florence Stoker. Perhaps rightfully, but nonetheless unfortunately, a court order was issued deeming the work a thinly veiled infringement of copy-written work, and all copies were ordered destroyed. It’s hard to keep a vampire dead though, and lurking about the shadows of Europe, a single print was recovered, copied by fans, and finally, distributed to become the silent iconic horror masterpiece adored by so many today.

Since it is now in the public domain, you can jump to the bottom of the blog to watch the full movie and download a copy for yourself. Happy Halloween!

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Name:  Count Orlok Black Pumpkin Ale (Revolution Series #666 STL)

Place of Origin / Brewer: St. Louis, MO / Urban Chestnut Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Black Pumpkin Wheat Ale / 5.4%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  This German inspired bier noir is brewed with Golden Delicious pumpkins and features Pale & Munich malts, along with German wheat and Opal hops, a Bavarian yeast strain, and pie spices.

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Packaging:

I think it should be said for the purposes of full disclosure that I am a huge student of silent films (I even have Lon Chaney Sr. tattooed on my arm).  So, I’m pre-disposed to be a raging fan boy over this “Revolution Series #666” bottling from Urban Chestnut, featuring the singularly creepy Count Orlok.  The Count, a vampire, was a character that F.W. Murnau christened in the 1922 film Nosferatu to avoid a lawsuit with Bram Stoker’s widow over the name Dracula.  And even though Vampires drink blood–I’m sure an exception can be made for this “Black Pumpkin Ale” around Halloween time. – Tim

Really cool “Nosferatu” themed design, fits the season and haunts my fridge. I’m a sucker for horror themes and this one takes the cake. – Rick

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Color:  7

Pours a murky mahogany brown color with very little head and the thinnest of white lacing around the edges. Due to the complete opaqueness of the class the only place you can catch the slight carbonation is at the top. – Brittney

A deep and opaque chestnut brown. Nearly black, but not quite. It sounds a lot less sexy to call it a REALLY DARK BROWN PUMPKIN ALE though, right? There is a nice single finger off white head (my color palate suggests “Fawn”), and the glass appears rather still, but who knows what bubbles are lurking among the shadows? – Mike

M- 8 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

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Aroma:  6.5

Lots of nice floral yeast notes mingling with dry black malts. There is a silky sweetness floating over a mixture of oats and barley. It smells just like I imagined a black pumpkin wheat would.- Rick

So far this smells like sour ale. On second and third pass you start to get more of the sweetness of the pumpkin and a flash of cinnamon and clove. – Brittney

M- 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

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Mouth feel:  6.5

I’m really enjoying the mouth feel of this one.  It’s a solid medium bodied beer that is not too crisp and not too syrupy.  The carbonation isn’t offensive but there is enough of it that the sips aren’t boring and flat either. – Brittney

Much thinner than expected, I have to remind myself that this is a Black Ale and not a stout or porter, but even then it’s a touch too watery for my tastes and the carbonation is much lighter than the initial pour would suggest – which compounds the problem as well. -Tim

M- 7 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 6

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Tasting notes:  6.5

Charmingly subtle Dunkelweizen grains and mild sweetness on the first sip and the, as the fluid unassumingly sloshes around your maw, hearty pumpkin pie creeps out to snatch your taste buds away under their dark veil of liquid bread. – Mike

Vampires, as they are, have notorious reactions to garlic–of which this ale has none.  However, were cloves our rat-fanged anti-hero’s kryptonite, then this would be the ale to avoid like the plague–as clove is the undying profile on display here.  Some roasted pumpkin flesh and dark malts come into play, but for the most part this ale is studded with more clove than a holiday ham. – Tim (editors note: Tim doesn’t like too much clove).

I get a lot of roasted malt and wheat in the front of the flavor. What little pumpkin I smelled in the aroma has weakened and the only spice I can taste anymore is clove. This beer is either super complex or fairly simple but it leaves me at a loss. – Brittney

It’s an interesting twist. I like the choice of mixing dark malts into the wheat ale category, as it adds a bit of enjoyable smokiness to the profile of a beer that I otherwise might not like. Pumpkin spices are almost subtle, acting as an accent to an already delicious beer. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 6

 Orlock

Finish:  7

Lingering smoke, mace, and clove gather in the recess of your cheeks to skulk about awhile. Some banana esters emerge here as well, (again, assuming the clove esters may be lost in actual clove). Finally, a deep and granular earthy wheat dryness becomes the tomb to which the spices adjourn to renew their dark power. – Mike

Burnt dark malts embody the finish and really define this brew. It starts like a wheat, but the end is what sells it for me. A touch of smoke and some delicate hot spicing make for a great conclusion to this ale. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 6 / B- 7.5 / R- 7

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Flavor balance:  6.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 6

There is actually a really solid pumpkin profile on this ale, and the character from the aroma leads you to believe this will be more pie than veggie, but it’s all so overpowered by the single-note clove spicing that it throws the whole thing totally out of whack. – Tim

Although these two elements of the pumpkin ale take a back seat in this brew, I do believe they are very well balanced. No spice stands above the other and they all help solidify the pumpkin flavor which becomes a great addition to this black wheat ale. – Rick

M- 6.5 / T- 5 / B- 6 / R- 7

         Sweet / Dry balance: 6.5

There is a kiss of sweetness that lights up each new sip, but overall, we lean to a smokey, spicy dryness. It draws you back fro more with each sip, not unlike the Vampyr’s hypnotic gaze, and believe me, the bite will be the last thing that you remember. – Mike

Some sugars profile in the body, bending into a sour tinge and finishing dry from the heavy handed spices–it’s not so much balanced as it is confused. – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 6

         Multiple Drinkability?  7

I’m not the biggest wheat beer fan, but I’m really enjoying this. I believe that, had the malt selection been different, however, this beer might sink to the depths among other forgettable pumpkin ales. – Rick

While not the boldest pumpkin offering around, Orlok succeeds in being both interesting and exceedingly session-able. The beer’s foundation is hearty enough to please any Germanophile, and manages to include a nice seasonal twist that compliments the essential character of the base style. I could definitely do a few of these. Plus, vampires dude. – Mike

M- 9 / T- 4 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Overall:  6.66

M- 7.58 / T- 5.83 / B- 6.33 / R- 6.66

 

Pennslyvania Dutch “Original” Pumpkin Cream Liqueur – Dairyland Distillers Co.

penn dutch cream liqueur WEB

Name: Pennsylvania Dutch “Original’ Pumpkin Cream Liqueur

Place of Origin / Distiller:  Philadelphia, PA / Dairyland Distillers Co.

ABV: 12.5%

Specialty Prep/ Individuality:

            Unfortunately, there is not much more information floating around on this product, particularly in regard to how it is made but you can pick yourself up a bottle for $8.99 and indulge in the mystery yourself.

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The label certainly recalls the spirit of the first Germanic settlers to come stateside. A gilded and embellished golden font recalls illuminated scripture, over a  country field of corn stalks and pumpkins, nearly ripe, and awaiting loading into a wooden tuck bed. It’s a nice looking glass bottle as well, which we always appreciate the detail of in less expensive products.

Upon popping the lid, we are greeted with a very familiar smell to most country pumpkin bumpkins, that is, the classic Yankee Candle Spiced Pumpkin aroma. It may sound a touch cliché, but side by side, they are spot on. Big Hazelnut notes, along with nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon, over velvety pumpkin puree, with a bit of a charred caramel note and a Brandy sweetness.

In the glass the liqueur is an antiqued bone color, with a creamy orange hue that is just a bit paler than sherbet. It is milky and viscous on the tongue, and proves more than capable of coating your glass and your cheeks. It’s not quite as dense as a full eggnog, but it is pleasingly medium bodied, with little to no alcohol bite.

The scent is not defiant of the aroma, save for one surprise, very fruity pumpkin. This is very pumpkin forward, to our delight, and also recalls notes of candy caramel crème, a bit of the cream sweetness of eggnog, and a gentle finish of spice. Cinnamon and nutmeg sit forward foremost, but impressions of faint clove and warming cognac emerge upon the swallow.

All in all, this is an excellent offering for its style. It succeeds in escaping the mentality of “just another eggnog” and “re-purposed coffee liqueur” and steps into its own category. While it may seem like a no brainer that Pumpkin should be evident in something with “Pumpkin” in the title, we rarely see it so present as it is here. It’s a shame that there is not more information available on the origins of this bottle, as many may over look an otherwise unassuming product. But if you are a fan of this sort, take our word for it and don’t miss out.

Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout (Blackwater Series) – Souther Tier Brewing Company

Warlock

Three years into following us, you guys probably know how we feel about Southern Tier when it comes to pumpkin ale. Their legendary Pumking has proven to have an ephemeral time on store shelves, and inspires cultish hunts and gatherings around tap handles all across the east coast. So, with all of that as a given, you can clearly imagine our excitement at the news that there would be a special late season release of a new pumpkin brew, and part of their Blackwater series, home of their immaculate Crème Brulee Stout, no less. Tingles were had. High fives exchanged. Perhaps a single tear was shed. It was emotional. Don’t judge us…Also, today’s post is dedicated to Hudson, who is probably going to be born in the next few minutes. So raise a glass to Rick’s first kid tonight!

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Name:  Warlock (Blackwater Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Lakewood, New York / Southern Tier Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Imperial Stout / 8.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Brewed as a counterpoint to Southern Tier’s other extremely popular offering Pumking, Warlock is brewed with 2-Row, Caramel, Black, and Munich malts, along with pumpkin in the mash, hopped with Magnum and Sterling varieties, fermented with ale yeast, and has pumpkin pie spices added.

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Packaging:

Southern Tier always has some of the cooler labels. This new Blackwater Series release is no exception, really getting into the spirit with an all black palette and one magically maniacal gourd. I also love all the information they share, like specific ingredients. – Rick

With a near monochromatic color palate (white and black – with just a hint of purple) this stout maintains the graphic styling of the cadre of other offerings from Southern Tier.  The label itself features jack-o-lantern that hints of the majestic Pumking but this time sporting a sorcerer’s star and moon hat. – Tim

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Color:  7

This has an airy caramel colored head with almost non-existent lacing; the body has a dark brown to amber glow and is opaque enough to tell that you are unable to see through to the other side of this cloudy pour. This should be setting itself up for something intriguing. – Brittney

The Imperial Warlock pours as black as a moonless sky. Well, maybe just a crescent of a moon since it’s not totally opaque here. I can just make out a very faint glow on the edges. To top it all off, a light tan head seems a bit lacking after a gentle pour. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 7

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Aroma:  8

Roasted malts and caramel / toasted sugar sweetness fight a creamy nutmeg that makes it smell just like… Count Chocula. – Mike

An air of pumpkin pie with chocolate graham cracker crust and iced coffee, followed by the sensation of roasted malts and vanilla, dance from my glass like a the vapors from a magicians’ potion. – Tim

M- 8.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

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Mouth feel:  7.5

The color and aroma really had me hyped for a big thick full bodied brew but this presents a more medium bodied feel with a higher amount of active carbonation than the once prescient stillness of the glass infers. – Brittney

There is a unique texture here. It’s milky and medium-full, but not the gobs of stout 10W40 viscosity in so many other extreme beers. It is lighter feeling than it’s counterpart, Pumking, and avoids a slurry of bogging syrup. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 7.5 / B- 6 / R- 8

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Tasting notes:  8

Dark caramel crème candies and a ton of malty honey-wheat breadiness. There is a lot going on in this glass, but it all comes back to cocoa and pumpkin pie. I also get a bet of a pecan and marshmallow note. Sweet and nutty to the last drop. – Mike

Roast malts meet roasted pumpkins in a vat of espresso.  Chocolate and bitter spices blend with cinnamon, allspice, clove and nutmeg, crust and liquor, brandy and vanilla.  The stout is heady and a little boozy.  It has a steep curve to climb to match Pumking and despite its outward attempts to differentiate itself from that ale, it fees to me a little lacking in comparison. – Tim

In the world of beer a turned down mouth doesn’t always signify dislike. In this case there is a bit of initial bitterness for the palate to get used to masking any pumpkin flavor up front. It come through later with the uniqueness of the pumpkin and spice combination in Pumking.  Southern Tier knew they had a good thing with Pumking so they made it a stout. I just wish they had made this one a bit heavier and a little more unique.  What you do get of the coffee and chocolate notes are great, however, I wish they were a little more pronounced. – Brittney

This is awesomely sweet with a nicely balanced roasted malt profile. It’s nutty with burnt pumpkins, sweet vanilla beans, and coconut really making this a treat for the season. Speaking of seasons, I think this imperial stout will make a great transition into the colder months as we get closer to the end of the holidays. – Rick

M- 9.5 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 10

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Finish:  7

I really like the creamy smoothness of this brew. Right at the end it’s complimented with a touch of heat from the alcohol to kind of reset after the deluge of sweetness. – Rick

Finish is long and bitter with vanilla notes that are a little too pronounced contributing to a somewhat ‘candle-esque’ profile that unfortunately feels chemically delivered and not organically achieved. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Flavor balance:  7.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

As far as the pumpkin to spice balance goes this one is pretty well balanced but tends to be slightly heavier on the spice end.  You have to reach for the pumpkin against the malt profile, while the spices stand right out. – Brittney

The spicing is really intense and a bit unique, which is always welcome. Nutty and sweet like coffee house fare, the vanilla and cinnamon help enchant the pumpkin out of this brew. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 6 / B- 6 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 8

To be honest, this tastes a lot like Pumking, but with some select dark malt additions and a bit of lactose. The effect is a more easy drinking brew that is tempered by bitterness.  It’s a nice tweak, but not a revelation. And on what unholy scale do we rate this? By Pumking standards, it is substantially dryer. By all others, this is a firmly sweet stout. – Mike

Although it has been said that Warlock is supposed to finish sweeter than its counterpoint, I tend to disagree.  I considered Pumpkin to be pretty sweet and have to say that Warlock is pretty balanced to me. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 8 / R- 7

         Multiple Drinkability?  8

The harmony of the malt / pumpkin / spice here is fairly divine. I don’t know what dark arts tome they conjured the blend from, but it works well. You can almost taste the toasty souls of the damned. Though it may not be as heavy as I might like in either alcohol or body in the imperial stout realm, the bitterness is a welcome addition to the glass, and makes me feel, unlike the sweet bomb of awesome that is Pumking, that I might be able to complete a bottle myself. – Mike

I have no other choice than to put this beer up against Southern Tier’s Pumking and tragically I find that it does a disservice to the stout.  On its own it comes out a little ahead of the pack and it’s totally sessionable, so if you really dig it, by all means give it a go.  But, I think there are more interesting options in the market. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 6 / B- 8 / R- 10

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Overall:  7.50

M- 8.17 / T- 6.83 / B- 7.08 / R- 8.25

Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner – Elysian Brewing Co.

Hansel and Gretel

It’s no secret that the folks over at Elysian Brewing are just as crazy about pumpkin beer as we are. From their annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival (no relation, but we kind of wish there was), to their vast array of offerings that fit solidly in the pumpkin category, there is probably gourd in their fermenters more often than not. This little buddy is one of their newest offerings in the retail bottled selection, and it’s targeted right at those folks who might like a little less “imperial” in their pumpkin. Bonus points for the matching of German fairy tales to German beer style.

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Name:  Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner

Place of Origin / Brewer: Seattle, Washington / Elysian Brewing

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Pilsner / 4.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  This beer is brewed with organic pale, Weyermann Munich, and Cara-Hell malts, with pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. It is spiced with peeled and pureed fresh ginger in the boil and bright tank, and hopped with lots of Czech Saaz hops.

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Packaging:

Elysian never slouches on their labels. A folksy looking, fairy tale book illustration at style featuring the latest in pumpkin home construction. Gingerbread is soooo 1812. Today’s modern cannibal witch is gazing from the balcony, having underestimated the appeal of a house made of pumpkin to the craft beer aficionado, dread in her eyes.  – Mike

In keeping with the whimsical tradition of past Elysian beers, this ale features a kind of twisted fairytale landscape of ancient trees and pumpkin house – replete with scary old witch beckoning inquisitive children and adventurous drinkers into her happy, horrible home…for dinner. – Tim

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Color:  5.5

Bubbles dance quickly to the top of this yellow-orange brew. After a quick dissipation there is little to no head with an antiqued looking white lacing. – Brittney

A nice classic golden pilsner color, but infused with an additional cloudiness and obvious amber coloration from pumpkins. A simple and light frothy head settles nicely on top. – Rick

M- 6.5 / T- 6 / B- 5 / R- 5.5

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Aroma:  6

There is almost a saison quality to the bouquet. It just has that extra dusting of pumpkin which is noticeable under a heavy dose of ginger that allows the hops to barely peek through. – Rick

The bouquet is like someone threw a fresh peeled knob of ginger into crisp hoppy ale–blending that candied quality (think ginger biscotti) with fresh forest pine notes. – Tim

M- 5.5 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 5

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Mouth feel:  6

When you combine a mouth feel of very active carbonation with the crispness of the fresh ginger this beer really, really snaps in your mouth. – Brittney

A touch fuller than the average pils, most likely from the pumpkin addition. It smooths out what could otherwise be a very prickly glassful. – Mike

M- 6 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 6

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Tasting notes:  7

The ginger mingles with the hop profile exceedingly well. It’s interesting that the ginger doesn’t have that usual zest you would associate with your sushi boat, but more of a bittering floral quality. It makes for one very dry lager. – Mike

Lets be realistic here, the only spice in this beer is ginger, and with that in mind, the profile is about 90% exactly what you would expect it to be.  It’s almost a digestif in that manner. As the fragrant root permeates all of my senses there is a little biscuit malt and pumpkin peeking through and a bloom of piney Czech hops that close it out. – Tim

Ginger often has a soapy taste to me and right off the bat you get a ton of it. Along with the hops this could make a great palate cleanser or wrecker. I can’t really decide and I just got an insatiable urge for sushi.  Once you get past the ginger there is a bit of a piney note to a pretty solid pilsner. – Brittney

This is why I love Elysian. They take experimental risks that produce some amazing unexpected results. Very earthy, and funky hops nail the bittering and floral aspects of this pilsner and have a strong presence without becoming too parching like American IPAs tend to lean towards. Ginger is a great touch, and at first seems overwhelming, but as the backbone of this beer it is balanced very well to enhance the pumpkin. – Rick

M- 6.5 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 8

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Finish:  7

The ginger is strong and lingers, as do the hops. But for a final note, I have to say that the hops prevail and leave a strong floral essence. – Brittney.

Something of a one note beer, that just happens to display two notes – hoppy pine and spicy ginger root, with the bitter floral hops carrying the pilsner for a very long finish. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 6 / B- 6 / R- 9

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Flavor balance:  5.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 4.5

Not so much balance here. The ginger totally dominates while the pumpkin rides shotgun, but it isn’t a bad thing and I actually think it is the highlight of this brew. – Rick

The pumpkin here doesn’t seem to be much of a flavoring component, so much as a contribution to color and body. It may take the biscuit notes and sweeten them a bit, but Saaz and ginger dominate this glass. – Mike

M- 3.5 / T- 3.5 / B- 4 / R- 6.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 6.5

Surprisingly, this beer seems pretty balanced here. The clean ginger aspect could seem to create an intense dryness, but everything else seems to combat that and help pull it back to center. – Brittney

A malty front end is elegantly capped by a dry clean back end. One of the more well balanced beers in this department and I believe it all rests on the combination and interplay of hops and ginger. – Rick

M- 4 / T- 5.5 / B- 7 / R- 9

         Multiple Drinkability?  5.5

This is a tasty session worthy lager. It’s nice and light, but still a few shades from the gingerbread realm (likely because it’s solely ginger, sans baking spices). The only thing holding me back here is the suspicion that, as through the glass, the ginger would keep building with each serving through a sitting and, I for one, don’t enjoy sitting up at night bloated with burning ginger burps. – Mike

I’ve been wracking my brain for the best possible solution to when I would want to drink this beer again, or what I might pair it with to tame the residual heat and the best I can come up with is – if you routinely eat Chinese food on Thanksgiving or Christmas (A Christmas Story – Fa-rah-rah-rah-rah) then this might pair nicely.  Otherwise, a single glass from the 650ml bottle should be just enough as an after dinner drink. – Tim

M- 3.5 / T- 5 / B- 5.5 / R- 8

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Overall:  6.17

M- 5.83 / T- 6.17 / B- 5.58 / R- 6.92

Doc’s Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider – Warwick Valley Wine Co.

Docs Draft copy

It’s fairly obvious to anyone with a taste for alcohol that the years of craft beer are in a new renaissance. Everywhere you turn, from the swankiest taprooms, to the lowliest dives, you’re going to be able to get your hands on at least a few solid alternatives to mass manufactured lagers. Something we’ve noticed in the last two years however, is among the beer ranks, there are plenty of fermented fruit options popping up as well. With ciders swelling in popularity, it’s not uncommon to find lists of flavor variations floating around, and pumpkin is fresh on the table to join its ranks. So if you just want some easy drinking along with your autumn offerings, here’s another option for your fridge.

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Name:  Doc’s Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: Warwick, New York / Warwick Valley Wine Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Hard Cider / 6.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Doc’s Pumpkin Cider is pressed from New York state apples and fresh roasted pumpkins in the fermenter. It features champagne yeast and malic acid, and is spiced with cinnamon, allspice, fresh ginger, and nutmeg. It is naturally gluten free.

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Packaging:

A simple yet classic design, this label has an old world appeal. Nice touch with the gold foil wrap, and the artwork makes it very apparent that this is a pumpkin cider. – Rick

With a very Revolutionary War-era vibe, this label reminds me of a hanging shingle outside a pub circa the late 18th century.  A quote from Thoreau rounds things out – adding a very classy air to this cider. – Tim

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Color:  6

Golden straw in the fall sunset. There’s a quick fizzy head and a ton of carbonation from the bottom of the glass, which is tinted eyeglasses clear. – Mike

Golden, almost like champagne in appearance. There are so many bubbles due to carbonation. The only inkling of haze is the condensation on the cold glass; this cider is super clear and glowing. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 4

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Aroma:  6

An unexpected amount of pie spice on the nose with cinnamon as the dominate flavor profile – after that it’s all apples for as far as the eye can see—or rather—the nose can smell. – Tim

Cinnamon, ginger, and clove apper quite bold over a slight touch of fruity pumpkin, but mostly the glass gives an impression of baked cinnamon apples, rather than pumpkin pie. – Mike

M- 5.5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 5.5

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Mouth feel:  5.5

Mellow apple and pumpkin flavoring washes over the tongue, and as expected there is a strong tart presence. Overall, this cider is clean, light bodied, and watery. – Rick

The carbonation is there visually but surprisingly not in the amount that you would expect in the mouth feel, obviously light bodied, no where near as syrupy as I would have expected. – Brittney

M- 4 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 6

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Tasting notes:  6.5

This is not your European dry cider. It’s sour-sweet, with a one-two punch of cinnamon and clove. There is a bit of creaminess that I would suspect is contributed by he pumpkin, but a big spike of acid makes this more of a warm weather version of a mulled cider than a stomach warming pumpkin treat. – Mike

A touch dry on the initial sip with an explosion of pure apple juice that’s been spiked with a cinnamon swizzle stick, but immediate the sweetness kicks in and man it does not let up – reaching apple soda levels.  It’s far too much of a candy beverage for me – like those sparkling ciders that the parents would serve the kids table during Thanksgiving. – Tim

This is refreshing, it is first and foremost a hard apple cider (so keep that in mind you hearty dark beer drinkers) with notes of cinnamon and ginger and a touch of pumpkin gently found throughout. Tastes like an apple/ginger/pumpkin pie with great notes of brown sugar and butter. – Brittney

Nice tart red apples mixed with sweet pumpkin and spice balance well to make this a tasty imbibement. The pumpkin is just the right amount to compliment the pleasant apple flavor. The best aspect that I take from this brew is it’s pretty refreshing and light on the palate. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Finish:  5

The finish is basic mulled apple cider.  You tend to loose the nuances of specific flavors in a barrage of spices, but it’s that sort of finish that keeps you coming back to try and figure it out. – Brittney

It’s a little too much like juice for me, but the carbonation does help put a bit of a bite on the end. The body finishes nice and tart as expected from a cider, but that doesn’t keep it from being too cloying after each sip. – Rick

M- 3.5 / T- 5 / B- 5 / R- 5.5

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Flavor balance:  5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 4.5

If it didn’t have a pumpkin on the label, I wouldn’t suspect it might be in there at all. The spice, however, you can smell three feet from the glass. – Mike

It’s almost unfair to scale this.  The spice is prominently cinnamon, touches of nutmeg and allspice are in there but there is no pumpkin to be had.  It’s more like pumpkin spiced apple pie – and about the same level of sweetness too. – Tim

M- 1 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 4.5

This one is hit and miss for me. The sweetness fits the overall cider style, but I feel it’s too pronounced. However, there is a bit of dry apple on the finish, but it’s just not enough to reel in this sugary drink.- Rick

Given the champagne yeast, I would have thought this might sneak in a dry finish, but it proves to be tongue coating sugar sweet one the bubbles have faded. – Mike

M- 3 / T- 4 / B- 6 / R- 4

         Multiple Drinkability?  5.5

Very light and easy to drink and, for the most part, complex enough to keep you interested. – Brittney

If I wanted to substitute soda for alcohol then this would probably hit the mark. It’s definitely more of a summer drink, but with the fall flavor profile it actually seems schizophrenic at best. – Tim

M- 5 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Overall:  5.67

M- 4.67 / T- 5.25 / B- 6.75 / R- 5.67

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout – Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon copy

One of the coolest things about craft beer is the spirit of freedom and experimentation that comes along with it. There are limitless options from the largest players, to the smallest local nano-brewers and home brewers, who will always have something new for you to sip on. Of course, it’s no different on the brewing end. All this variation comes about because craft brewers aren’t brewing for the masses, they are brewing for fun. What better way to get creative than to gather around a brew kettle and follow your muse with a few friends? Today’s brew keeps in that spirit, having started out as an experimental improvised beer, intended to be a porter, but as extreme things tend to get carried away, ended as a pumpkin imperial stout with every fixin’ within arms reach of the brew pot.

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Name:  Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Place of Origin / Brewer: Boston, MA / Harpoon Brewery

Beer style / ABV%:  Imperial Pumpkin Stout / 10.50%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin is brewed with dark brown sugar, pumpkin purée, black strap molasses, and dark malt, and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice, and nutmeg.

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Packaging:

Perhaps one of the more simple labels we’ve seen with a harpoon skewering a pumpkin leaf with a big gourd in the background and an autumnal color scheme of greens and browns.  Nothing to differentiate it from the pack – but the label is refreshingly clean from a design standpoint. – Tim

It’s really cool how they incorporated the pumpkin vines leaf into the design, while still able to showcase a pumpkin theme. Also, it frames the label and title really well, and offers a nice prop to spear with a harpoon. – Rick

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Color:  6.5

This looks more like a very dark porter than a stout. Ruby notes show in all the edges of the glass, and it lacks that ultra full bodied appearance, seeming a touch thinner than most. – Mike (Editors note – We did not know the beer started as a porter project before tasting).

A creamy tan head with similarly hued lacing tops a dark espresso colored body with an amber glow towards the bottom of the glass.  The liquid is visually thinner in motion than its dark coloring lets on but in the realm of carbonation it is fairly still. – Brittney

M- 5.5 / T- 7 / B- 6 / R- 7

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Aroma:  7

The nose is nice. It has a spiced rum quality of treacle and nutmeg. The roasted malt isn’t shouting at me, but it is there in the form of black coffee leanings. – Mike

The aroma isn’t overpowering, yet it still retains some complexity. A dry cacao nib presence is apparent on the nose mixed with notes of cinnamon and caramelized molasses. Somehow, all these flavors bring banana nut bread to mind almost immediately and now I’m salivating over this beer. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 9 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Mouth feel:  6

Thick and full bodied.  Soft with a velvet hand, and just a hint of carbonation on the tongue. – Tim

The carbonation of this beer is more prevalent and active than it looks, although the body is still pretty light and thin for a stout. The liquid seems to fall away in your mouth. – Brittney

M- 6 / T- 7.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

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Tasting notes:  7

There is a bit of a hefeweizen a banana note in here along with malty bread notes. The clove, admittedly, is probably just from the clove. It tastes like someone at Chiquita made pumpkin bread, and you bought it to accompany your iced latte. – Mike

Dark chocolate malts, burnt sugar and black strap molasses, clove, ginger and allspice all present themselves early with cinnamon on the back end.  The pumpkin is rich and caramelized, vanilla and almond notes and more bananas on the close.  This is a complex stout, with a lot of competing flavors that don’t always manage pure harmony – likely a symptom of brewing separate ales and then combining them. – Tim

Much like the aroma, your first taste has a bit of a fruity quality to it and then the roasted quality really opens up. This is where you can find a bit of a malt and cocoa note.  Eventually the very sweet molasses and brown sugar take over closing with a small smattering of pumpkin and cinnamon. – Brittney

Lots of spices to contend with here, but no single one seems too dominant, keeping the flavor profile a bit complex. They combine well with a flair of pumpkin and give this brew a nice fruity nature. Chocolate notes are subtly noticeable as well and help with a nice finish. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 7.5 / B- 6 / R- 7

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Finish:  6.5

Long and bitter, perhaps even a bit too bitter, super dark chocolate and coffee notes on the finish along with more cloves and bananas. – Tim

The finish is alllll coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate. Like a Mexican ice cream frappe. The alcohol does have a bit of astringency in the mouth once the body eeks away. – Mike

M- 6 / T- 6.5 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

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Flavor balance:  6

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 6

For all of the spices that are supposed to be featured I feel like this should be a lot more spice forward. That being said it is still leaning towards a spice dominant score because I can only find very tiny hints of the pumpkin. – Brittney

The depth of flavor is to be commending but the pumpkin—courtesy of a puree—is very much overtaken by the molasses and the spice. – Tim

M- 4 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 8.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 5

It’s on the sweeter end almost becoming too cloying, but the finish steps up and dries up the palate nicely. – Rick

This beer is very sweet. When molasses and brown sugar are listed on the bottle there is little room for anything but sweetness. – Brittney

M- 3 / T- 6 / B- 5 / R- 6

         Multiple Drinkability?  6.5

There is a lot going on here, but it’s right up my alley with just the right amount of complexity. The stout aspect is really nice and the pumpkin flourishes just take it to another level. – Rick

The alcohol hit is a little bit of an ass kicker, especially since it doesn’t do a great job of hiding. While I enjoyed this a lot more than Harpoon’s UFO pumpkin offering, they still have some work to do. That said, I definitely give them credit for forward process, and a single serving is enjoyable to me. – Mike

M- 6.5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

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Overall:  6.50

M- 5.75 / T- 7.25 / B- 6.08 / R- 7.00