Posts tagged ‘California’

Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.

Almanac Scaled Edit

 

One of the styles we don’t see to often in the pumpkin category is the elusive, and often divisive, sour ale. Leave it to the good folks at Almanac Beer Co to follow up last years (and coincidentally one of our highest ranking beers to date) Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine with a new entry, Dark Pumpkin Sour. Though they share the same humble roots, gorgeous artwork, and barrel times, they couldn’t stylistically be any further apart! So, if you can find one, crack it open and compare notes with us, and if you can’t, you’re probably going to want to find one – so keep trying!

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Name: Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Sam Jose, CA / Almanac Beer Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Dark Pumpkin Sour / 7.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Designed as a counterpoint to the sweet and savory items on a fall dinner table, Dark Pumpkin Sour is brewed with caramelized organic heirloom pumpkins from Bodega Bay, pie spices, and then aged in used red wine barrels for a year.

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Packaging:

Almanac should probably win the award for the most classically inspired bottling each year, with their wood carved motifs and calligraphic logo they inspire an old world appeal that really carries the legacy of colonial pumpkin ales into the new millennium. – Tim

There isn’t a lot more to say about Almanac’s design than it is simply a work of art. I would seriously hang both their iconic woodcut tree logo and the hop bine entwined “Farm to Barrel” designs on my wall proudly. They must really like it too because there isn’t a whole lot differentiating this from their other Pumpkin Barleywine offering appearance wise. A quick color change from orange to deep turquoise on the inch wide bottom label is the only major difference. But then, why fix what ain’t broke?

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Color: 7.5

Rich, deep mahogany and plum with glinting copper highlights where the light happens to pierce the shadows, and a tan head that fights to stick around. Murky like a bog. – Brittney

This sour ale pours a fluffy light brown head that billows over an opaque body. Root beer brown with some earthy tones. Looks quite impressive. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

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Aroma: 7.5

Pronounced Brettanomyces barnyard funk, cereal grains, pinot noir grapes, and dark fruits, meet a smatter of perfumed wood and slight porter-y roast. – Mike

This definitely has a great barrel aged nose to it, imparting some nice woody elements amongst a musty roasted character. Red wine is another bold aroma that starts sour, but has an enticing sweetness to it, and I can’t wait to try this beer. – Rick

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

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Mouth feel: 7.5

A study in contradiction, the dark voluptuous body belies a crisp highly acidic sour ale, that explodes on the tongue causing your taste buds to detonate with the shock of an atomic warhead. – Tim

Instant pucker on the first sip. It’s like a barrage on the senses, but it’s a light sour tartness that envelopes the tongue while a wisp of sweetness tickles it. Interestingly, the medium body contains a full flavored punch that’s easy to drink. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 7.5 / B- 5 / R- 8.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

Intense citric acidity with pepper, wood, and a zesty spice on the fringes. As it warms dry, dark wine qualities appear alongside notes of pine, vegetal summer squash, and touches of caramel and cinnamon. – Mike

Crisp and bright, the pumpkin is tamed and even lost a bit in the bright lemon pucker notes. As a complement to a thick, rich pumpkin pie with a dense homemade whipped cream this ale would cut right though the gluttony and refresh your palate between each bite. Hint of allspice carries the ale slightly into the holiday season, but as a drink designed to complement a dessert rather than replicate, it gets high marks for contrasting tendencies. – Tim

There are moments where the pumpkin is fighting to show through, but for the most part all I’m tasting is sour. As it warms the spices begin to appear along side roasted pumpkin seed and wood and I can see why they recommend having this with pie. It needs the savory sweetness as an accompaniment. – Brittney

It’s like a sweet and sour pumpkin with a light watery red wine swirl. Great compliments, but is very atypical for a pumpkin offering. As it warms towards room temperature, the beer mellows and I’m starting to discover more elements of sweet cinnamon within the oaken melange. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 9

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Finish: 8

The finish is really were you get most of the flavor. The acidity begins to withdraw and pumpkin really comes through, almost as an afterthought. Roast and touches of caramel qualities as well as some woody vanilla. – Brittney

Blade mace and resinous cedar wood give way to a long, long, tart decay that settles out with echoes of the fork full of pumpkin pie that I never actually ate. Why, oh why do you elude me you devious phantom pastry? – Mike

M- 9.5 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 7

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

While the pumpkin takes a backseat to the sour’s peacock levels of non-subtlety, the notes on the nose and the color imparted in the ale are not to be missed. The spice on display is mainly a function of the wine barrel aging and as such adds tremendous depth to proceedings. – Tim

The pumpkin here is less of a defined quality than it is a referential. This brew begs to be set alongside your dessert course at Thanksgiving, and the spice is far more, but still subtly, notable. – Mike

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

 

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7

Tart, dry, and definitively sour. How dry and sour? The balance to the cabernet-sour is roast and wood. Sucka’s dryyy. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

 

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7

This is a fantastic and complex sour. I only wish there was more to get better acquainted with. – Rick

Cutting though a turkey weighted, gravy laden and desert friendly feast, this ale would do well at your next family gathering. – Tim

M- 10 / T- 7 / B- 4 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.67

M- 9.00 / T- 7.67 / B- 5.92 / R- 8.08

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Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.

Almanac

If our first two reviews this month are any indication, California is killing it when it comes to craft beer and the farm to table movement. Further, if this beer is par for the course, Almanac Beer Co. is poised to quickly rise to the forefront of said movements. A pair of “gypsy” brewers (or for the uninitiated, brewers who don’t own their own brewery), Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan brew through the good faith of using other local brewing equipment. As a result, Almanac is the definition of “small batch”, creating exclusive seasonal releases that incorporate local ingredients, and flies off the shelves in no time. Already well decorated in accolades, we weren’t surprised that this was a good one. We were surprised at just how good it was though, and just how hard it was to get our hands on it!

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Name:  Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Table Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: San Jose, California / Almanac Beer Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Barley Wine / 12.8%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Almanac Pumpkin Barleywine is made with 500lbs of hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins from La Tercera Farms in Bodega Bay. The caramelized gourds were added to their American Barleywine and aged in brandy barrels for a year, then the resulting concoction was blended with a freshly brewed spiced barleywine.

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Packaging:

The design on this bottle is amazing. Well thought out from top to bottom, informative, clean, and simply breathtaking. From farm to anything seems to be on everyone tongues lately, and with good reason. Farm to Barrel is proudly expressed on the side of this bottle as well as a gorgeous sketch of a tree I would gladly enjoy a pint under any day. – Brittney

My favorite label to date. This one balances beauty and professionalism with charm. Maybe a bit of design porn, what with all the sexy type, but the label just enhances the experience of this great beer and shows the level of appreciation that went into making it. – Rick

A gorgeous postage stamp visage which shows careful consideration on the part of the brewers to impart both information and aesthetic appeal in a design so cool, I would consider framing it.  I hear they grow these pumpkins in Bodega Bay…I was half-expecting some “Birds” on the label.  You Hitchcock fans will understand what I’m talking about. – Tim

Perhaps the sexiest beer bottle I’ve ever seen, this baby features detailed wood cut hop bines accented by metallic gold and ivory lettering a font designer would die for. A sleek and narrow lower paper trailer label encircles with details about the specific bottling, and a giant tree mandala, tractors, and the state silhouette remind you that this is California, Farm to Table and “Beer is Agriculture”. (Also, it says that on the bottle.) – Mike

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Color:  8

            This takes your Belgian dark and adds gorgeous red undertones. It looks thick, decadent, and overtly autumnal. –    Mike

            Nearly opaque, the body is full and inviting. It’s awesome copper and burnt umber coloring is accentuated with a light fuzzy head on top that leaves behind a bit of legging as well. – Rick

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

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Aroma:  8.5

Wow, this is a sensory overload of the highest order, with black fruit, brandy, molasses followed by intense malt and vanilla notes.  I want to live inside this…I’m trying to imagine how amazing this would smell if you warmed it up. – Tim

Smells just as it states, very much like barley wine & barrel aged beer would smell, high in alcohol and earthly. Although like any good fall vegetable should, the sweetness is brought forward from being caramelized just a touch. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 9.5 / B- 8 / R- 8

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Mouth feel:  8.5

            Creamy. At 13% that should read boozy, but it’s lush and gorgeous, and the only hint of fire is on the swallow. – Mike

It has a full body, but it stays smooth as each sip spills a plethora of flavor over my tongue. It doesn’t burn too much at first, slowly giving way to the inevitable bite of a strong beer. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 8 / R- 9

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Tasting notes:  9

            Warm brown sugar, caramel, an explosion of malt, pumpkin, and spice tamed only by wood, and a finish of vanilla, apricots, violets, and cognac. This is what the flame on the tea light inside your jack o’lantern must taste like after a round of Brandy Alexanders. – Mike

Boozy and sweet, rich with raisins and prunes, caramelized pumpkin, dark molasses and brown butter, vanilla and clove, it dances across the palate with waves of flavor, this is a meal, dessert, and after-dinner drinks in a single glass.  It’s like drinking pumpkin pie. – Tim

I like to believe that our palettes are ever changing.  There was a time that I didn’t really have a taste for anything that mentioned barrel aged or barley wine. This has nothing to do with a lack of love for things that come from barrels. Trust me.  For it’s style, this one does it well, it doesn’t feel or taste too heavy and it allows for the earthy elements as well as the care in brewing and aging to shine though.   – Brittney

As expected, the style really dominates the backbone of the profile with some awesome pumpkin qualities to make this brew shine. I’m almost overwhelmed by the nutty vanilla bean that introduces me to a cinnamon topped buttery crust, there’s so much going on here! – Rick

M- 10 / T- 9 / B- 8.5 / R- 9

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Finish:  8.5

The finish is the reminder that this beer has spent some time in barrels; the oak and smoothness of the vanilla notes stay with you, as does the thickness of the mouth feel. Final reminder is the12.8%. – Brittney

Long and sweet, with bitter burnt caramel notes and linger of dried fruit and oaked brandy notes.  It doesn’t linger nearly as long as I would like it to, but to be fair I’d like it last forever, so grade that on whatever curve you want. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance:  8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

As usual, anytime pumpkin in any state can shine through a spice presence, I call balance. Blending the ales is a genius move for the style. – Brittney

Everything meshes really well, and the pumpkin flavoring is grand. I’m starting to think that complex brews like this one really capture all the nuances of a pumpkin beer, and are the perfect vessel for this gourdy imbibement. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

It’s Barleywine, it’s not meant to be dry.  The high ABV and bitter burnt sugar notes do less to curtail the sweetness and more to extend its enveloping character. – Tim

This is the only minor space for fault. It is pleasantly sweet, but so bold and luxuriant that it is almost overwhelming. Almost. – Mike

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

         Multiple Drinkability?  9

If I could drink more I would. This beer alone warrants a trip to the west coast in search for more of Almanac’s offerings. – Rick

At 12.8% ABV the intensity of this ale is more than enough for a single 375ml serving.  That said, this is a stockpile-level spirit and I would gladly cellar as many of them as I could get my hands on.  In fact, if I see it at a store, you better get out of my way. – Tim

M- 8.5 / T- 10 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

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Overall:  8.50

M- 9.00 / T- 8.67 / B- 7.92 / R- 8.42

Gourdgeous (Local Fields Series) – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery

Gourdgeous

Located in an old Norton Air Force Base Building in Redlands, California just across the street from the Municipal Airport, Hangar 24 is certainly appropriately named. Further, they aren’t just messing around with their Local Fields series beers. When they tell you the pumpkins are locally sourced, they’re referring to the fact that they are grown within eyesight of the brewery. (The Local Fields series also features an array of fun and exotic local items such as wine grapes, dates, blood oranges, spruce, and bing cherries). But hey, we’re here to talk about pumpkin beer. So without further ado…

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Name: Gourdgeous (Local Fields Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Redlands, CA / Hangar 24 Craft Brewery

Beer style / ABV%:  Strong Pumpkin Porter / 8.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Gourdgeous uses 1,000 lbs of pumpkins grown at Larry Jacinto Farms just a half mile from the brewery,  hand collected, cut, and seeded by local volunteers, and then roasted in giant ovens compliments of local catering company Q-Works BBQ. It’s then turned into a rich strong porter where molasses and spices join the mix.

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Packaging:

A rustic old country style label promises of farm fresh craft beer brewed from pumpkins grown only a half-mile from the brewery.  I always appreciate a label that takes the time to inform the consumer – this is even more important in the crowded pumpkin beer field.  Take note brewers. – Tim

Nicely done label, simply descriptive and vintage looking.  Staying true to the brewery theme of aviation, you could easily swap the gourd on this label for an airplane flying over the locally grown pumpkin patch. – Brittney

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Color:  6

Put the scarlet letter on this hussy. Garnet and cola pervade this brew, barley touching on brown except in the shadows. Very nice clarity. – Mike

It’s nice and dark upon first glance, but when I really got in there to check it out, I found myself peering into a very soda like concoction. I like everything about this beer except when I hold it to the light I’m misled by the slight glow of molasses color that sways the illusion of root beer. The bone dry head, if not denser than a root beer, doesn’t help this misconception either. – Rick

M – 7 / T- 4 / B- 6.5 / R- 6

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Aroma: 8 

The nose is loaded with rich caramel and pumpkin spices that with the malt create an overall smooth sense, but brown sugar and molasses are also both very prevalent bringing sweetness to the forefront of your expectations. – Brittney

The base here is a nice porter up front. My nose is picking up decent amounts of sweet vanilla bean with a decadent mixture of dry dark chocolate for a fine finish. My initial reaction is great porter bouquet, but I’m missing the pumpkin element. – Rick

M – 8 / T- 9 / B- 7.5 / R- 7

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Mouth feel:  7.5

The body here would be deceiving here based on looks alone. It’s quite full, envelopes the tongue in a decadent wash, and has only the foggiest notion of it’s upward ABV. Quite a bit heavier than a brown, but still evading the boggy trappings of an imperial stout, style wise, I’ve got to call this flawless. Bravo. – Mike

Full end of medium bodied without being syrupy or carbonated enough to notice. The noted ingredients and character of this beer could have given a little more richness and room to shine on a heavier more still platform. – Brittney

M – 10 / T- 8.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

An unexpected burst of sweetness joins chocolate roast, creamy pumpkin, and a good bit of spice (but not overwhelmingly so). It’s like finishing a Cool Whip heaped slice of pie with a mug of hot cocoa, and it takes me back to my childhood. This could be a lovely dessert beer, or just straight up dessert, and, admirably, it leaves the mouth with just a smidge of lingering sugar and spice. Perfect piquant Harmony. – Mike

 I have to say that although it’s not traditional, I love it when a pumpkin beer can include dark chocolate notes well, and this one does.  Although it’s an overall sweet option with lots of rich molasses and brown sugar, it does have a decent (I wouldn’t say strong) presence of porter roast as well as a good notion of tasting actual pumpkin. – Brittney

Did someone say decadent? This is a top notch porter, delivering on every single promise the aroma has to offer, it’s thick and chewy which stands in direct contrast to the color of the ale. Masses of burnt caramel and molasses, roasted pumpkin and baking spices are mixed with earthy sage and rosemary notes.  It’s a full-on assault making this craft beer more of a meal than a beverage. – Tim

This is a perfect porter style with bold in your face flavoring. Sweet nutmeg, vanilla, dark chocolate and molasses all commingle well offering a grand base for the roasted caramel and molasses flavors to solidify the pumpkin porter. A very tasty brew indeed. – Rick

M – 9 / T- 9.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8.5

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Finish: 8.5

Long and sweet, boozy and chocolaty, I can tell the ABV in this beer is on the higher end of the scale, but even with that heady afterthought, nothing could keep me from a second glass. – Tim

This one starts off sweet, but the finish really holds it all together with that dry dark chocolate. It ends up being really smooth with just a slight burn from the 8.5% ABV almost masking it’s strength. – Rick

M – 9.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 9

The spicing here is masterful. Yes, it is quite spiced, but as easily as this could be a sugar bomb, it is firmly wrestled into submission, and resolves exquisitely. It’s rare to find the beer that doesn’t over do something, AND doesn’t shy away from being a spiced beer. This one hits it out of the park. – Mike

I tend to like my pumpkin pie in a bottle to favor the ale side a bit more, but this is a nearly perfect blend of roasted gourd and all the classic spices with a shot of booze to top it all off.  It’s more like bourbon pumpkin pie—if that were a real thing.  In fact, can we make that a real thing? – Tim

M – 9.5 / T- 10 / B- 8 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 8

Just a tad on the sweet syrupy side, but it’s well masked by the hops and dark chocolate finish. – Rick

The only dryness here comes a few minutes later on the finish due to the 8.5% ABV, otherwise this is decadence in all is abject glory. – Tim

M – 9 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

         Multiple Drinkability? 8

Between the sweetness, alcohol, and malt I would probably stick one or two; but I would enjoy them whole-heartedly. – Brittney

This is surprisingly approachable for a fuller bodied, boldly flavored beer. I’m left with neither regret, nor bellyache, and it eludes the mentality of some of the heavier “great taste, so damn filling you’ll never finish the bottle” ales floating around. Do you need more than one bottle provides? I’ll let you be the judge, but for me, it’s pretty darn tempting. Sadly, I only have one. – Mike

M – 7.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.83

M – 8.67 / T- 8.08 / B- 7.00 / R- 7.25

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Brewer Spotlight: Fal Allen – Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

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From a gorgeous landscape, to it’s clever native folk language (Boontling), Anderson Valley has a lot to offer. One of those more notable offerings is their craft beer. Founded in 1987 as a 10 barrel brew house, it has very successfully expanded to holding 100 and 85 gallon copper brew kettles with a green initiative that takes 40% of it’s energy directly from the solar panels on their roof.  Head brewer and Anderson Valley Brand Ambassador Fal Allen was kind enough to talk some shop with us, and he had more than a few interesting answers.

GPBR: What is Bahl Hornin’? Can you give us a little insight into the (antlered bear) logo?(For a further explanation of the language, check out the brewery’s video below).

FA:      Bahl Hornin’ means goods drinking and that’s what we do at Anderson Valley; make some good drinking beers. The Antlered bear (Bear + Deer = ……. Yeah, a Beer )

GPBR: Do you speak any Boontling? If so, what are some critical phrases every beer drinker should know?

 FA:     Yibe, a harp a wee slib of the ling (yes, I speak a little Boontling).

Bahl harpins for steinber horners ? well, firstly Boontling is a ling of a heelch of nonch harpins, so cardy grey matter on harpin, before harpin nonch or shattequaw to kimmies n appleheads, or eeldems – cause some feather leggy might get sommerset, or teepsed, and want ta cockin a fister.

So:

1) Yibe, dub horns here –  Yes, two beers here please (two beers because you should always buy one for your friend)

2) Eeee Tah, that’sa mightly bahl Steinber ! –  Damn, that mighty good beer !

3)I gotta kerk, Wheres the taipin nook ? (Ladies: Please, wheres the teebough nook)  – I have to make water, where’s the toilet (Ladies: Please where’s the ladies powder room)

4) Bahl Neech appleheads (or Kimmie), you all are deekin mightly bahl – Good evening ladies (or guys) you all are looking mighty good

5)    What? Nee stooks? Must be a wheeler, you’re bahlness n nee chuckish – wanna treek (I got some tigey tobes) – Oh, you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend? I find that hard to believe as smart and attractive as you are – would you like to go outside for a walk (I have some of Mendocino’s finest we could share)

6) And a course never horn n jape a moshe, (Never drink and drive)

GPBR: What inspired you to get your start in brewing?

FA: Drinking

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GPBR:  How do you come up with your beer concepts?

FA:   We try to design most of our beers as a group (I think you get better and more well rounded beers that way). We get together with any of our brewers that want to participate and we talk about different beers and then we kind of discuss out a beer and make a pilot batch. Once we try the pilot we might refine the flavors a bit more.

GPBR:   As I understand it, this is Anderson Valley’s first foray (with Fall Hornin’) into pumpkin ale territory. What made you guys decide to brew one up this year?

FA:      Well, this is not really our first foray. I made a pumpkin beer for the Elysian Great Pumpkin Beer Festival a few years back. But our decision to make Fall Hornin was twofold – first the popularity of pumpkin beers has grown in the last few years and people kept asking for one and secondly one of our brewers (Christian Toran) made a great homebrew batch of Pumpkin beer last year. Christian’s homebrew was so good we decided to try his recipe out on our pilot brewery (~8 bbls). We like it again and so we made a few very minor changes and went full production with it.

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GPBR: What are your thoughts on Pumpkin ale as a style? Do you have a favorite one? What sets Anderson Valley’s apart?

FA:      Pumpkin beers are a phenomenon – People love them – but really the pumpkin itself has very little flavor and what flavor it has is very delicate, easily overwhelmed – thus pumpkin mostly has a supporting role in flavor contribution. What people seem to like most is the pumpkin spices in the beer. So making a good Pumpkin beer is all about your spice mix and not letting the spices overpower the underlying beer and the delicate pumpkin flavor.

Elysian’s pumpkin beers inspired me to make a pumpkin beer and so I guess I would say that Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon is one of my favorites. They do a great job of intertwining the dark malts with the mild cinnamon spice and the pumpkin flavors. It is really a great beer.

What sets Anderson Valley’s Fall Hornin’ apart ? I think that we have blended the brown ale’s malt flavors nicely with a mild pumpkin pie spices and the delicate pumpkin flavor, and it is a little lower in alcohol than most Pumpkin beer. It is a very sessionable easy drinking beer.

GPBR: Now that there is a fall seasonal in the line, is there any chance of a sweet equinox themed Untappd badge?

 FA:     We are working on it so I would say yes, look for a spring seasonal from us next year (fingers crossed)

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GPBR: What do you feel makes Anderson Valley special versus other craft beers on the market?

FA:      Well, I think that all craft breweries are special in their own way, and that is one of the things that makes our industry such a great one. Anderson Valley brewery is unique in its special location. The Anderson Valley is a special place, there is nowhere else like it that I have ever been. I think that unique and special nature of our valley comes through in our beer.

GPBR: What has been your most satisfying moment as a brewer thus far?

FA:      The most satisfying moments as a brewer are those times when I am sitting anonymously in some pub (or at our pub) and I overhear someone saying that they really enjoy drinking our beers. I really like that. Making something that people enjoy, something that enhances their day – that for me is a very satisfying feeling.

GPBR: Are there any brewing trends currently going on that you like or dislike? Anything you’ve been aching to try out?

FA:      Like: Lower alcohol “session” beers with flavor  – I love those. And when I say session beer I mean below 5% ABV. Those are my favorite kind of beers right now. We have made a string of them over the last couple of years (I think about 10 of them, all draft only). And all of them have been delicious (IMHO). I like that I can drink 3 or 4 of them in place of the 2 or 3 that I can have of the 8 or 9% (or 11%) beers you find in some places. Big alcohol beers have their place, no doubt, but I am really enjoying drinking a bit lighter craft beer that still has great flavor. We are see a lot more of these lighter alcohol beers out there now so I do not think that I am the only one enjoying them.

Dislike: There’s not much I dislike when it comes to beer

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GPBR: Do you have a dream brew that might be a little too out there for the current market?

 FA:         At this time there is NOTHING that is too far out there (I once had a beer with goat placenta juice in it – Thank you, Larry –  So how much further out there can we get?)

As to what I might like to try – I am a big fan of using local and unusual spices. Of blending them into the beers, intermingled with the malt and hops flavors. I don’t want for these spices to overpower the underlying beer, but I want them to enhance the beer and give it a unique characteristic, especially if it is a characteristic unique to that local. There are hundreds of spices out there, most of them that we are not familiar with (in Asia, in South America, in Africa or NZ or India)  – all of them just waiting to get tried out is a delicious beer someday.  I am pretty excited so see those spices integrated craft brewing – creating locally flavored beers.

GPBR: What are the up / downsides of being a brand ambassador?

 FA:     Upside: travel,  excitement and meeting great new people. Downside: Lack of sleep, missing the relaxation of being at home, and smiling all the time.

GPBR: Any advice for the home brewers in our audience?

FA: You (well, your brewing) can never be too clean; keep it clean and use good quality fresh yeast, most of the rest of it is just the trimmings

Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale – Anderson Valley Brewing Company

fall hornin

Thar’ she blows. It’s our first review of 2013 and a little added bonus. Our first Brewer Spotlight interview! At a few points along the season we will be chatting with the fine folks that make the pumpkin ales that we all love to drink, and the first to oblige us is Anderson Valley’s very own brew master, Fal Allen. So read the review, and click on through to the interview when you’re done to learn how to pick up chicks in Boontling!

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Name:  Fall Hornin’

Place of Origin / Brewer: Boonville, CA / Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 6.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale has inviting aromas of caramelized malt and baking bread with highlights of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and seasonal spices. Malts: Pale Two-Row, Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal 120L, Dark Chocolate, Pumpkin Puree Hops: Bravo

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Packaging:

The can art is readily noticeable as an Anderson Valley beer. From the simple text, to the bold colors, and the fabled antlered bear, it is very recognizable. Notable additions to this brew being the orange background with a green top, and a small colony of bats flying around the beer. – Rick

            Anderson Valley continues their tradition of distinct, if tongue in cheek, branding. Their trademark 10 point Beer (see our Brewer Spotlight with Fal Allen) looks a bit friendlier on the bottle than the cans, and the usually verdant green gulch is shadowed under an ominous orange twilight complete with a colony of bats ascending into the night. – Mike

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Color:  8

Not entirely opaque yet definitively dark with a nice tight cream head that lasts. Drink it down and get a beautiful layer of lacing that sticks around. – Brittney

Right away I’m greeted with a highly appealing, very dark amber colored, and seemingly dense concoction. Well, it’s a burnt caramel tinted amber, but appealing none the less. The pillowy foam head also hides beneath it a very clean looking, semi transparent beer that is just dying for me to jump right into. – Rick

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

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Aroma:  8

A dizzying display of rich caramelized pumpkin and sugar on the noise with allspice, cinnamon and bready yeast notes. – Tim

A Strong backbone of caramel and dark malt as well as very earthy pumpkin flesh. Nutmeg and allspice stand forward, with just a hint of smoky pie crust and butter. – Mike

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

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Mouth feel:  6.5

The mouth-feel follows closely to what we see in presentation of color and appearance when poured.  It’s seemingly heavy and thick for a second but essentially medium to light bodied and crisp with just a touch of carbonation. – Brittney

This is interesting because the look and aroma suggest a full bodied intense beer, and what we have is actually delicate on the tongue.  It’s really smooth because of this, and seems to be dominant on the front of the palate despite having a bitter finish. – Rick

M- 7 / T-5 / B- 7 / R- 65

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Tasting notes:  7

Leaning to the bitter side of center, this pumpkin ale really puts it’s weight into the malt. The spicing plays off of this nicely, complimenting with a zesty and pungent zing rather than a cinnamon sweetness.  It reminds me of a crisp fall evening stroll in the mountains taking in the musty leaves and earth, cool air, and smoking chimneys. – Mike

The immediate flavors of roasted pumpkin are twisted a bit by a burnt sugar bitterness that masks a great deal of the nutmeg and cinnamon that is trying desperately to escape the body.  Even with the pronounced bitters, the primary issue with the ale is that the intrinsic flavors one would demand from a traditional pumpkin ale are not bold enough to compensate and thusly they get lost a bit. – Tim

Mostly a case where ‘what you smell is what you get’.  A solid ale with a touch of pumpkin, more cinnamon and spices.  Not as much caramel in the flavor but definitely a good bit of malt. – Brittney

My initial tasting is very good and intense, but I was worried my palate might get too fatigued by the spicing. In the end it balanced out and I looked forward to each new sip. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 5 / B- 8 / R- 7

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Finish:  6.5

This finishes almost like a porter. Bitter but clean, with a powerful spice that dramatically fades on the swallow. The pumpkin shows here to me best, reminiscent more of a squashy side dish than a dessert. This would pair well with poultry and starches. – Mike

The bitterness carries over to the finish, leaving the ale a little stronger on the palate than the ABV would lead you to believe.  Not much pumpkin on the finish, actually its profile tends to lean a little more on the grains and nuts end of the spectrum  – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 5 / B- 7.5 / R- 6.5

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Flavor balance:  6.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

Pumpkin is great on the nose but takes a back seat to some heavy spicing here. Likewise, the cinnamon seems to dry out the finish nicely if not a tad too much. – Rick

The nose would leave you thinking this ale was gonna be a magical combination of balance, but the reality of the body is far less conclusive, with everything getting a little to lost in the mix. – Tim

M- 6.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 5.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 6.5

Nicely in check, the combination of the dark malt and bravo hop’s floral bittering hold this beer in that transition between crisp summer ale and heavy winter beer. It’s a great representation of the harvest transition, and really, isn’t that what a seasonal beer is all about? – Mike

Balanced pretty well, it seems to finish smooth with a nice dryness, and some bittering often reserved for pale ale styles. A tiny bit cloying but not enough to be off-putting. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 5 / B- 6 / R- 6

         Multiple Drinkability?  7

This one may be a ‘what you smell is what you get’ in taste, it is not ‘what you see is what you get’. Normally with something that presents itself pretty heavy I would say one would do but this one surprisingly convinces that a couple could be an option. – Brittney

It’s a non-offensive ale, with far more highlights in the nose than in the actual ale itself.  At 6% ABV is not going to bother you to session this bad boy.  But, for me, I’d pass on picking up another round. – Tim

Being one of my favorite brewers, Anderson Valley seems to nail it every time with outstanding beers, and this is no exception. Fall Hornin’ is the adult version of pumpkin ales and proves once again that you don’t need a big fancy bottle to deliver a great tasting beer. – Rick

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

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Overall:  7.08

M- 7.33 / T- 5.92 / B- 7.42 / R- 7.33

Anderson Valley 1

Quick Hits – Duclaw 31, The Big Bam Boo, Autumn Maple, & Grateful Pumpkin

Ok, like you probably did as well, we stayed up way too late last night. Combine that with the perhaps-not-fully-realized-to-our-fans difficulty of getting all our reviewers to the same place, with the right beers, before they run out, etc,  so we decided to do an interesting offbeat post today. Our blog has seen marriages, moves, reviewers come and go, and the everyday challenges of work, kids, and functioning. It’s hard to review a beer when you’re so sick you can’t taste it, and the bottom line is we just can’t always make it to the source in time, or occasionally receive a brew that’s not quite actually “pumpkin”. So for what it’ worth, here are some notable quick hit reviews of the honorable mentions of autumn that don’t quite fit the bill, or won’t be around again to cover next year.

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Name:  Duclaw 31

Place of Origin / Brewer: Maryland, USA / Duclaw Brewing

Beer style / ABV%:  Spiced Munich Dunkel / 5.7%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Munich, Cara Aroma, and wheat malts join with Golding hops, cinnamon, and nutmeg to make a refreshing medium bodied fest-style brew with a bit of the classic pumpkin ale zesty pie finish. It’s a great, easy drinking compromise for the German-American party conflict that inevitably goes full steam in the drinker’s world around October 31st of each year.

You can’t win ‘em all. Special props go to our provider’s who shipped his package to us twice, only to have all but 2 scant bottles broken in the mail. Even more so, since last years batch was, in fact, a pumpkin ale. We were just unaware of the tradition of changing the recipe. Our bad. Check them out anyway, we know you need a break from pumpkin beer by now, but can’t escape the sweet, sweet allure of nutmeg… right?

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Name:  The Big Bam Boo

Place of Origin / Brewer: Florida, USA / Dunedin Brewery

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Pale Ale / 6.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  An aroma of sweet honey, biscuit malt, and vegetal goodness pour off this glass, and pronounced Centennial, Delta, and Nelson Sauvin hops round out this distinctive pale ale. Easy to drink, and complex enough to impress. Add that ours was rested on Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (which imparted an amazing nutty finish), and you’ve got the trappings of an awesome pumpkin brew from Florida’s oldest brewery. No spice needed.

Our problem? Crossed wires. A friend was nice enough to go in search of a growler for us, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we got delayed in meeting up, the beer was not going to last long, and we wouldn’t be able to meet before it’s shelf life ran out. Also, I might have totally not realized that this was supposed to be a pumpkin ale from the name, and drank it thinking we got a consolation prize. That’s why text messages are a bad form of communication. Oops.

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Name:  Autumn Maple

Place of Origin / Brewer: California, USA / The Bruery

Beer style / ABV%:  Belgian Brown Ale / 10%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  I’m sure by now we’re all well acquainted with the fantastic and unique beverages produced by The Bruery. We’ve covered their collaboration pumpkin  La Citrueille Celeste de Citricado, and we’ve personally consumed more than a few of their offerings. Sometimes though, being unique means getting singles out, and in fact, it’s stated right on the label. Autumn Maple offers a twist on the traditional spiced pumpkin ale, but subs in 17 lbs of yams per cask, along with all the classic spices, molasses, maple syrup, and a Belgian yeast strain. It’s bold, spicy, and makes a great meal finisher (I had mine with an early mock Thanksgiving dinner, and it was a damn near perfect match). This is the great southern sweet potato casserole of beers, and it would have undoubtedly rated highly on our review scale. Our problem? No pumpkin. Simple as that.
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Name:  Grateful Pumpkin Ale (Violator Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Florida, USA / Orlando Brewing

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 5.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  The first of Orlando Brewing’s Violator Series ( all other beers they produce are in accord with the German purity law of 1516), this certified 100% organic ale was flavored with heaps of roast pumpkin, ginger, and nutmeg. Dark molasses notes, intermingled with smoke and roasted pumpkin seed notes, leaning this experiment to a dry, dominantly spicy profile, that would appeal to those who enjoy a parching intensely flavored ale, but might lean a little too intensive for those seeking a more approachable classic ale. Our problem? We just simply couldn’t all get there in time to review it, and didn’t feel it was fair to weigh in on a rating without a balanced call from our crew. Hopefully next year we’ll get a better picture, or at least a new ale to try.

Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider – California Cider Company

We’re almost there folks, just one short review away from the end of the season for us, and we’re pleased to find a diamond in the rough for our final approach. We’ve seen a few pumpkin ciders along our way so far, and not much good has come of it. Sonoma County’s own Ace seems to tip the glass in our favor though, opting for a more traditional spiced offering that just might beat the odds.

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Name:  Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider

Place of Origin / Brewer: California, USA / California Cider Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Cider / 5.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Ace is a fall seasonal cider made from fermented apples, pumpkin and allspice, ideal for harvest time holidays. It’s also Gluten free, which is a nice alternative if you can’t rock the grains.

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Packaging:

There is something to be said for simplicity and starkness–and Ace is saying loud and clear with this black label featuring an ‘Ace of Pumpkins’.  Simple and direct.  The neck also features some pertinent facts about the cider maker’s process–which is a nice addition and something we don’t often see in Hard Ciders. – Tim

Ace sports a clever and to the point pun based logo, with the high card on the front on a black field (in this case, the ace of pumpkins). Reflecting the squash in the neck as well, there’s no mistaking this one as a seasonal brew, and it’s straight to it attitude leaves enough room for a first in my book: nutritional information. It’s gluten free, and it’s reminding you that at 175 calories a pop, you’re gonna get fat after a few. Thanks? – Mike

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Color:  5.5

It pours a pale golden color like a bold lager, while maintaining a translucent body.  There is no head, which was expected, but it did have some lacing. – Rick

Crystal clear and bubbly.  It’s a very light straw to gold color that resembles…you guessed it… sparkling apple juice.  Also, it’s a cider so I didn’t really expect a head or very heavy lacing but when poured aggressively there was a small white head with a solid ring of lacing. – Brittney

Honey crisp gold, and clear as,well, apple juice, this cider is true to its style: clean and appealing. The Slight lean to the orange side of golden gives you a hint of pumpkin, if only in artifice, and the head pops down to a smoggy float across the top, and our favored white ring. – Mike

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

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Aroma:  7

The sweetness of apples greets with hay notes, pumpkin and allspice all follow thereafter. – Tim

Right away, I’m hit in the face with many aromas.  The fruity aspects flourish at first with pumpkin being bolder than the apple base.  There are sugary notes as well, and all together give off a sweet banana-like scent that I can’t wait to taste. – Rick

The aroma of apple from the cider is what hits my nose first.  The curious thing is that it’s not as overly sweet as most ciders smell.  You definitely find how the pumpkin sort of mellows out that characteristic and then get only a touch of the spice buried deep within. – Brittney

M- 7 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Mouth feel:  7

At first, it seems tart and becomes sweetly smooth with a bit of carbonation.  It feels syrupy and somewhat honey-like, but thin and watery coating my mouth well. – Rick

Very crisp and very active.  It’s refreshingly clean up front with only a hint of the syrupiness that could very easily take over with this style of brew.  – Brittney

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

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Tasting notes:  7

Allspice and cinnamon kick to the front on this cooler take on the chilly seasonsal favorite. The sweetness of the apple juice and slight tingle of the alcohol separate nicely to offset the sour pumpkin presence that lingers on a bit with the spice, making this the more defined of our cider offerings so far. – Mike

This is a sweet cider, with the spice coming on much stronger on the palate, and noticeable cinnamon in the body.   But the spice feels out of place and presents itself in a more cloying manner giving this drink a bit too much artificiality.  Sadly, we’re stepping into ‘Yankee Candle territory’ on this one. – Tim

As I noticed in the aroma, the pumpkin really mellows out the possibility of any overtly sweet notes.  The allspice is very bright and seems to play a supporting role at the beginning and finish that really shines through as it warms.  – Brittney

It’s exactly what I expected a pumpkin cider to taste like.  The pumpkin flavor fits outstandingly well with it’s apple foundation, while the cinnamon and allspice sweeten it just enough before making it too spicy. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 7 / R- 8

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Finish:  7

The apple is the first to fade and the spicy dryness is a nice and bold aspect to this finish which makes me prize it. Accommodating it’s departure is the sour pumpkin, and you really get a fermentation feel here, reminiscent of the finish of a honey mead, but lacking the punishing sweetness. – Mike

The finish is nice, clean and crisp.  I was expecting that usual filmy mouth, hangover before you’ve even finished cider and got something completely different. – Brittney

A medium finish that lends itself to the sweet side which will work if you prefer your hard ciders sweet, but I tend to fall of the crisp/dry ‘white wine’ side of cider drinkers.  I’m looking for snap in the step that Ace is offering. – Tim

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

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Flavor balance:  7

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

The cinnamon and allspice could overdo it here, but they are restrained to being sweet accents to a great pumpkin flavor.  Also of note, the pumpkin really shines with the help of the apple cider backbone. – Rick

This one is an entire experience, through the first half of the glass I would say that the pumpkin had a little more shine, as I got to the second half and it had warmed a bit the allspice really came out nicely. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s sweet in the front and finishes on a dry and sour spiced note, which keeps it evenly in check. Some might find it pushing a bit to the sweet side, but chances are, those people just don’t like cider in general. – Mike

The crisp dryness holds back the sweet from becoming overwhelming.  I think without this aspect keeping it in check this cider could be so sweet it would detract from the great flavors. – Rick

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

–         Multiple Drinkability?

In a climate like ours here in Florida, this has all the appeal of the cool and crisp autumn and hot ciders that I used to have as a kid during getaways further north, with the added appeal of reducing the chances that I’m sweating out my shirt at the bar. Throw in a moderate abv and a solid tasty appeal, and I could punish six of these, no problem. – Mike

On a hot day, I could drink more than my fair share of these in place of soda and with the 5% ABV I’d probably not be any worse for wear, but if drinkers are looking for a ‘pumpkin cider’ an unbeatable hand, might want to deal again.  It’s good but it’s good in a ‘two pair’ kinda way.  You’ll probably beat most of the other hands, but it’s hardly a cinch. – Tim

This cider is probably the best cider I’ve had. I really enjoyed it for a fall pumpkin brew.  I could see this becoming too sweet after quite a few, but it’s a small price to pay. – Rick

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

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Overall:  6.75

M- 6.58 / T- 6.58 / B- 6.83 / R- 7.08