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Beer Review #77 Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale

How can you not grab a beer named Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale? Perhaps that was the same thought that River Horse Brewing Company out of Lambertville, NJ had as well. To make it better, they made a hippopotamus out of pumpkins for the logo. I love it, creativity at its best. I’ve enjoyed a fair number of other River Horse beers with my favorite being their Tripel Horse.

This pumpkin ale pours a cloudy amber color with a thin, off-white head. I should mention that this beer is part of their brewers reserve and is batch 006 to be exact. On the nose I found a lot of pumpkin pie notes. There was a bit of brown sugar and heat in there as well. For a beer that comes in at 9% ABV, the heat wasn’t overwhelming. Again, I think it gets broken up by the spices a bit. The label says that it is “brewed with pumpkin puree and spices.”

On the first taste of Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale I noticed the heat, and a lot of it. The malt isn’t very prevalent and the spices are there in force.  Think of a normal pumpkin beer and double the spices and you get this beer. They are really out of balance with the rest of the beer. It does have a surprisingly nice aftertaste. This beer is also thick, chewy even.

I found this beer wanting to be really good, but it isn’t there yet. It isn’t balanced enough and the spices and heat come out a bit too much for my liking. I am wondering if I would of waited a few months for the heat to dissipate and the spices to lose their strength if this would of been better. I think the brewers are onto a good recipe, it just needs some tweaking. Maybe lowering the ABV down a bit and thinning the mash out would help, along with backing off of the spices. It has some good reviews on the major beer review sites but it wasn’t for me. Maybe you would like it better. (more…)

Winter Warmer Recipe

11-20-01In my last homebrew post I talked about doing a Colonial American style beer. Well I am still working on that, but I have a lot more reading to do so that I can make it accurately. In the meantime, I thought that I would embrace the coming season change and got with a winter warmer. I’ve always been a fan of winter seasonal beers, but I have never made one of my own. My wife has also been asking me to make something dark and malty. A winter warmer fits perfectly into that style.

Let me begin with the fact that I have only had a handful of beers classified as “winter warmer” before in my life. I think my favorite belongs to Lancaster Brewing Company, which I enjoyed plenty of last year back in PA. The things I like about it are the facts that it has a huge body, a lot of different flavor notes (some fruit, chocolate, brown sugar, molasses, and caramel), and it all comes in being very well balanced. Furthermore, for an 8.9% abv beer there isn’t much, if any, alcohol noticeable and there is not a lot of hop bite on the back. The malt and complexity in it are what shine in this beer.

So I began doing some research trying to find a starting point with this beer. And after all was said and done, I came up with a recipe that I think is unique and should deliver a great amount of complexity.

  • 8.0 lbs American 2-Row
  • 2.0 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 1.0 lbs Caramel Malt 90L
  • 1.0 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Rye Malt
  • 0.5 lbs American Black Patent
  • 1.0 lbs Molasses
  • 1 oz Fuggle hops (3.6% AA for 60 mins)
  • 1 oz Fuggle hops (3.6% AA for 15 mins)
  • Nottingham Dry Ale yeast, with starter

I’m planning on mashing this at about 150 degrees for an hour. Doing so should give a nice balance between malt character and easy fermenting sugar. The 1 lb of molasses will be added into the kettle during the first runnings. I put a lot of dark malts into this beer becasue I want something with some coffee, molasses, and chocolate notes.

The chocolate wheat and rye were a last minute decision and the original recipe had one pound of wheat malt. I’ve never used chocolate wheat/rye malt and this is my first experience with rye malt overall, so I’m not entirely sure what impacts they will have. From my  understanding, rye malt tends to dry a beer out and give a crisper feel to it. Even at that, it makes up about 4% of then total grain bill, so it should not have a large effect weather it be positive or negative.

I also went with a dry ale yeast here for a few reasons. First, I used it on the pumpkin ale with good results. Second, the dry ale yeast is easy to make a starter with and with the fluctuation in temperatures here in Texas during this time of year (40 degrees between day and night) I didn’t want any active yeast to suffer. Third is that the optimal temperature range for this yeast is 57-70 degrees which falls perfectly into my apartment’s temperatures. Fourth, it is highly flocculant (precipitating) and highly attenuating. And lastly, it has a lost ester profile, so the malt should be able to shine through even more when it is not competing with the hops or yeast esters.

The final stats on the beer look like this:

  • OG 1.075
  • 39 SRM
  • 7.5% ABV
  • 20.0 IBUs

I plan of fermenting for a week (or until fermention is complete) and than putting it into a secondary for 2-3 weeks. After that I will bottle it and leave it condition for another 2-3 weeks (hopefully there will be no carbonation problems this time around). Then I can finally enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Beer Review #32 Punkin Ale

11-05-02As I said before, seasonal beers in Lubbock are extremely hard to come by, but Dogfish Head did not disappoint as there is plenty of Punkin Ale to go around. Punkin Ale has become one of my favorite seasonal beers that I really never tire of. As normal for Dogfish the label explains exactly what you should expect from the beer. Punkin Ale’s label reads, “[a] full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.”

Those spices are pretty common in pumpkin beers but the use of real pumpkin is somewhat unusual as is the use of brown sugar. The beer pours a golden amber, almost orange with a nice off-white head. The head is composed of a mix of tiny bubbles and medium bubbles. Punkin Ale is also crystal clear.

The nose of the beer is mostly spice with some pumpkin undertones. The nutmeg and cinnamon really stand out. There is some malt toastyness and no hint of hops at all. This is one of the only pumpkin beers I’ve ever had that actually has some actual pumpkin smell on the nose. After taking my first sip I was amazed at how well balanced the beer was.

11-05-05

11-05-04There is real pumpkin flavor, some spices, and malt. The spices probably stand out the most, but all of the flavors mesh so well together. Refreshing is a word that comes to mind because nothing pushes out another. Most seasonal beers seem to have one ingredient or flavor that overtakes the beer. Not so with Punkin Ale.

There is a medium body to the beer and it has good carbonation to it. Overall it is very drinkable and enjoyable. This is by far the best pumpkin based beer that I have had to date. Punkin Ale comes in at 7% ABV which is pretty much on par with most of Dogfish Head’s other offerings. If you like pumpkin beers this is the granddaddy of them all (in my book anyway). Just a wonderfully balanced, drinkable beer that captures pumpkin flavor. (more…)

09-13-01

Pumpkin Ale

09-13-01It is getting around that time of year to start thinking about Pumpkin Ales. There are a ton commercially out there nowadays but a homebrewer is never satisfied. Last year I made a Pilgrim Porter that had four pounds of pumpkin put into the boil kettle. It was an extract batch with some specialty grains in there, but it was wonderful. To date it is my wife’s favorite beer that I have made. This year I think I’m going to take a different approach.

In the Pilgrim Porter I was more looking for a Thanksgiving beer that was rich in flavor and had some hints of pumpkin pie in there. This year I want to make a stronger beer that has more pumpkin flavor, nice mouthfeel, and most importantly a great aftertaste. Something along the lines of Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, which happens to be my favorite pumpkin style beer. DFH had the following video on their site about their Pinkin Ale.

YouTube Preview Image

Well what do I take away from this? First are the three ways they add flavor and sugar to this beer; pumpkin meat in the mash, brown sugar in the boil, and spices at the end of the boil. I had already planned on doing the same thing but it is nice to know I was on the right track. The second thing is the color, it is orange and looks like a pumpkin. Something to shoot for. Lastly is that they didn’t want it to be too much like pumpkin pie or spice, but has to have pumpkin flavor.

I’m still working on a recipe, and seeing that pumpkins are not going to be in the stores for a little longer it gives me time to plan out my beer. I’m not sure if I want to add brown sugar or not or something more along the lines of a honey or even no adjuncts at all. I know that I do not want to used canned pumpkin but fresh. I think my spice rack has everything I need in it already but I do need to get some fresh cinnamon. I will get a recipe up here as soon I complete it and I will keep you updated on the progress once it starts.

Hard Cider experiment

09-05-15-02Back in October I was really getting going with homebrewing. I was making a new batch a week. Something sparked my interest and I wanted to try and do a hard cider. It didn’t sound too hard, there was no boiling, just combining ingredents and waiting for awhile. I read around and found a few ideas on what to use and the kinds of cider to look for.

When you are making a cider the most important thing to do, if you are buying your cider, is to make sure that it has no preseratives. If it does, it is not going to ferment and in a few months you will have spoiled cider. Some people go through the trouble of mashing their own apples, collecting the jucies and all of that. For a first try, and possibly only try, I was not going to attempt that. I went with the following recipe:

  • 5 gallons apple cider from local orchard
  • 2 lbs honey
  • 2.5 lbs brown sugar
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • Champagne yeast (homebrew store was out of cider yeast and I had read champagne yeast would be fine)

09-05-15-01I went with the sugars to add a little flavor and alochol. The powdered sugar wasn’t something I was going to the store to get, but it was a buck for two pounds, so I figured why not? I got home and put two gallons in my boil pot. I wanted to raise the temp to around 120 degrees so that the sugars would disolve more easily into the soultion. The remain liquid I put into a sanitized bucket. Once disolved, I combined everything and let it sit for a day as was recomended by some research.

A day later I added the yeast and waited for things to happen. Another day passed and fermenation had clearly begun. The smell of rotten eggs is apparently pretty common, and I got to expericene the smell for myself. It was very strong and stayed for about two weeks. My original plan was to have this ready for Thanksgiving (heck I gave myself two months), but I quickly learned this stuff takes forever. After two and a half months it was ready for transfer to a secondary. It sat there until the end of April when I finally bottled it. It had fully cleared as you can tell by the pictures and it smelled pretty wonderful.

09-05-15-03I might of made a mistake when bottling, I put it into 22 oz bottles. I never got a good gravity reading on this with my hydrometer but I’m guessing it is in the 12-15% range, if not a little higher. I did not carbonate the bottles for fear of putting the wrong amount of sugar in there and the yeast has been dormant for a few months. I believe there are still some unfermented sugars anyway becasue it tastes a bit sweet and the cold weather came early this year, mean my closet with the access to the crawl space was pretty chilly. I’m waiting a little longer before I try a bottle for myself but I enjoyed what I tasted when I was bottling. I don’t know how good it is compared to other ciders but I enjoyed it and I think I would try it again given the chance.