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Beer Review #140 Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale

I have yet another beer to share from Wolaver’s Organic Brewing, errr, Otter Creek Brewing. This one comes in the form of pumpkin ale, since it is now pumpkin beer season. I always go through a love/hate relationship with pumpkin beers around this time of year. I think part of the reason for this is that, frankly, there are not a lot of great pumpkin ales on the market. A lot of them are just normal ales with pumpkin pie spice added, that or the balance that needs to exist in this style of beer just doesn’t happen. I think it is a rare thing to find an outstanding pumpkin ale, but very easy to find one that is alright.

With my rant (was that really a rant?) complete, let’s see how Otter Creek Brewing of Middlebury, Vermont handles their pumpkin ale. They brew this beer with pumpkins from Vermont. The beer pours a nice orange color with a white head and a crystal clear body. The nose smells like a pumpkin ale. I got clove, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon on the spice end with some actual pumpkin meat in there as well. I’m always a fan of a pumpkin ale when it is more than just spices.

The taste is lacking in any malt character. The pumpkin pie spices are there, but they are not overpowering. I didn’t get any of the pumpkin meat either. I found the taste pretty underwhelming compared to the nose. This is a pretty decent pumpkin ale, but again, nothing really stands out. It does what it says but doesn’t have the wow factor that I had hoped for. It’s good if you are looking for a straightforward pumpkin beer but for me, it didn’t do anything to separate itself from the crowded shelves of other pumpkin ales. (more…)

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…)

Beer Review #76 Imperial Pumpkin Ale

This week will feature another series of backlogged post, pumpkin beers. I was at the beer store this weekend and I was surprise at how many pumpkin beers were still around, so some of these beers might still be out there for the season. Our first beer comes from Easton, PA out of the Weyerbacher Brewing Company. Their Imperial Pumpkin Ale has gained a bit of a following. I love the label art, crying pumpkins in the background made me giggle a little.

Weyerbacher’s brew pours a burnt amber color. It is perfectly clear and has a thin, off-white head. The nose is slightly caramely, with lots of pumpkin meat. The pumpkin spices are in there as well. The label says that cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, and cloves are all present in the beer. I have no idea what cardamon is, but I know what to expect from the other beers. For a beer that comes in at 8% ABV, I didn’t get any heat. I believe that the spices help hid the odor. On my first taste, I noticed how much this beer comes in stages. The front is malty, the middle carries some pumpkin flavor, and the end is spicy. There is a bit of heat in there as well.

This is a thick beer. Generally a 8% beer is going to be a little thick, but not the way this is. This beer almost has a syrupy quality to it. It is pretty drinkable though. Most 8% beers I can’t drink a ton of, but this is enjoyable enough to have a few. While there is some heat in there, it isn’t overwhelming like some “imperial” ales seem to be. (more…)

Beer Review #69 Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

I recently was in the beer store (OK so I go every week) but I saw Sam Adam’s fall seasonal beer pack. I love variety cases and I saw a new beer in there that I have never had before; Harvest Pumpkin Ale. I had no idea that Sam, a.k.a. Boston Beer Company produced a pumpkin beer. I know pumpkin beers are hot right now, but Sam making one kind of shows how far they have come in such a short time.

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours an amber color with a slightly off white head. It is crystal clear if that matters to you. The nose is slightly sweet with some grassy malt in there. The typical pumpkin pie spices can also be sampled. What I really found interesting about the nose was that there were some roasty notes. Generally pumpkin beers get dominated by a sweet malt and spice smell. It was a nice change to have some roasted malt in there. It reminded me of the smell of the pumpkin that I roasted last year.

You almost should know what to expect with an amber/orange pumpkin beer and Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale delivers on those promises. You have the malty upfront with the spicy finish. A wonderful aftertaste is quick to follow. The roast in the nose also followed through the beer and into the aftertaste. It was a nice addition to the normal flavors and helped balance out the spices.

I think this is a pretty solid pumpkin beer. The spices are not heavy handed like some pumpkin beers out there so I think this beer is much more approachable than other. Sam Adams is great at taking a style of beer and making it appealing to a mass market. This beer comes in at a solid 5.7% ABV and they use real pumpkins in the brewing process. The pumpkin is used in the mashing process and the spices are actually added in the keg or just before the bottling line depending on your serving type. It is a nice fresh tasting beer that I think is a real winner. There are more aggressive pumpkin beers out there and some with a lot more flavor, but Harvest Pumpkin Ale does a good job of balancing delicate flavors. (more…)

My homebrew, a year in review

I didn’t do as much homebrewing as I would of liked to do this year. In total I did40 gallons worth of homebrew. That’s eight five gallon batches. Below is a list of the beers that I brewed up this year.

  • Imperial Porter
  • SB Birthday Beer (Amber wheat)
  • Irish Red
  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Pumpkin Ale
  • Winter Warmer
  • Amber IPA

Some of those beers turned out better than others. I have to say that my darker beers are my better ones. That is probably I enjoy roasty flavors and it is easier to hide other flavors with them. My Irish Red and SB Birthday beer did not come out very well at all. The Irish Red was a victim of improper hopping. I switched the hops and the bittering component came out way to strong and dry. The SB Birthday beer was the victim of sitting in a fermenter for too long and also was in the sun for a bit of it. They were both drinkable, but not up to a decent standard.

My Belgian beer experiments went pretty good. The Dubbel needed a few more darker malts and I would change the yeast in it to something that would give off a bit more plum and dry fruit esters. Overall it tasted  fine, it just needed to be a bit richer tasting. The Tripel was darn good. The malts and the yeast worked perfectly. It was well balanced and a good representation of a Tripel. There were a few too many hot alcohols in it which was caused by a higher than wanted fermentation temperature.

The Pumpkin Ale was a complete disaster. The stuck sparge  left a ton of extra sugars and I didn’t think it out with extra water. With a lower than normal wort level and a high sugar level the beer ended up being 15% and too highly spiced. I can see it being a really good beer, it just needed to be brewed correctly. It is still drinkable, but edges on not being so.

My Winter Warmer is still bottle conditioning but it tastes wonderful. It is a bit more bitter than I wanted and next time I would take out some more Black Patent malt, as it gives off a ton of flavor. I called the beer a Winter Warmer, but in reality it is a stout. I left the option open to put spices in it, but I did not want to since the beer before it, the pumpkin ale, had more spice than I knew what to do it. All you need to do to make it a true Winter Warmer is add in a few spices and bam, you have it.

The Amber IPA is getting bottled this week, so we will see how that turns out. My real all star for this brew year was the Imperial Porter. It came in a 8% and had everything you could want in a porter. It was well balanced and you could not even detect an alcohol on the beer. I really like it, I wish I had more.

This next brew year I’m not sure what I want to make. I think next on my list is a simple American Amber. After that I have not idea. I am still looking into the colonial beer, but that is a ways off. We will see what this year brings, but I am excited as I am really honing in on my efficiency and turning out beer very close to what I want them to taste like.