Skip to main content

Beer Review #246 Boxcar Pumpkin Porter

I have yet another new brewery to add to my tasting lineup today in the Starr Hill Brewery. They are located in Crozet, Va and I have wanted to try their beers since the Washington D.C. season of Top Chef. I figure if some World class chefs enjoy the beer (even though it was product placement based) that it must be pretty good. I haven’t seen their products in my neck of the woods until recently and I grabbed a few of their beers.

Boxcar Pumpkin Porter pours a nice dark brown and has an off-white head. I always enjoy seeing a porter that isn’t black, but rather dark brown. In my eyes a porter should be a lighter version of a stout. The two cross in many areas, but you never see a dark brown stout and you can have a dark brown porter. The nose is very porteresk with chocolate and some smoky elements reaching out of the bubbles. I didn’t get any pumpkin or pumpkin spices on the nose.

The taste follows the nose at a “T.” There is a good chocolate malt flavor that runs through the beer and finishes a bit smokey. There wasn’t a hoppy finish but just enough to dry it out a bit. Again, I didn’t get any pumpkin flavor or spices. I don’t know if I just got an old bottle or if the other flavors masked anything that was there.

This was a pretty solid porter but I wouldn’t call it a pumpkin porter. It didn’t have any pumpkin beer qualities. If you would have given me this bottle without a label I would have told you that the beer was a porter. No more, no less. (more…)

Beer Review #245 Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Not your typical beer review for today. No I don’t have a super rare beer that was aged in wine barrels for 12 months with flakes gold. Today’s beer review comes from Blue Moon Brewing Company, also known as Coors Brewing Company. I don’t review a lot of macro breweries as they don’t put out a ton of different beers, but I do occasionally bump into them (or a brewery gets bought up by them).

Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours a burnt orange color with a thin white head. It’s actually a really pretty color for a beer. The nose has a bit of pumpkin pie spice but not enough to scream pumpkin ale. There are some toasted malt notes along with a slight sweetness in there as well.

I was surprised to find that the spices carry over into the actual flavor of this beer. I’ve found that a lot of beers that smell as if they were lightly spiced pumpkin beers don’t carry that flavor into the actual drinking part of the beer. The spices are not strong by any means but there are there. The toasted notes follow¬† through along with a decent and balanced malt sweetness.

I actually enjoyed this one a bit. While it doesn’t really say pumpkin beer to me because of how light the spice flavor is, it’s a drinkable beer. This is a good transition beer for a newcomer to craft beer (even if this isn’t a craft brew). This one comes in at 5.7% in case you were wondering. While I probably will not venture down this beer’s road again, I can say that it was much better than expected.

Beer Review #239 Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Uinta Brewing Company of Salt Lake City, Utah recently showing up in my local beer store and I grabbed a few bottles of their stuff based off of a suggestion from a friend (and their cool bottles). I’d never heard of Uinta before but I dug the bottle art and general feel of their product. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m a sucker for good marketing and their total package is a great example of good marketing. As a side-note I talk about design in my day job so I have a hankering to acknowledge good design.

I originally wasn’t going to get a pumpkin beer from the store as I’m avoid seasonal beers for the most part this year. But seeing as this was a new brewery to me, I figured it was okay. Punk’n pours a nice orange amber color with a soapy off-white head that quickly fades into a thin surface floater. The nose was outstanding in the fact that you can actually smell pumpkin meat (that term always grossed me out). Unlike those “pumpkin spice” beers, you can really get an idea that this beer was brewed with the real thing. There was a nice sweetness that was mixed in there as well along with a light pumpkin pie spice.

This beer tastes as close to a pumpkin pie as any beer that I have ever had. The pumpkin flavor is very noticeable and well balanced with the malt and spices. The spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and all spice,  come in at the end to act as hops and help finish out the beer. It really leaves a great aftertaste when it is all said and finished.

In my opinion this beer is everything that a pumpkin beer should be. There is real pumpkin flavor and the spices compliment the beer, not overpower it. I really like this one and I highly suggest it. (more…)

Pumpkin Ale Recipe- Version 2

I’ve brewed two pumpkin beers in the past. My first one was right when I first got into homebrew and it involved cutting up some cooked pumpkin pieces and steeping them in the boil kettle. The results were good but I wanted more out of the pumpkin. I also thought that the porter aspect of my beer took away from the other aspects that I wanted to showcase. About three years ago I brewed my second Pumpkin Ale. I still like the recipe idea but I got a stuck sparge and only collected 2.5 gallons of wort. The only thing that I didn’t realize was that I managed to get the majority of the sugar pulled out of the grain before it stuck, meaning that I had a 15% pumpkin beer.

For this round I wanted to make sure that I could really highlight the pumpkin flavor. I also had two secondary goals; a medium mouthfeel and a bready malt quality. On the technical end I just wanted to avoid a stuck sparge again. Below is the recipe that I decided to go with after looking through the ingredients that I had:

  • 8 lbs. 2-Row
  • 1 lb. Light Munich
  • .5 lb. Oats
  • .5 lb. Carapils
  • .5 lb. Crystal 40
  • .25 lb. Crystal 80
  • .25 lb. Crystal 120
  • 3 lbs. Pumpkin puree
  • 1 lb. Rice Hulls
  • 1.0 oz US Goldings @60 mins
  • 1.0 oz US Goldings @10 mins
  • 1 tsp. Ground nutmeg @1 min
  • 1 tsp. Ground allspice @1 min
  • 1 tsp. Ground cinnamon @1 min
  • WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast

Generally I like simple malt bills but I went a little more complex on this one. The 2-row is pretty standard as a base grain but the rest are all added for a specific purpose. The Munich malt helps add some breadiness as well as a depth to the malt character. The oats are there to provide a bit more mouthfeel. Carapils is there, well for what Carapils does, head retention. I used a variety of crystal malts to try and hit all ends of the caramel/toffee spectrum. The rice hull are there to help stop a stuck sparge. My pumpkin puree was made using the process I described here with the only difference being that I didn’t add any water. I added the spices at the end to make sure I could get as much flavor out of them as possible without having to add them in the secondary. I made sure to make this mash very thin, mashing 12 lbs. of grain and 3 lbs. of pumpkin puree with 6 gallons of water at 153. I sparged with 2 gallons to collect a total of six gallons of wort.

I wasn’t sure which yeast I wanted to go with on this one originally but the homebrew store only had one “standard” American ale yeast in stock so WLP008 was the choice of the day. After doing some research I think this one will do well with the style. It is described as, “Similar neutral character of WLP001, but less attenuation, less accentuation of hop bitterness, slightly less flocculation, and a little tartness. Very clean and low esters.” The beer comes out with the follow stats:

  • OG: 1.049
  • FG: 1.008
  • ABV: 5.37%
  • IBUs: 24

As of posting this the beer is sitting in the secondary and my transfer sample tasted very nice. I can’t wait to try this one out in a few weeks.

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…)