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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…)

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…)

Pumpkin Ale Recipe

09-18-01So I’ve been fooling around with my beer programs and reading a lot about Pumpkin beer recipes and I think I have come up with what I want for this beer. There is a large variety of grain all in there to accomplish something a bit different and there are going to be a bunch of adjuncts, mainly the pumpkin and the spices. Anyway here it goes:

  • 7.0 lbs Maris Otter
  • 2.0 lbs Munich Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 Biscuit Malt
  • 1.0 lb Rice Hulls
  • 2 lbs Light Brown Sugar
  • 4-5 lbs pureed pumpkin
  • 1.0 oz Hallertau (60 mins)
  • 1.0 oz Hallertau (10 mins)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice

Now how is that for an ingredient list. I plan on mashing the grains at 152 ºF for 60 minutes. I’ve never used rice hulls before, but the 4-5 pounds of pumpkin puree will make them necessary. I’ll mash out and add the brown sugar to the first runnings while the second runnings are going on. A 60 minute boil will follow with the hop additions mentioned above. The last 2 minutes I will add the spices and hop for the best. The yeast I’m still deciding on but I want it to be as clean as possible but also eat all of those sugars. I’m shooting for a gravity of 1.072 but who knows where it will end up with the variations in brown sugar and the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Puree

I’ve never added a puree to a mash before as my last pumpkin beer (Pilgrim Porter) was an extract and the pumpkin was put right into the boil. To make the pumpkin puree I will be cutting down the pumpkins and cooking them until they are soft to jump start their conversion. From there I will remove the meat and place it into a blender. Then I will blend the meat until it reaches a puree consistency, think baby food. After that it will be going into the fridge over night because I don’t want to have a crazy long brew day.

Last year when I cooked the pumpkin I put pumpkin pie spice on the meat before cooking to try and get some of those flavors in there. Where I think I failed was that those spices had their flavors boiled right out of them. There was some of the flavor left, but nothing close to the amount of spice I used. This year the spices will be added with 2 minutes left in the boil to try and maximize their flavor. I’ll get a more detailed version of this with pictures as soon as I do it.