Monday, September 17, 2012

Hail to the Pumpkins! Part 1

Pumpkin beer. You're either a fan, or can do without it. You all know this is that time of year. Colder temperatures at night make us all yearn for heavier bodied beer without the summer flavors of lemons, and berries. Our palates crave cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove along with pumpkin, maple, and even molasses. Thankfully brewers across the country deliver with an explosions of offerings. Harpoon offers an oktoberfest, a pumpkin ale, and even a pumpkin cider so each desire is met. Others like Weyerbacher stick to one style which they've come to master, the imperial pumpkin ale. A beer which will not only sure the cravings for spice, but will also warm you up with a higher alcohol content of most fall offerings.

This year was no different for me. Sampling numerous fall styles from various breweries I've slowly compiled a list of my favorites. Surprises happened right away along with let downs as well. But instead of trashing the ones I could have done without, here are the favorites. Ten of them in fact! Agree? Disagree? let me know.


Saranac Pumpkin Ale.
If you read the review on Beer Advocate it's apparent most people have the same opinion here. It's average. Not bad or outstanding, but a decent pumpkin ale that drinkable. Had there been a little more spice in it this would have climbed up my rankings a bit. But the pumpkin ale world has become crowded with competition and breweries need to push the envelope to gain the top spots.


Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale
Maybe the way they make this beer has me place it higher on my list than others. It's organic, and the pumpkins are picked from a farm just 15 miles from the brewery. Other breweries have used pumpkins shipped all the way from China. But something about Wolaver's fall seasonal always has me place it higher on my list than better reviewed beers. It has a subtle spice flavor and the body it a bit lighter than others, but like I said, I'm a fan.


Sierra Nevada Tumbler
A fantastic non pumpkin and non oktoberfest fall offering from the usually hop heavy Sierra Nevada Brewery. This beer is easy drinking with rich roasted barley flavor and even hints of coffee at times. The low ABV% makes it a great beer to have if you're sitting by the fire and don't wanna become drunk off two beers. Another great quality of this one is it's ability to compliment many different meals. It's difficult to pair pumpkin ales with many main courses due to its spiciness. But Tumbler can come out at any time. appetizers, main course, or dessert.


Narragansett Fest
First time having this oktoberfest from the brewery in Rhode Island. Smooth, medium body, with a low ABV% makes this another fireside brew like Tumbler. Even though very different in flavor, Fest can be matched up with any course of food as well. This one comes in cans so keep an eye out since it may be hiding among the bottles.


Woodchuck Fall Cider
Cider is a somewhat love/hate drink. If you have a sweet tooth, you're apt to enjoy it. But if you prefer beer and beer only then cider won't likely be your thing. If it is though Fall Cider by Woodchuck captures the essence of fall perfectly. Apples, cinnamon, nutmeg all wrapped up in 12oz bottles waiting for an outdoor fire when the air is chill and the leaves are turning colors. I easily described this to someone one day saying, "it tastes like the air feels".

Next, I'll review my top 5 fall beers this year. I'm still waiting to try one or two so don't wanna be premature in declaring a favorite.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stouts, Harvest Ales, and Prepare for Limited Edition Beer Releases!

Fall is now here. Tomato plants are making that last push in your garden squeezing out every last fruit they can, and those pumpkin ales that came out a month ago now make sense to your palate when drinking them. Fall is an exciting time of year in the beer world. New beers are coming out every week and almost regularly a limited release small batch of beer is arriving in the stores.

Two years ago I was new into the craft beer scene and missed out on a lot if not all of those special brews. Bitches Brew by Dogfish Head was no where in sights the time I came around looking for it. This was also the year the show on Discovery Channel caused an explosion in demand for this beer. And even the seasonal brews like winter ales and harvest ales I had a tough time getting a hold of. Not prepping for the release and knowing of the early release dates ended with me going home empty handed more often than not.

Here's your basic guide so you don't miss the beer your waiting for.
Early to Mid September;
Harvest Ales by many breweries including Weyerbacher, Southern Tier, Founders, and Sierra Nevada.

Late September mid October;
Stouts, and the beginning of Winter Ales. Look for Founders Breakfast Stout.

Late October through November;
Winter Ales, some Stouts. Keep an eye out for Anchor Christmas Ale which brew a different recipe every year. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, will give you a nice hop kick with nice body. And be alert for Lagunitas Sucks, which replaced the Brown Shugga' in 2011 but became a huge hit.

All Winter Ales. Weyerbacher Winter Ale, Smuttynose Winter Ale, Long Trail Hibernator, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout.

All the while be alert for the limited releases. Supply is usually low and most stores will keep those beers tucked away in the back and limit customers to 1 or 2 each. In this market, most beers come in on Thursday. So make a quick stop at your local store and ask one of the employees what came in. It may sound like trouble but it fully worth it when you drink some of these limited releases;

Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale (this year will be their 16th year)
Allagash Interlude