Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Matt Brewing Company - Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

The Pumpkin Ale from the Matt Brewing Company's Saranac line pours a deep tawny amber body with mild, but radiating, orange glows. The beer's creamy light tan head is thick and fades slowly to leave light lacing along the top of the glass. A reserved nose is dry and dusty with allspice occupying the prominent aromatic position. The underlying malt component is somewhat feint overall.

This Pumpkin Ale has a big emphasis on spices. Pumpkin flavors are mild with spices taking the lead. Allspice and cracked clove are apparent with hints of cinnamon. I'm a bit curious about the lack of real pumpkin flavor. The flavor is a bit sweet, but there are no significant vegetal notes on the finish. It's unfortunate, but the exact nature of the pumpkin content is a bit suspicious. The label claims the beer is brewed "...with pumpkin and spices with natural flavors added." The addition makes me wonder just how much actual pumpkin is involved in the beer, and how much the natural flavoring is the beer's main crutch. The finish has a minor lasting sweetness and some dry spice held over.

Final Verdict: C+

Monday, October 24, 2011

Buffalo Bill's Brewery - Pumpkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

The Pumpkin Ale from California-based Buffalo Bill's pours a very orange brown body with a lightly yellowed head. The foam is thin and retention and lacing are minimal as the head dissipates in a hurry. The nose is sweet and semi-artificial with a fake-seeming pumpkin aroma. Light citrusy notes give the beer a smell that is very reminiscent of Blue Moon with a mild spice profile.

Sweet malts give the beer some body paired with light pumpkin flavoring. Strangely enough, the orange and citrus notes are much more considerable than expected. The sweetness borders on cloying, but a definitive spice edge adds a tinge of dryness and cuts the sweetness a bit. Velvety carbonation adds light body, but the flavor subsides quickly to a vaguely astringent orange peel flavor that leaves citrus notes on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: D+

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Punkin Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

Dogfish's Punkin Ale pours a radiating copper body with a large creamy light tan head. The foam retention is solid and leaves mild lacing behind as the head slowly retreats. Sweet pumpkin from puree meets mounds of spices on the nose. The bottle cheerfully advertises extras added to the brew process including brown sugar, which adds nuanced sweetness, as well as allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Allspice and nutmeg are most prominent and give the beer a pumpkin pie aroma.

What gives Punkin Ale a solid footing is that it starts with a highly competent brown ale. A malt forward profile is buttressed by heaps of spice. Brown sugar and the toasted malts of the underlying brown ale give the beer defined caramel and molasses flavors. Pumpkin is delicious and spicy in and of itself with plentiful earthy and vegetal tones. Spices add pumpkin pie influence, but don't define the brew or pigeon hole it as a pie in a glass. The finish has some heat and a lasting spiciness. One of my favorites of the season.

Final Verdict: A-/B+

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anheuser-Busch - Shock Top Brewing Company - Pumpkin Wheat

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. twist-off bottle, poured into a Pilsner glass posing as a weizen glass

Pumpkin Wheat from the supposed "Shock Top Brewing Company" is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, owned by InBev, and is one of the companies many (many) brands of beer. Originally under AB's Michelob lineup, the brand has been a fairly successful competitor to Coors' Blue Moon in the macro-posing-as-micro market segment.

The beer pours an attractive hazy orange body with long wisps of floating sediment. The large, yellowed off-white head is fairly creamy and boasts solid retention. The nose is dry with a minor astringency. Mild pumpkin is present, but the emphasis is on spiciness with nutmeg and cinnamon as the standouts. The nose finishes on a semi-medicinal note.

Matched to a velveteen carbonation the silkiness of the wheat malts pairs with pumpkin flavor for an interesting combination. The bottle claims real pumpkin, but it's unclear what exactly that means and I'm skeptical if that means that real pumpkin chunks pass within a mile of the brew process. Dry spices round out the beer. Clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg give the beer a traditional pumpkin pie edge. The finish has a tinge of citrus and makes for a strange pairing with the nutmeg. The aftertaste is astringent and slightly medicinal, but the beer is surprising okay overall.

Final Verdict: C+

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peak Organic Brewing Company - Fall Summit Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

This organic brew pours a deep amber body with a tawny brown base. The head is thick and frothy colored in a slightly yellowed tan. Foam retention is excellent and leaves extensive lacing at the top of the glass. The nose is quite hoppy with a minor astringency. Lightly earthy tones define the beer and sport a mix of spiciness and a slight chalky essence.

After the nose, the beer is more malt forward than expected. A distinct dusty chalkiness develops from big mineral-heavy water notes. The malt base of the beer also carries a vegetal edge and, contrastingly, a sharp metallic edge. Caramel sweetness is clear, matched by very slight chocolate notes. Hops dominate the mid-palate through the finish. They're aromatic and oily with a slight piney essence. The finish is gristly and grainy with lasting sweetness and bitter hops.

Final Verdict: B/B-

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hofbräu - Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 330 mL bottle, poured into a pint glass

This classic Oktoberfest märzen pours a medium yellowy body with a straw-like complexion. The healthy off-white head is a dense foam with a somewhat creamy consistency. Head retention is solid and the foam leaves traces of thin lacing on the glass. The nose is lagery with a pronounced dandelion bitterness. The beer has a very Pilsner-like quality with an added honey sweetness on the aroma.

Sweet honey up from with a velvety carbonation. High on the bitter hoppiness, this is a quite-dry beer. Noble-type hops are prominently featured and put this on the bitter side for a typical Oktoberfest, but it is welcomed. Underlying malts are moderately biscuity with a slightly toasted flavor. The finish is dry with a mild lingering sweetness and a leafy vegetal quality.

Final Verdict: B

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Matt Brewing Company - Saranac Octoberfest Lager

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint

Saranac's Octoberfest, produced by the Matt Brewing Company, pours a light amber with an orangey-yellow glow. The thick foam head is frothy with an off-white tint. The retention is moderate and the lacing is thin. The grainy nose is lightly sweet with a mild honey sweetness. A light dusting of hops provides a slight bitterness profile.

This Octoberfest's malts are fairly light with a hint of toastiness. The sweetness has a slightly sugary quality and is light on caramel elements or classic honey flavors. The light hopping is very mild with mostly an addition of aromatics. As the flavor diminishes on the finish there's a slightly funky astringency that leaves a sour, almost citric finish. Finally a wave of dryness finishes the beer.

Final Verdict: C

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Victory Brewing Company - Festbier

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Twain pint glass

Victory's Oktoberfest-inspired Festbier has a full deep amber body with a glowing orange backlight. The large, yellowed light tan head has a moderately creamy consistency and solid staying power. The lace from the beer's foam is light overall, but elegant. The beer has a musty lager nose. Toasted malts have a pronounced sweetness and distinctive honey aroma. A very light dusting of hops rounds out the beer's nose.

Hop-forward for a märzen, this Oktoberfest beer hits the tradition bitterness profile. Dandelion bitterness is prominent up front with classic Pilsner-influence and Noble-type hops. Toasted biscuity malts add layers of body and sweetness to the beer. Mild caramel and choice honey round the flavor leading to an exceptionally dry finish that invites another sip.

Final Verdict: A-

Monday, October 3, 2011

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Okto Festival Ale

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

This Oktoberfest märzen from Oregon-based Widmer Brothers pours a full-bodied amber with a ruby glow to back it up. The yellowed-tan head is thick and creamy with solid retention and layers of thin lace. The nose is dry and dusty, but feint overall. It is slightly spicy, but quite mild with a reserved sweetness. The malts seem light and very light on the aroma.

Initially, the beer's hops are center stage and dominate the palate. It's not so hoppy that the beer pushes an IPA, but seems more like a hoppy amber ale than a traditional märzen. Overall the hops are piny with a complex bitterness. Toasted malts have a mild biscuity edge and a pleasing caramel sweetness, but are up staged all along. The finish is dry and tight with lingering pine notes. I don't know if this is a misguided attempt or a "West Coast interpretation," but I think this one misses the Oktoberfest boat. What I do know, is that this is a solid brew.

Final Verdict: B

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lakefront Brewery - Oktoberfest

Purchased From: Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass

This Wisconsin take on an Oktoberfest pours a medium amber body with orange highlights. The medium-sized light tan head has a somewhat creamy consistency. While light on retention, the foam produces semi-thick and layered lacing on the glass. The nose is dry and slightly earthy. Mild caramel sweetness hovers below a lagery nose. A minimal astringency lingers on the aroma.

Airy and velvety carbonation contrasts the slightly nutty and damp woodiness of the foretaste. Caramel sweetness is pronounced, produced along side bread-like toasted malts. The beer has a semi-sour grainy finish and a lingering grain mash sweetness. A dash of hops adds a slight dryness to the finish that remains on the aftertaste.

Final Verdict: B