Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween Round-Up and Unusual Pumpkin Beers...

In my effort to try and review as many pumpkin beers as possible this Fall, I have dug deep into the cellar this week and discovered some dusty treasures within.  We will start the show with a couple of sour pumpkin beers--at least they are different!  I will admit that I had a cold for tasting the first three on the list, and that could have influenced my senses a bit (especially aroma) and is partly why I chose powerful beers to try at this time.

New Belgium Kick: This is 2012's sour pumpkin ale made as a collaboration between New Belgium's Kim Jordan and Elysian's Dick Cantwell (also see my review of He Said by Cantwell.)  It was made with 75% ale with pumpkins and cranberry juice, and 25% ale aged in wooden barrels.  I couldn't find out if there was any wine or booze in the barrels.  I tried this ale last year at a brewclub meeting and really hated it, but kept my bottle hidden away in the hopes that it would improve with age. 
Aroma: Sour as anything!  Layered with acetic (vinegar) sourness and wild yeast sourness.  There is a musty forest floor aroma as swirled.  No spicing noted.  Some pineapple aromas as it warms.
Appearance: Deep golden color with a slight haze.  Small white head with large bubbles.
Flavor: Sharp bitterness up front and a strong sour zing.  I taste the pineapple esters from the Brettanomyces.  Tart cranberry and an astringent earthy note.  This has a very thin body and ends dry and raspy on the tongue. 
Overall:  I'm not a huge fan.  There isn't much to this other than SOUR!  Lacks complexity that I look for in sour beers and I don't get much pumpkin through that tartness.  I do like it better than last year (dumped) but still didn't have more than half a glass before I let it go.  A bit disappointed with New Belgium and Dick Cantwell for this one--it should have been amazing based on most of their other projects.  2.5 of 5 final score.

Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela: Jolly Pumpkin is a small craft brewery out of Dexter, Michigan that specializes in barrel aged beers.  Due to distribution issues the brewery recently pulled out of Minnesota and we can no longer find these amazingly complex sour beers in our area.  Strangely, it took them years to finally come out with an actual pumpkin beer.  La Parcela is that beer, made with pumpkin, cacao and spices.  I dug deep in the cellar for this one finding a bottle from Batch 610 circa 2010. 
Aroma: Fairly strong tartness is noted first.  I get earthy notes of a freshly tilled garden (but in a good way).  Brettanomyces horse-blanket aromas meld with a mild dry cocoa and nutmeg or cinnamon.  Some pear and apricot fruity esters are present as well.
Appearance: Deep gold to almost ruby in color, with no haze.  This beer has a huge fine off-white head that never seems to fade. 
Flavor: A very sour beer!  Light body that fades to a bone dry finish.  I get some earthy beet-like flavors as it warms (pumpkin?) combined with brett character that leaves a leathery, almost dirty character.  Mild nutmeg flavors.  Some oak tannins present.  A hint of bitter chocolate in finish.
Overall: This is balanced to the very dry and sour side.  Not much spice here, but that may have faded in three years since it was brewed.  The sourness likely has increased over time as well.  This tastes more like a gueuze from Brussels!  3.5/5.

Summit Unchained #5 Imperial Pumpkin Porter:  This was Summit's 5th foray into letting its brewers try out unusual recipes on a smaller scale.  This edition was dreamed up by brewer Nate Siats and included Sweet China Cinnamon, Jamaican Allspice, Powdered Cassia Buds, Ground Nutmeg, Ginger Powder, Ground Mace, and Ground Ceylon Cloves.  Released in October of 2010, I found it to be too bitter for me.  I left a few bottles in the cellar (more by accident than anything) and discovered them recently, lurking behind some bottles of Bigfoot.  A happy surprise!
Aroma: I get some molasses and boozy dark rum notes up front.  Some nutmeg and cinnamon are present and s spicy almost chili pepper note on the nose.  Strong semi-sweet chocolate aromas as it warms.
Appearance: Very dark brown with slight ruby highlights at edges of glass.  Fine tan head that fades quickly.
Flavor: Complex roast and chocolate flavor, mixed with a molasses and licorice root off-sweetness.  Medium bodied, but ends pretty dry.  Some oxidized sherry-like notes add complexity.  Spicing is mellow with just a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.  There is a slight boozy warming note as it goes down.  As this warms up I get more coffee notes and an earthy astringency that may be due to the pumpkin.
Overall: This is tons better than it was last year--almost a different beer.  Age has added smoothness and complexity to this unusual beer.  I sipped this on Halloween night in front of a fire, while sneaking chocolate from our treat basket.  If you have any of these hiding in your cellar--drink them now! 4 of 5.

Swag from Hoppy Halloween!

I figured that in addition to drinking pumpkin beers, I should have some Halloween wrap-up as well.  First, I wanted to show off my swag for winning first place in the stout category at Hoppy Halloween with my perrenial favorite Olde Meconium Imperial Stout.  The guys at the Prairie Homebrewing Companions have been running this competition for 16 years now and really know how to put on a show.  I have yet to get out there for judging, but one of these years I'll make it.  They create different amazing ceramic beads for their medals, and I put entries in each year just to win one!  They also give out some of the best prizes I've ever seen at a competition.  I'm very excited about my swag this year: Pimp Deschutes track jacket; Jack Pine Glass (I contributed to Pat's Kickstarter and wish him much success); Honeycomb wood to put in a beer; bat shaped shuriken; and more!

A night out on the town!

I also wanted to give props to the crew at The Four Firkins for hosting cool Spooky Fancy Friday event at the store the day after Halloween.  Alvey was dressed up as a zombie Beer Barron; Ian as a disturbing Cat In The Hat; Doug as a distinguished English gentleman (who stayed in character all night); Michael as Heisenberg (I apparently need to watch Breaking Bad); and Bryan as a demented version of The Flash!  Sj and I dressed up in our steam-punk outfits for the event...because who wants to miss an opportunity to get dressed up? We talked Anna and Matt into joining us as well: Anna dressed up in her finest 80's gear (as if she was old enough to remember the 80's!) and Matt as Robin Hood--Man In Tights!  We sampled many fine beers including Jeff Williamson's Summit Unchained Bier de Garde and the newest Snowstorm from Schells.  We also sampled the disturbing Rogue Beard Beer that was inocculated with yeast from John Maier's beard.  Tasted Belgiany...

Once we had socialized and sampled enough we headed over to McCoy's Public House just down the road and had a wonderful dinner.  We were the only people dressed up in costume, but Bar Manager Nick Collins did not bat an eye!  He's good people. Having been sick on Halloween itself, this night out was a fine way to make up for it.  I still felt a bit off my game, but on the mend, and being with a lot of friends helped.

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