Beer of the Week: Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin

By Iron Chef Leftovers

My love of pumpkin beers is unabashed and I have a particular soft spot for ones that are of a darker style. I feel that pumpkin marries well with the roasted notes in dark beers and there is less of a need to overly spice the beer, so you get more pumpkin flavor out of them. I also like imperial pumpkin beers since they tend to fall into the same category and you can really appreciate the subtleties of flavor in the beer.  During a recent bottle swap, a bottle of the Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin was thrown in because my trading partner knew of my love of pumpkin beers. I thought this was a nice gesture (and has since been reciprocated with a couple of stellar IPA’s back to him) so I was excited to try this beer in an impromptu beer tasting with the rest of the CSE gang (i.e. Blaidd Drwg, Coltrane, Annie S. and Seattle Author). The beer came in 22oz. bottles and runs about $10, but alas, is not available in Seattle, but is available from plenty of places on the East Coast that will ship.

From the Heavy Seas website:

In the most worthy of pumpkin patches and during the silence of the midnight hour, the Greater Pumpkin raises up and pours a rich deep and burnished orange color.  Heady aromas of bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove linger seductively over the thick white head of this tremendous brew.  Its love at first sip as the full malt body, dominated by British crystal malt, brown sugar and pumpkin, slowly washes over your tongue.  Bourbon barrel aging rounds out the flavors with notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon.  Pairs well with crisp autumn weather, crunchy fallen leaves, and the knowledge that your kids will be asleep soon so you can raid their Halloween candy bags.

 

G-P-259x1024-118x470The beer pours deep orange in color with a creamy head and shows strong notes of bourbon with backing notes of roasted pumpkin and spice – it smells like a pumpkin pie with bourbon added. The beer starts out on the palate with strong notes of roasted pumpkin with mild backing notes of pumpkin pie spices and roasted pumpkin seeds. These flavors linger and are joined at the end by a slightly sweet caramel note and a touch of vanilla from the bourbon barrel without imparting any really heavy bourbon notes. The finish is extremely long and pleasant, making you want to take your time and savor between sips, but without any really harsh notes from the barrel or alcohol, making this a smooth, balanced and easy to drink beverage for such a high alcohol beer, with incredible depth of pumpkin and just a pleasant backing note of spice.

I may have found my new favorite pumpkin beer; I will definitely be shipping some to Seattle in the fall.

Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin raises a massive 5 storm warnings out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Pike Harlot’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have a few older pumpkin beers that I have been sitting in the cellar just to see how they age. In the case of Pike’s Harlot Pumpkin, this was one that was sitting in the cellar because I forgot it was there. I found the 2012 bottle when I was moving some stuff around and figured I would give it a shot. I am not a huge fan of this beer in the first place, so I had pretty low expectations about it when I opened it.

From the Pike Website:

It’s big bold and voluptuous! Pike Harlot”s Harvest reminds us that Pike Brewing was founded in a former brothel. Nellie’s girls who worked at The LaSalle Hotel were sometimes called harlots, though their best customers often affectionately called them “pumpkin”.

Pike head brewer, Dean Mochizuki, created this extraordinary beer using a complex blend of rich and flavorful malts that include: organic pils, organic pale, special b, Vienna, organic caramel, and crystal. To take full advantage of the bounty of the season, Harlot’s Harvest is brewed with the finest Yakima Valley hops, including Nugget for both bitterness and aroma, and Mt. Hood for aroma; and organic pumpkin puree from Stahlbush Island Farms, Corvalis, Oregon and organic brown sugar. It is sensuously seasoned with cassia bark, allspice, vanilla bean, nutmeg, ginger and clove.

 

STATS: O.G: 1.080

ABV: 8.50%

IBU: 30

COLOR: Dark caramel and molasses

On the palate Harlot’s Harvest is round and rich with a burst of caramel and molasses yielding a smooth sweetness reminiscent of pumpkin pie, and the boldness of a Belgian, monastic-style, strong dark ale. Savor it naked or clothed in the bounty of the season! To dress it appropriately, Charles Finkel designed the seductive label.

616The beer pours dark brown with just a hint of opaqueness and shows mild cinnamon and nutmeg on the nose with additions of light caramel and just a touch of pumpkin in the background. The beer is surprisingly light on the palate for a dark beer, starting out with a pleasant sweetness on the front and then moves over to a light toffee with subtle notes of pumpkin and dried fruit before finishing with very mild cinnamon that lingers pliantly and brings just a hint of heat to the tongue after a few seconds. It was pretty well balanced without any harsh notes that I have noticed in the beer when it is fresh – I guess a year of aging the beer really rounds it out.

Pike 2012 Harlots Pumpkin comes in an lobs 4 airborne salmon out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark o’ the Moon 2012

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I was not overly impressed with the 2013 version of Dark o’ the Moon, but fortunately for me, I have a small stash of the previous versions of the beer, so I decide to crack one of the 2012 bottles open to see if I just forgot what the beer tasted like and my tastes have changed or the cinnamon was too overpowering in the 2013 version of the beer.

From the Elysian Website:

STYLE Pumpkin Stout

BODY Medium to Full

TASTING NOTES Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

MALTS Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

HOPS Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

SPECIAL Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer poured jet black as expected with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice present on the nose joined by mild hints of roasted malt and pumpkin. The beer stars off with pleasant chocolate notes on the palate before moving into lightly roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. The beer then transitions into the spice realm with distinct notes of nutmeg and cloves balancing out the pumpkin flavors before being joined by a mild dose of cinnamon mixed in. The finish is long and slightly sweet with dominant notes of cinnamon and roasted malt/pumpkin, providing a deep chocolate finish with just a touch of heat from the cinnamon.

The 2012 version of Dark reminded me why I loved this beer so much.

Elysian 2012 Dark o’ the Moon comes to the edge of the cliff and lets out a deep howl with 5 Canis lupus out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark O’ the Moon

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Every year I look forward to the early fall release of my favorite pumpkin beer – Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon. I love the stout combined with the roasted pumpkin and just a hint of spice to balance and bring the beer to the next level. The best part of this beer is it is available both on tap and in bottles (about $7 for a 22 oz. one), so it is readily accessible. This review is for the beer I had on tap.

From the Elysian website:

TASTING NOTES
Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

MALTS
Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

HOPS
Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

SPECIAL
Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer pours jet black in color with copious amounts of roasted pumpkin, roasted malt and chocolate on the nose with background notes of allspice and cinnamon. Pumpkin dominates the palate early on before yielding to roast malt and grain with bits of pumpkin pie spice and finally finishing out with a rather intense and moderately long chocolate and cinnamon finish – intense dark chocolate and cocoa nibs (not at all sweet) and a strong burn of cinnamon, with just a hint of bitterness coupled with more pumpkin notes. The chocolate plays hide and seek on the tongue long after the sip, but is eventually overwhelmed by building cinnamon, especially as the beer warms, to the point where the cinnamon becomes the dominant flavor on the finish by the end of the pint. The 2013 version is definitely more cinnamon forward but the chocolate and pumpkin notes are still present and discernable, but the increase in the cinnamon intensity seems to throw the beer out of balance. Still delicious, but not as great as it has been in the past. I am wondering if the cinnamon needed a bit more time to mellow out and integrate into the rest of the beer.

Elysian Dark O’ the Moon draws blood with 3 Warren Zevons out of 5.

 

Beer of the Week: Reuben’s Pumpkin Saison

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitled2Reuben’s held out on me this year – they made a second pumpkin beer beyond their flagship pumpkin beer that they did not release until November. This beer was based on a saison, definitely a beer that you don’t see used very often in the pumpkin beer world. They had a very limited quantity of the Pumpkin Saison and it didn’t make it past the weekend that it went on tap, but you know that Iron Chef was there to try it and let you know what you missed.

The beer pours very dark reddish brown in color with notes of roasted pumpkin, pumpkin spice and saison funk on the nose. The beer starts out small with subtle grain notes and a distinctive saison background, then moving into a distinct pumpkin realm with light notes of roast and pumpkin seeds before hitting you with a burst of pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are distinctly present. The beer finishes long with strong pumpkin pie character a pleasant dryness and just a hint of cinnamon heat. The pumpkin saison manages to bring more to spices to the party than the Pfeiffer’s Pumpkin Rye that Reuben’s also brews, giving a nice counterpunch to that beer. They also took great care in preserving the grassy notes of the saison and not completely overwhelming them with the spices, creating an interesting and balanced beer. I still would rather have the Pfeiffer’s Pumpkin, but this would be a welcome change of pace next pumpkin beer season.

Reuben’s Pumpkin Saison carves out a niche with a spooky 4 jack o’lanterns out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Populuxe Pumpkin Spice Porter

By Iron Chef Leftovers

imagesCAAR87MMPopuluxe Brewing decided to venture into the realm of pumpkin beers, albeit with a bit of apprehension, with their Pumpkin Spice Porter. Given my love of their base Porter and my overall love of pumpkin beers, I had to give this one a shot. Pumpkin Spice is a bit bigger than their regular porter, clocking in at 6.9% ABV.

The beer pours very dark brown but not completely opaque with notes of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg coupled with a nice roasted malt background on the nose. The beer starts out on the roasted side of the flavors with hints of chocolate before progressing into the spice realm –a nice lineup from cinnamon to cloves to allspice, each distinct without being overpowering or palate deadening. The spice balances rather than dominates the roasted notes, bringing a pleasantly warming feel to the beer – nice for sipping on a chilly fall day. The spices are well-integrated into the beer and the alcohol is barely noticeable with being warming rather than burning. The only thing really missing is a nice background pumpkin flavor – that would have brought this beer to a higher plane.

Populuxe Pumpkin Spice Porter hangs out in the pumpkin patch for a limited time with a solid 4 gourds out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Oakshire Big Black Jack

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Almost everyone is doing a pumpkin beer these days and that is not a bad thing since I love them. My issue is that most of them are a liquid pumpkin pie – lots of spices with a small amount of pumpkin flavor. Because there tends to be so much of that on the market, I tend to gravitate towards the styles of pumpkin beers that are different. Big Black Jack is an Imperial chocolate pumpkin porter. Chocolate? Pumpkin? Porter? They had me at hello. The beer is available seasonally in 22 oz. bottles and on tap. This review is for the bottle which ran about $7.50.

The description from the Oakshire website:

This malt-forward ale is a medium-bodied beer with flavors & spices that evoke fall. Pair Big Black Jack’s rich character with the seasonally favorite foods keeping you warm as the temperature drops: spicy Indian and Mexican dishes, molé, smoked goose, buttery aged cheddar, Irish cheeses, Gouda cheese, chocolate and peanut butter cookies, toasted coconut, pumpkin tarts and chocolate soufflés.

Part of our Single-Batch Beer Series, Big Black Jack became a fall favorite when we first released it in 2011. The Imperial Porter also won the 2012 North American Brewing Awards Gold Medal for Hybrid Beers. It is a warming autumn delight at 7.5% ABV.

The beer pours jet black with a creamy tan head. The beer has heavy overtones of pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds on the nose with notes of chocolate, nutmeg and cinnamon. The initial taste yields a slightly bitter chocolate hit with a quick transition into pumpkin seeds and roasted pumpkin. The pumpkin lingers for a bit before transitioning in into a spice finish with notes of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon with a hide-and-seek pumpkin flavor. When the beer warms the pumpkin flavor becomes much more pronounced with subtle notes of oak and spice. A really complex and interesting pumpkin beer, which does a great job balancing the roasted flavors with the pumpkin ones. If you are in the mood for something with more depth than the run of the mill pumpkin beers, pick up a bottle of Oakshire Big Black Jack.

Oakshire Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter doubles down its bet with 4 split aces out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Brewing Hansel & Gretel Pumpkin Pilsner

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love pumpkin beers and there are a ton of them out on the market these days. Fall also brings us the annual pumpkin beer festival at Elysian Brewing, who seem to roll out somewhere around a dozen pumpkin beers themselves, with just a few making it into bottles. Hansel & Gretel is one that made it this year into the bottle. From the Elysian press release:

Brewed with organic pale, Weyermann Munich and Cara-Hell malts, with pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. Spiced with fresh ginger and hopped with lots of Czech Saaz hops 4.5% ABV

HGEditTTBThis beer is unmistakably a pilsner – golden yellow in color with a fizzy white head. Initially you get a good amount of grain on the nose, but as you get closer, there are strong notes of ginger with a pumpkin background. The is initial sip is a strong hit of spicy ginger, like biting into a ginger snap cooking without the sugar, but it is so strong that your taste buds never fully recover from it. The ginger gives way to a distinct pumpkin flavor and it finishes just a bit sweet with a touch of spicy heat from the ginger. Any grain notes are completely overwhelmed by the ginger and there are no discernible hops on the nose or the palate. The spiciness is more pronounced as the beer warms and really overpowers everything else. There aren’t many pumpkin pilsners on the market so this beer has the potential to be a good one with more balance so you get more than a one note beer (and make pumpkin the star, not the ginger), but it is not quite there yet.

This was not my favorite pumpkin beer of the patch; so as a result, Hansel & Gretel skips into the gingerbread house with a score of 2 children out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Stone Collaboration La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Another week, another Stone collaboration beer review. I should qualify this by saying that we did a horizontal tasting of all of the Stone collaboration beers I had at that point, so you should be seeing the rest of these in the coming weeks. The La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado (say that 3 times fast) is the collaboration pumpkin beer done between The Bruery, Stone and Elysian (should I have been surprised). This beer made its debut at the 2011 Elysian Pumpkin Beer Festival and made an encore appearance at the 2012 fest. I am reviewing this beer from the 12 oz. bottle that I purchased at around $3.

From the Stone Website:

The eclectic mix of ingredients was selected to introduce a decidedly different spin on traditional pumpkin beers. “The taste starts with citrus and herbal notes, but then a very smooth roasted malt character comes into play,” Steele explains. “The yam and pumpkin make their appearance on the finish, with some Eastern-influenced spiciness and trace maple notes from the toasted fenugreek, combining with hints of birch. This is no pumpkin pie beer. No cloves. No nutmeg. No cinnamon.”

Malt bill: Pale, Rye, Crystal, Chocolate Rye, English Brown, Aromatic, and Honey malt
Hops bill: Warrior, Motueka
Adjuncts: Pumpkins (grown at Stone Farms), yams, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena
5% abv, 47 IBUs

This beer pours orange-amber in color. Lots of roasted pumpkin and birch dominate the nose of this beer with hints of lemon lccdc_bruery-labelverbena in the background. The beer drinks like a soda – syrupy birch and toasted pumpkin are the dominant flavors, fading very quickly. There are slight notes of toffee and hers on the finish, but they come and go so quickly that you almost don’t realize they are there. The beer was more complex when I had it on tap – in the bottle it lacks the dominant pumpkin and roast that I was expecting. I am wondering, despite proper storage, if this beer was past its prime when I opened it.

It they ever decided to brew this beer again, I recommend that you try La Citrueille, especially if you like Pumpkin beers that showcase the pumpkin rather than the spice.

I was originally going to give this beer a rating, but considering that the bottle may have been bad and how much I did like the previous times I drank the beer, I am going to not score this beer at all. I would recommend drinking this beer fresh if you have the chance.

Beer in Review: Crowning the Best Beer of 2012

By Iron Chef Leftovers

In 2012, I started writing beer reviews on this blog in a semi-regular segment titled “Beer of the Week”. It is a bit of a misnomer since some weeks you got 2 beers of the week (hey, those are good weeks) and some weeks you got none. Anyway, I don’t review every beer I drink and I don’t always post them right after I drink them, so you sometimes end up with beers that are out of season or just not available anymore. What I am most proud of is my 5 point rating system.

In case you haven’t realized, instead of awarding stars or mugs or whatever else, I usually award a rating out of 5 based on something to do with the beer or the brewery. For example, I rated the Diamond Knot Whip Ale 4 out of 5 Silent Lucidities based on the idea that the recipe came from Michael Wilton of Queensryche (get it…Queensryche…Silent Lucidity). Coming up with these can be a challenge sometimes – anything animal or plant related is easy, just use the scientific name. Some are harder and probably not quite as funny. My favorite for the year was when I awarded Firestone Walker Wookey Jack 3 Kashyyyks out of 5. Kashyyyk being the home planet of Chewbacca, Chewy being a Wookie, get it? See how my brain works?

I digress, I reviewed a number of beers this year and several of them score a perfect 5 out of 5 on my rating scale. Several of those were vintage beers, so unless you know someone who happens to be sticking stuff in their cellar for 5 or 6 years (like I do), I figured that I should eliminate them from the running for the beer of the year. That really brought me down to 2 beers for the coveted title: Latona 25th Anniversary Cask by Anacortes and Pumpkin Ale by Reuben’s. It isn’t an easy choice; both breweries are great, both are breweries whose beers I really love and the styles are completely different. I am a shameless hophead and the Anacortes beer really appeals to me, but I also love pumpkin beers, especially ones where you can really taste the pumpkin and Reuben’s really knocked it out of the park with a pumpkin rye, a style which you don’t see too often, giving everything that I love about pumpkin beers with an interesting twist (and if you haven’t tried any of their rye beers, you should, they are fantastic).

So after much debate and locking the judges in a room without food and water until they made a decision (not really, I just spent 15 minutes thinking about who should win), we have a winner.

In a stunning upset, the new kid on the block, Reuben’s Brews wins the coveted Cheapseateats.com beer of the year award for their Pumpkin Ale! I highly encourage you to try this beer when it comes back around next year. It is so good that it is close to replacing Elysian’s Dark of the Moon as my favorite pumpkin beer on the planet, which is no easy feat since I pretty much consider Dark to be the second best beer brewed in Washington, behind Anacortes IPA of course!

Congrats to the wonderful folks from Reuben’s for brewing such delicious beers and keep it up. You will have some stiff competition in 2013 if you want to retain your title.