Ben on Beer Episode 10 – Cocoa Mole and Beta Blockers

In this episode, Ben seems to have shown up having sampled some already, and we talk about random things as we discover and rediscover New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole, a chili beer.  Join us as the show continues to rattle on unscripted and unstructured.  It’s more fun this way!

Continue reading


First Pumpkin Ale

I can’t recall the origination of my idea to make pumpkin ale, but I do remember sticking with it.  It was probably sometime back in July when I decided I’d start brewing again and this time make seasonal brews, like a pumpkin ale for Halloween/Thanksgiving.

However, the season wasn’t on my side for making pumpkin ale in time for Halloween.  We don’t see pumpkins down here until the second week of October, pushing back the beer tasting well past Trick-or-Treating.  No big deal – we don’t join the majority of the United States when it comes to that holiday.  We’re really big on Thanksgiving and Christmas but not on the celebration of goblins and such.  Having pumpkin ale in time for a Halloween party just wasn’t on the top of my priority list.  Getting to drink it at Thanksgiving is a more highly desired and attainable goal.

I started searching back in August for a recipe, and luckily I found several.  There’s one at The Brew Site, Serious Eats, and Brew More Beer.  Taking something from each recipe and changing the ingredients again when I went shopping, I came up with this recipe:

5 Gallon Rehberg Pumpkin Ale


3 lb Light Dry Malt Extract 4 lb Domestic 2-row Malt 1 lb Crystal 20L Malt 3 oz Chocolate Malt 3.75 lb Roasted Pumpkin
2.5 Tsp Cinnamon 1.5 Tsp Nutmeg 1.5 Tsp Allspice 0.75 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets (9.4% AA) 1 oz East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.7% AA)


  1. This will take three main stages: Roasting the pumpkin, Mashing, and Boiling.Cut the pumpkin into quarters (or smaller if you prefer) and remove the seeds and stems.  Place them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350°F oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin meat is soft.
  2. Put all your grains and the pumpkin in nylon grain bags and mash (steep) them at 145°F – 155°F for an hour.  Remove the grains and pumpkin, allowing them to drain into the wort.
  3. Bring to a boil and add the dried malt extract.  Boil for an hour, adding the Northern Brewer hops at 60′, the Kent Goldings hops at 15′, and the three spices at 5′.
  4. Ferment for one week in primary and rack to secondary.  Ferment for one more week, then bottle with 5 oz priming sugar.  Bottle-conditioning should be complete in two weeks.

    Poor man’s fermentation chamber

Thanks to John Larsen at HomeBrew Den in Tallahassee for his expertise and recommendations.

Batch Notes:

October 14, 2012: This recipe was followed.  Ended up with an adjusted OG of 1.046.  Pitch temperature was around 75°F.  Will rack to secondary on October 21, 2012.

October 21, 2012: I racked it to secondary yesterday, October 20.  I can still smell the spices but the fruitiness of the hops has settled in a bit.  It really feels like this is going to be good!  I have a gravity of about 1.012 now, and the calculators say I have about 4.3% ABV.  So far it hasn’t been very active in the Better Bottle, so I’ll be checking on it again tomorrow to see if the gravity has changed.  If not, it’s ready to bottle and cap — meaning we may can have it on the show on November 9.

October 23, 2012: Wow.  White Labs California Ale yeast is aggressive.  I got a final gravity of 1.010 tonight and decided that it was time to bottle.  I didn’t want to wait too long and not get a good carbonation, so here we are.  It was non-active in the Better Bottle and hadn’t really done much since I racked it to secondary on Saturday.  I added the priming sugar to the bottling bucket and went to work.  I yielded exactly 48 bottles, and the last one was only about 3/4″ short.  I hope it doesn’t explode.

This is the end of the process for the Pumpkin Ale; I’ll report back in a few weeks when we crack it open.  Look for it on the show November 9.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

It’s been so long since my last beer review that I should be ashamed.  I mean, I was doing so well there for a while

Ah, life.  Something we can’t get away from and still keep writing.

I was at the local supermarket earlier this week when I found myself unable to leave without a bit of beer.  This particular store only carries one beer from a craft brewery, and for some reason I wasn’t in the mood for Sweetwater 420.  It just wasn’t that kind of a night.  Instead I settled for a seasonal Harvest Pumpkin Ale from Blue Moon Brewing Company, which we all should know (or should know) is owned by MillerCoors.  No matter how you look at it, MillerCoors influences the feel and taste of this beer.

It also explains why I found it at a grocery store in Adel, Georgia.

With flash, so you can see the label

Without flash, so you can see the color of the beer.

From the neck label:

A pumpkin ale crafted with autumn’s bounty of vine-ripened pumpkin and flavors of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.  Then brewed with a touch of wheat for a smooth, lightly spiced finish.

The average brewer with experience in spiced ales knows immediately that this is bullshit.  That aside, it’s a drinkable ale.  When I twisted off the top and poured the first one, I put it to my untainted nose and could detect the nutmeg and allspice flavors.  It’s a clear reddish-brown ale, and a bit fizzy with little head retention.

First taste is a bit astringent, but held in the mouth one can get the “wheat” and liken it to Blue Moon’s Belgian White.  The two have a strikingly similar finish.  It could be the water out there in Golden, or an addition of corn sugar to push up the alcohol by volume to 5.7%. The carbonation is the same level as an American lager, another tell-tale sign of large-brewery influence.  You cannot bottle-condition with twist-off caps.

Aside from the aroma that I sometimes have to close my eyes and breathe in very slowly to really get in, I’m not impressed with this brew.  Drinkability was an obvious factor when this was created.

My wife brought me some Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8%) and Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest (6.1%) tonight.  It’s my birthday tomorrow and I hope to have good quality beer in the evening.  Until then,


New Belgium Somersault

It’s no secret that I’m a die-hard New Belgium fan, and I have been since long before they were known coast-to-coast. I had a difficult time at first with Fat Tire in the beginning as I had not yet honed my tastes for good beer. I finally got off the corn/rice mix years ago and have been enjoying all the new beers New Belgium has to offer ever since.

A number of weeks ago I picked up a sampler with Somersault, the Summer Seasonal. Also in the pack was Ranger (IPA), Blue Paddle (Pilsener), and Dig (Pale Ale). I still have yet to try the Blue Paddle but I fear my temptation will win sometime this week. Anyway, Somersault, from the bottle:

SOMERSAULT Ale is a fun roll around on the tongue and a perfect, summer lounge-around ale that is easy to drink. Color is blonde with a suggestion of amber. SOMERSAULT tumbles out with citrus aroma from Centennial hops, a tuck of soft apricot fruitiness, completed by a smooth, upright finish with oats that were pitched in a long, slow mash. SOMERSAULT’s all around!

When I popped the cap this evening, strong hops hit me in the nose. It’s a dark golden color (that suggestion of amber they speak of) and a light carbonation, much to the same degree as Fat Tire and Ranger IPA. It’s a 5.2% ABV beer, which is the lowest of the seasonal brews. This is in part due to the lightness of a summer ale and is something I appreciate – no one needs more alcohol (a diuretic as you may well know) on a hot summer day. The finish is fruity, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s from the apricots. It’s got that type of fruitiness you find in Shock Top and Blue Moon, but not as strong and with no coriander. I’m sure that described is succinctly.

Somersault is that lounge-chair kind of beer and very easy to drink. I’m having a hard time writing because I can’t put it down. After the first, I noticed that my glass must have been very clean and it showed the quality of head on this ale. Look at that lacing!If you see it in the store or within a sampler, pick one up and enjoy! I guarantee you’ll like it as much as I do. If you don’t, I’ll buy your surplus of it.