Review: 2014 Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale

Dogfish-Head-Punkin-Ale-labelI’m surprised that I never posted a review of Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale over the last few years.  This year was special – a local retailer added growlers to their offerings and I got to have Punkin’ from the tap!

The half-gallon went pretty quickly, but I did take some notes.  I have said in the past that I didn’t want to do quantitative reviews, but if I don’t keep to some kind of standard I’ll never be able to keep up with what I’ve experienced.  I have decided to use the Beer Judge Certification Program‘s beer scoresheet to take my notes and give ratings.  This will also allow you to bench my scores against other ratings, though others may be on a different scale.  BJCP scores are 0 to 50.

Aroma

Sweet alcohol, cinnamon & nutmeg.  To my olfactory, this was a lot like last year.  Appropriate for this style.  (9/12)

Appearance

It pours clear in a deep amber color.  The keg it came from was perfectly carbonated.  It has a foamy yet crisp head that lingers.  (3/3)

2014-punkin-in-globe

Flavor

Hoppy up front, followed by sticky sweetness with an only slightly-floral bitterness in the alcoholic finish.  The next breath is of alcohol and spices. (16/20)

Mouthfeel

Positive.  The palate is well-compensated as it comes in to balance.  Warm in the throat.  The low carbonation makes it very smooth.  (5/5)

Overall Impression

After drinking for a few minutes, it begins to warm up (and so do I).  More spices surface and everything comes into play.  The alcoholic finish, while a bit strong at first, subsides and becomes quite enjoyable.  If I could change anything about this beer, it would be the quantity of spices present – its festivity gets a bit overwhelming in the same way that a strong scented candle does in a small room. (9/10)

Score

The tally is 42 out of 50 (Excellent).

With that said, I want to make sure no one reads this review as a desire to change what Dogfish Head does.  There’s absolutely no way I’d tell any brewery to do anything differently – from my I love Craft Beer perspective, it’s perfect.  I wouldn’t believe for a second that a batch of Punkin’ that reached consumers wasn’t what Dogfish Head wanted to serve, so I know that this beer is exactly what they wanted me to have.  Besides – Dogfish Head makes “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.”  It would only be an odd beer if it were a perfect example of a particular style.

In the end, I highly recommend Punkin’ to those adventurous enough to tackle this year’s craft Pumpkin beers – it’s worth the time.

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA (Release #79)

1-IMG_2221I’ve just opened this and I can’t stop sniffing it.  Hopulent IPA from Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City, UT is part of their Elevated Series of beers, and this one certainly smells so.  I can barely detect some sweetness in this low-carbonated copper-colored IPA over the  delightfully clean hop aroma (Centennial finishing hop, I’m guessing.  I’m probably wrong).

But I guess I should taste it.

And – Wow.  There is absolutely nothing excited on the front of my tongue.  This one’s pure hop juice – all over the center and back of the palate, where the sour and bitter tastes are detected (okay – I just learned that the Tongue Map has been disproven many years ago, but I seriously don’t taste any of this on the front of my tongue.)

That isn’t all Centennial or Cascade hops though.  Let’s have a look at the label (thanks, panoramic iPhone capability):

Epic Hopulent #79

Well, nothing.  However, when I looked at their site I discovered I’d overlooked one detail on the label: the release.

The release details give the beer a very personal view.  This bottle is from release number 79, of which I can see the details of that specific batch:

hopulent_release79_detailsI was right – Centennial hops on the nose (disclaimer: I grow Centennial on my front porch and simply got lucky at guessing what I smelled).  There are no Cascade hops to my surprise.  Columbus, Chinook, Centennial, and Simcoe.

I don’t know what to tell you – try this one, no matter what release.  I will say that the “release” stuff is no bullshit.  #77 was 0.1% higher ABV, and #78 was brewed in a different city (Denver).  That personal touch really does it for me.  I like small batches of hand-made quality beer, and I believe I’ve found it in Epic Brewing.  Knowing that these details are kept and that I can easily find the nitty-gritty on what exactly is in this bottle is enough for me to get another brew from Epic just so I can think about what all went into making that beer.

That’s partly (read: mostly) what my other new blog is about, by the way.

Some details about my particular bottle:

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA

Style: India Pale Ale

Delivery: 22oz bomber

Brewed: September 18, 2013

Bottled: October 22, 2013 (this IPA was in the bottle for 69 days)

IBU: Not published and not available on BeerAdvocate, but I’d guess in the mid-to-high 80s.

Enjoy this one.  Just reading the BA reviews, it seems to keep getting better with each iteration.  Cheers!

Monday Night Drafty Kilt

Have you ever wanted to wear a kilt?  I know a certain restaurant chain where the female servers wear kilts too short, but then again those aren’t kilts and they serve a different purpose.  I also saw Samuel Jackson wearing a kilt in a movie but that’s probably irrelevant.  Anyway, I stopped in to Moondog Growlers in Dunwoody, Georgia during my conference over the weekend and had a few tastes of what they had on tap.  Scott was super-nice and made us welcome to stay and enjoy ourselves.

Moondog Growlers Sign

Or until 9:00, at which time he promised to kick us out.  This was completely understandable – it was Saturday night and this was a store, not a bar.  It is a great place and I recommend it to any- and everyone.  The Dunwoody store has 40 taps and is decorated in an excellent fashion.  Never have I seen such fantastic woodwork in an independent retail location.

I tasted some IPAs I’d never had a chance to before, such as Jailhouse Brewing’s Mugshot IPA, Red Brick Brewing’s HopLanta, and Hop Head Red by Green Flash Brewing.  I also had Victory Lager since I had the chance to grab a quick half-pint.  And it was excellent as expected.

Back to the kilt – I wanted to take home something in a growler that I wouldn’t be able to find down south where I live, and I knew a beer from Monday Night would certainly be impossible to find outside of the Atlanta Metro area.  At the time, Moondog Growlers had two of their beers on tap: Fu Manbrew Belgian-Style Witbier and Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale.

I have previously been unaware of exactly what style the Scottish Ale is, but after pouring this one and putting my nose down the glass, I found it: Scotch.

Very alcoholic on the nose, with hints of red wood and a cider-like tingle.  It has a very strong flavor profile that presents itself on the middle of the tongue, with a warm alcoholic finish and little aftertaste.  Scott told me this was a daily drinker, and I believed him.  Not for me, though.  My daily drinker must be a session beer so I can enjoy a few over a few hours; this one kicks my ass at 7.2% ABV.  Still a wonderful reception, to be had again or given as a special gift to someone who enjoys heavy, tasty, malty beers.  I have a few friends, and this might just blow their kilts up.

Style: Scottish Ale/Wee Heavy
Pairs with: Itself and strongly-flavored dishes; chocolate, some cheeses, I expect.
ABV: 7.2%
Availability: Year-round

Find out more at mondaynightbrewing.com

More about Moondog Growlers at moondoggrowlers.com

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,

Cheers!

New Belgium Blue Paddle

Randy Mosher, in his book Tasting Beer, says to have patience when pouring to get good foam. His method described in the text usually goes past anyone’s level of patience while waiting for a beer (depending heavily upon the quality of the beer and the head retention). Given that, I present you with an astonishingly boring video of my pouring New Belgium’s Blue Paddle, a Pilsener I have evidently been unaware of until I found it in a sampler. I poured it according to Mr. Mosher’s directions in the book. No one typically wants to wait this long for a beer at home:

Blue Paddle is a decent Pilsener, but I’m comparing it to my memory of Pilsner Urquell and the likes of Stella Artois (a Belgian Pale Lager). There’s a bitterness that I’m looking for in this one but only finding smoothness and the slightest citrus note. It could be that my palate is wrecked tonight, making this little chat of ours moot. It is very drinkable though – 4.8% ABV and 33 IBU with that hint of citrus, perhaps lent by the Saaz, Liberty, and Target hops. From the bottle:

Blue Paddle Pilsener Lager crafted with malt-only brewing and noble hops, explores the boundaries where American Lagers seldom journey. Reflective of Europe’s finest Pilseners, BLUE PADDLE delivers a refreshing bitterness, vibrant finish, and a subtle but intricate depth of flavor.

If that’s all really there, my palate is certainly not detecting it tonight. It has a light sort of taste that now makes more sense after I’ve let it warm up a bit. Even then it still doesn’t have that smell of vomit that other beers of the same color possess. It’s clean all-around and, served cold, goes down the gullet with much haste.

Pick some up when you get the chance and try it – even if you have to buy the whole sampler. New Belgium is proud of what they make and rightly so; top quality beer is all I have ever had from Fort Collins (and soon Asheville, NC!).

Cheers!

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.

Cheers!

Review: New Belgium Shift

I tweeted the other day about comparing canned to bottled beer, assuming that I would be able to get the Shift Pale Lager from New Belgium in both packages.

According to this article, though, Shift is only packaged in a 16-oz can. New Belgium is putting Fat Tire and Ranger IPA in cans (12 and 16 oz) as well as the 12oz bottle, so I’ll definitely get to do a blind bottle-to-can comparison.

In the mean time, here are my thoughts on Shift:

The initial nose-in-glass gives a likening of Ranger IPA – the finishing hops are very present to begin with (Shift and Ranger IPA have Cascade hops in common). Head retention is awesome – like that ocean fizz that hangs around for days. That could be the last bit of conditioning in the can showing off, though. Great stuff.

This brew is somehow especially appropriate for the end of a long day. It’s not too filling or overpowering in mouthfeel, yet at 5.0% ABV it is difficult to say it’s not a perfect beer for a Tuesday sunset. And one 16-oz can is enough, especially if it’s before dinner. It has a palate friendly bitterness at 29 IBU, so it won’t ruin supper – you could even start eating before you finish it. I did.

There are so many pale brews out there that one could partake in the early evening – it’s difficult to say which one I’d pick over the other. Being me, I’d choose the one I’d never had before. If the choices were smaller, Shift would definitely be at the top of my considerations.

Again – I don’t quantify my beers, so you’re not going to get a number score. New Belgium continues to impress me with their products and their love of the craft and the culture. They’re serious about what they do and it shows. I recommend Shift to anyone who likes a crisp, cold, palatable beer after work. It’s way more rewarding than anything from the big three.

Cheers!

Sweetwater Brewing Company Happy Ending Imperial Stout

My neighbor is pretty fit, but his washboard abs just aren’t appearing as one would expect of someone at his activity level. It’s his beer diet, and he has come to the decision to slow down the consumption and perhaps only enjoy a good beer on a weekend day. I don’t think that’s a horrible idea, plus there’s a budgetary reason also for not drinking several craft brews daily (imperial series at that). I figured I could go without beer every day too. I could just pick and choose beers at the package store, and bring them home to think about or keep for a rainy day. Then I found Sweetwater Brewing Company‘s Happy Ending Imperial Stout last night. I took it home and put it on the bottom shelf, behind the milk where I couldn’t see it.

Today went well until after lunch. I had gone for my daily run and was home eating a bite but found myself still hungry afterwards. I opened the fridge and I heard it calling. I couldn’t see where the noise was coming from but I knew exactly what it was. From behind the milk I heard a faint