13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Day 7 – Uinta’s Punk’n

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

#7 – Oct 7, 2013: Punk’n by Uinta Brewing Co. (Salt Lake City, UT)

Uinta’s motto is Earth, Wind, and Beer. And to make it extra special, Punk’n is part of their organic line, which means it contains 3% organic  ingredients!

Uinta-PunknYear of conception: since 2010 (won a silver medal in the World Beer Championships!)

Color: coppery-orange, with a decent amount of head

ABV: 4%

Cost: $9.99 + tax for a mixed 6-pack of 12oz bottles

Availability: all liquor stores great and small

Description by Uinta Brewing Co : Malt and hops accented with roasted pumpkin and spices of the season. A subtle hint of vanilla and honey. Punk’n is a wonderful compliment to foods with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove flavors. Try it with roasted turkey, squash or pumpkin ravioli, peach cobbler, or pumpkin cheesecake!”

My new motto is: Earth. Wind. Beer. And PUMPKINS (specifically pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin cheesecake)!  Unfortunately, I did not have any of those tasty treats to pair with this ale, but I found that this beer performed flawlessly on its own.  While most pumpkin beers I have tried have seemed bathed in spices, Uinta’s Punk’n is a much subtler, slicker beer.  The vanilla and honey give this ale a tasty, silky finish, without leaving your tongue feeling sticky.  Low on the ABV and light on the spices, Uinta did an amazing job putting the pumpkin first when brewing their homage to the esteemed autumn gourd.

Pie Pieces: 4 – Jack-o-Lantern

13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Days 5 & 6 – McAuslan’s St. Ambroise Citrouille & Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

#5 – Oct 5, 2013: St. Ambroise Citrouille (Pumpkin) Ale by McAuslan Brewing (Montreal, Canada)

Voulez-vous une biere a la citrouille? Mai ouis!

Year of conception: 2011 (won a Canadian gold medal)

Color: dark red when held up to the light, purple-tinted bubbles rising to the top

ABV: 5.0%

Cost: $8.99 on sale (reg. 9.95) + tax for 6-pack of 11.5oz bottles

Availability: upscale, specialty liquor stores

Description by McCauslan Brewing: “Each year as the leaves fall and the north wind blows, St-Ambroise Pumpkin Ale make its return – a magical potion that casts a potent spell with its well-crafted blend of blond and caramelized malts, gentle hop, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin. Its delicate malty character and hint of sweetness will quench any creature looking for easy-drinking refreshment.”

Buying a Canadian pumpkin brew may seem a bit “fou” (crazy) to some, but when faced with a beer I’ve never before seen, out comes my wallet!  This beer has amazing autumn colors, and transforms the entire pint glass into a magical lava lamp.  Faint nutmeg and cinnamon greet the nostrils when placed directly above the brew, but the spices really come to life when they cascade over the tongue.  This ale has a bite that quickly disappears, leaving your tastebuds searching for more.  Alas, while this beer is much more “curiuex” (curious) than I had anticipated, the description by McCauslan holds true, that this is a very easy-drinking refreshment, and not something that hits you in the face and says “CITROUILLE” (PUMPKIN)!

Pie Pieces: 2 – Green

#6 – Oct 6, 2013: Smashed Pumpkin by Shipyard Brewing Co. (Portland, ME)

So far the most disappointing pumpkin beer I have reviewed was Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale. Unfortunately, the next most disappointing beer I have tasted is Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin.

Year of conception: 2009

Color: Denver Broncos burnt orange!

ABV: 9.0%

Cost: $10.99 for a bomber (22oz)

Availability: I bought mine from a liquor store employee in an upscale establishment who had kept it in the back refrigerator for himself.  I’ve since discovered it in our local liquor store adjacent to Denver’s up-and-coming Five Points area (supply>>demand).

Description by Shipyard Brewing Co: “Smashed Pumpkin is a big-bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aromas of pumpkin and nutmeg.  The Pale Ale, Wheat, and Light Munich malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of hops to balance the sweetness of fruit.”

The reason why this beer is so disappointing is that its hype far outweighs its greatness/pumpkiness.  As far as I can tell, Shipyard simply took their Pumpkinhead ale, added some malt, toned down the red-hot flavor, and tied up the whole thing with a shiny wrapper.  That being said, the nutmeg overtones are much more effervescent than the Pumpkinhead, and the sharp, “fire-y” kick doesn’t completely overwhelm the senses.  This beer has a much more mature and palatable body, thanks in large part to the combination of malts.  While the Pumpkinhead Ale has grown from an ugly duckling into, err, a somewhat less ugly adult mallard in the Smashed Pumpkin, I’m still yearning for a pumpkin beer that relies more on pumpkin and less on pumpkin “overtones.”

Pie Pieces: 3 – Orange, for taste; 2 – Green, for price/availability/hype

13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Day 4 – Lakefront Brewery’s Pumpkin Lager

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

#4 – Oct 4, 2013: Pumpkin Lager by Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Quiz time!  What is one of the only pumpkin beers that is a LAGER rather than an ALE? Answer: Lakefront’s Pumpkin!

Year of conception: at least since 1997 (it apparently won a tasting merit award)

Color: cloudy, golden orange

ABV: 6.0%

Cost: $9.49 + tax for 6-pack of 12oz bottles

Availability: all liquor stores great and small

Description by Lakefront Brewery: “Using real pumpkin and a proprietary blend of spices … our brewers’ lager this beer for 4 full weeks… A frothy entry leads to an off-dry medium-to-full body of intense cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and candied yam flavor on a nutty wheat toast palate. Finishes with a drier spice and light toffee fade. Caramel and Munich malts reinforce this beer’s mouthfeel and lend to the malty sweetness.”

A pleasant aroma of Midwest spices greets your nostrils as your mouth enjoys the full, rich taste of this Fall lager. The cinnamon and nutmeg flavors are quite prevalent, but not overwhelming. Drinking this beer is quite refreshing, and I agree that there is a light delightful toffee aftertaste. Definitively sweet, this beer is enjoyable but would not necessarily be paired with Monday Night Football. Although it does not fulfill my search for the “perfect” pumpkin beer, I wouldn’t hesitate to imbibe it again.

Pie Pieces: 3 – Orange

13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Day 3 – Shipyard Brewing’s Pumpkinhead Ale

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

#3 – Oct 3, 2013: Pumpkinhead Ale by Shipyard Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Whether from glass bottles, aluminum cans, or decorative gourds mother truckers, I have YET to meet a pumpkin beer that I couldn’t WAIT to try!

shipyard pumpkinhead

Year of conception: 2002

Color: cloudy, golden tan

ABV: 4.7%

Cost: $9.99 + tax for 6-pack of 12oz bottles

Availability: all liquor stores great and small

Description by Shipyard Brewing Co: A crisp and refreshing wheat ale with hints of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg aromas and flavors.

Sadly, that sentiment was taken to a spooky grave today by Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale.  While I couldn’t enjoy the aromatics of the Pumpkinhead Ale either from lack of, or seasonal nasal congestion, the spices will certainly clear out your sinuses.  The combination of cinnamon and nutmeg leaves this beer tasting more like a fiery red-hot than warm, sensual pumpkin pie.  And maybe it’s just because “pumpkinhead” is what I used to call my backyard neighbor growing up.  You know, the awkward boy who instead of turning into a swan turns into the co-star of your failed (initially romantic later discovered to be) homosexual male relationships?  Anyway, the point is that this beer is in its awkward tween years and it needs to stop trying so hard to be something it is not, i.e. a PUMPKIN beer.

Pie Pieces: 1 – Rotten

13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Day 2 – Tommyknocker Brewery’s Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

#2 – Oct 2, 2013: Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale by Tommyknocker Brewery (Idaho Springs, CO)

Apologies for my tardy post.  Being a full-time doctor during the day and a semi-professional classical musician occasionally doesn’t leave me much time to spend on my one true love: pumpkin beer!

tommyknocker-small-patch-pumpkin1Year of conception: 2011?

Color: malty, chocolaty brown; little head when poured

ABV: 5%

Cost: $9.99 + tax for 6-pack of 12oz bottles

Availability: most liquor stores great and small

Description by Tommyknocker Brewery: A hearty brown ale brewed to celebrate the fall harvest season. Brewed with a hint of spice and a touch of molasses, Small Patch has a malty backbone rounded out by an addition of real pumpkin to the mash and brew kettle. Think outside the patch!”

While Small Patch is hailed as a seasonal beer only enjoyable in Fall, the full, stouty-richness is a flavor I could curl up with during Winter snow storms.  The molasses overtones and slightly burnt signature stout fragrance make you want to happily drown in your glass.  The pumpkin spices are also semi-submerged in this brown ale, but tend to surface when you least expect it.  A bit dark for my taste in pumpkin beer, but a noble triumph nonetheless!  If you wear many different hats (as I do), you too may enjoy this subtle spin on an Autumn classic!

Pie Pieces: 3 – Orange

13 Days of Pumpkin Beer: Day 1 – New Belgium’s Pumpkick

Guest blog post by Alia Broman

I LOVE Fall! Crisp, clear days warming up to the 80s, and chilly nights requiring fuzzy fleeces.  Crunchy leaves, early morning frosts, and the anticipation of binging on candy provided by strangers.  But as I am at the age where it is inappropriate to go trick-or-treating without a child of my own, I am sequestered in my apartment, searching for the same enthusiasm for the month of October that I once had.

Then it hit me; the other reason I love October is pumpkins!  And what go better together than pumpkins and beer, or rather, pumpkins IN beer?!  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to enough pumpkin beer to blog about a different one for 30 days, but I’m going to try my hardest to blog about them for 13 days.  I will report on their color, ABV, cost (based on my local liquor store in Denver, Colorado), availability, and of course, pumpkiny-goodness!  Overall scores of awesomeness will be one to four pie pieces, as an ode to my anticipation of homemade pumpkin pie in November.  One pie piece is old and rotten, two is a green pumpkin from the grocery store, three is orange fresh from the pumpkin patch, and four is a hand-carved, smiling jack-o-lantern.

#1 – Oct 1, 2013: Pumpkick by New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO)   

lPumpkickLogo

Year of conception: 2013

ABV: 6%

Color: light amber, with a nice orange glow at the bottom of the glass from reflected light

Cost: $8.99 + tax for 6-pack of 12oz bottles

Availability: all liquor stores great and small

Description by New Belgium Brewing: “PUMPKICK is brewed with plenty of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but it’s the cranberries and touch of lemongrass that send your taste buds sailing.”

Pumpkick has pleasant aromatics, with defined hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.  The first sip is a tangy assault on your tastebuds, but after sips two and more, the beer simply melts onto your palate.  It’s a very easy beer to drink, but also a very easy beer to forget.  As for the touch of lemongrass, I would argue that there are more than a few stalks per bottle, that culminate in a sour aftertaste.  The lemongrass and cranberries also seem to insult rather than complement each other.  That being said, my hat is tipped to my hometown brewery for entering into the stiff competition that comes with all seasonal ales.

Pie Pieces: 2 – Green 

Girl, You Want That Hop Bod?!

All right, so you have a deep, undying love for beer. Sure, you’re not alone in the world. But do you love the smell of hops so much you would literally bathe yourself in it? Or so much that you would want the smell to engulf you 24/7 (whether or not you’re drunk)? Then you’re in luck, because there are some people as beer obsessed as you are with a penchant for entrepreneurship.

I’ve made a list of some cool beer and hop paraphernalia that might tickle your fancy. Or if you’re looking to buy me a gift, any of these would do. Thanks!

—-

Candles Made from Recycled Bottles:

A cool way to reuse bottles and decorate your home, if you’re into that beer chic look (which I am). Although the candles are unscented and more akin to tea lights, the bottled candles last a long time and look beautiful. Like these Growler Lamps that I desperately want to make (considering that Fitger’s does not give you the deposit back on growlers and I have several).

beer candles

Hop-Scented Candles:

the candle labThis is probably the most intriguing to me because of the disclaimer that not everyone, even homebrewers, will like the candles’ smell. Although saying that “it’s like sticking your nose in a glass of hoppy beer” sounds awesome, it worries me that the candle is based off “one kind of hop”. Tell me the kind, even name the candle after said variety. But in their defense, hops do have a strong smell and it’s definitely not for everyone. But if this candle can replicate the smell of the moment you drop the hops in the mash, I want it. Bad.

Hops ShampooESB Shampoo and Conditioner:

hops shampoo duffys ESB ShampooYes, please. Pour it on me. Hops shampoo sounds delicious, and I bet it is good for my hair what with its preservative properties. And the branding? Swoon. I could use a matching conditioner though, I don’t know if it would go with the rosemary mint thing I’ve got going on. Duffy’s ESB Shampoo and Conditioner look pretty good, albeit a little male-oriented, which is fine I guess. What’s cool is they actually used an ESB from Elysian Brewing Company to make it and in the description, detail the hops and malts that go into the beer and how it impacts the hair product.

Hops Lip Balm:

hop lip balm

I know it’s cheap to spotlight a product from the same brand I mentioned earlier, Atlantic Farms, but what’s cool about the hops lip balm is that they offer four different ones, a Lavender, Mint, Grapefruit and Double IPA (as if there weren’t enough hops or hop smell in it already – they even name them, Chinook and Cascade). All natural and organic, they’re not cheap, but damn they look tasty. The only question is, would it be weird to drink a beer with one of those on your lips? Maybe.

Beer Soap & Hops Body Bar:

foggy brew sudsdamn handsome hop shampooFoggy Brew Suds doesn’t just use hops, but “local varieties of lager, ale, stout and porter” to hand-make the soap. Each bar has the flavor profile on it (or I guess olfactory profile, because you shouldn’t eat soap) that describes both the smell and the texture. I’m not sure if I would use it for my body, but then again a nice stout would be so creamy and soft on my skin, I couldn’t resist. Damn Handsome Grooming Co. has their branding down – slick and manly and referencing brewing companies in the name, it almost makes me want to hate them for so clearly excluding me. But I get it, guys don’t like to shower, so why not make if fun and beer-focused? Eye roll. Hence the Hop Shampoo and Body Bar, which looks damn good. But most other stuff is sold out, and this one makes me the saddest – Fall Nut Brown Liquid Beer Soap made with damn handsome beer soapspent grains. But they have it all: beard oil, hair wax, even tattoo rescue oil. The thing I want most, however, is the seasonal favorite Pumpkin Ale Beer Soap that you get free with ordering (I don’t want to put soap in my hair, but I will use it on my body, thank you). I just bought the last one, sorry for you.

—-

The real question: would you consider me a crazy person if I had every one of these products? I hop(e) not, because I really, really want them.

Wine From Water – Food and Beer Pairing

Hello! I know this a little late (a year and a month late to be exact), but I wrote it, so I want to post it. Plus it’s interesting and cool and I don’t do a lot of blog collaboration – I want to do more of that. A while ago, Nelli and Brian started a blog called Wine From Water. It’s awesome with all sorts of good recipes, commentary, and food porn photos, etc. Nelli asked me to write a little piece about pairing beer with a meal they made, so here we go!

I am so pleased to be blogging with Wine From Water; I’ve known Nelli and Brian for a long time, and well, let me just say that Nelli (and assumedly Brian) is a great cook and very adventurous when it comes to the palate. I’m just glad I have something to contribute to the mix (literally). Trust me, I know a lot about mac and cheese, because it’s pretty much the only meal I make (different variations thereof, including Annie’s, spruced up), and I know even more about beer. Here I’ve laid out different beer options for pairing beer with the two dishes Nelli and Brian have made, and a little bit about pairing beer with food to get your mind working. So next time you go to the liquor store after a grocery store run you can think about the flavors and come up with a pairing on par with the fanciest wine-only restaurant. Beer is for everyone, so I don’t want to hear that you don’t like beer. If you don’t like beer, you haven’t found the right one, so keep trying!
 
Food & Beer Pairing with Wine From Water’s Spicy Shells and Gouda Cheese recipe

You pay a small amount for a meal, you don’t want to bust your budget on beer, but you still want it to taste good and compliment the deliciousness you labored over. With a meal like this, which is generally spicy, I would recommend an IPA. IPAs can help balance the flavors of robust meals like this one, because of their high levels of hops, and are good balancers for spicy and chili flavors (like the ones found in pepperjack cheese). Spiciness also part of their history. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, if you didn’t know the lore, now you do: when the British went to explore India they brought beer (good idea guys) and then they were worried it was going to go bad (unlikely) so they put some hops in the finished beer (called dry-hopping, hehe), which makes the finish (the lasting taste in your mouth once you’ve swallowed it) incredibly bitterTwo Hearted Ale and delicious.
 
If you’re from Michigan, a good standby is Bell’s Two Hearted, and it won’t break the bank, really (I would say on average, about $10 for a 6 pack, which is pretty standard for a nice craft beer). But if you’re from Minnesota, or can get your grubby little hands on it, have yourself a Surly Furious (more IBUs – international bittering units – than your mouth can taste). It’s about $12 for a 4 pack of tallboys. Or even better, and cheaper, you could get Rush River Bubblejack ($9 for a 6 pack).
 
anchor porterIf you’re not into IPAs, that’s fine, but you’re missing out. Instead, you could pair this dish with a beer that accents the smokey flavors in the paprika topping, and can help tone down the spicy notes in the food: a porter. A cheaper more widely found porter is the Anchor Porter from Anchor Brewing, one of the oldest breweries in the United States. A good Michigan option: Founder’s Porter. Deep, dark, and delicious. That’ll run about $10, but the Anchor can be as cheap as $8.

Cheers!

The Beauty and Elegance of High-Low Beer and Food Pairing

Recently I’ve been itching to go to a beer dinner, a really delicious excuse to eat too much delicious food and drink too much delicious beer, but to be honest, they’re just too expensive. I mean $50 for a four-course meal with 4 beers is pretty reasonable, assuming that each of those beers costs $5, that’s $20 and then the dinner itself is $30. However the reason person within me thinks ‘wow, when was the last time you spent $50 just on food for yourself in a normal restaurant situation?’ I feel like beer dinners should just be cheaper – you’re a captive audience and supporter and blowing $100 on a weeknight meal for two just feels frivolous to do more than once a year. It’s ok to make it expensive sometimes especially if you’re involving a renowned chef, but to really get people excited and learning about craft beer and food/beer pairings, you have to make it more accessible – lower the cost.

However, it’s a two-fold situation. Beer-pairing dinners are the little brother to wine-pairing dinners, which are arguably more expensive and, for lack of a better word, ritzy. The discourse around wine is much more sophisticated and as are the people that talk about the ‘bouquet of the wine’ and nibble crackers in between tastings (that apparently you are not supposed to actually swallow). Wine is supposed to go with high-class food while beer goes with sporting games and burgers. But as we’ve seen recently ‘everyday’ food like burgers and grilled cheeses are become more popular, more ritzy, and definitely more expensive. So why not pair beer with those things instead of the unattainable Michelin star-type food you find matched up with wine? Well, some do, but then they charge wine dinner prices for it. Sure good quality craft beer isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely not fancy pants wine and that’s not what beer is all about so why charge like it is? Beer is for the people, even craft beer, believe it or not.

If craft beer is expensive then won’t people think it’s better and more elite, like wine? So then it practically needs to have events similar to those with wine. Craft beer no longer competes against crappy American lagers, it competes against wine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people who say they don’t like beer just haven’t found the right one. There is a larger variety of flavor profiles in beer than there is in wine because it can literally be or taste like anything – craft brewers are getting adventurous and by over-pricing beer dinners, people are missing out. Pairing craft beer with gourmet food isn’t the ‘next big thing’ because it’s here and frankly it’s unsustainable and further alienates people that craft beer has left behind. The future of craft beer and food is high-low beer pairings, bringing the people and the beer together rather than the beer to the people.

Last summer for a friend’s birthday we went to the Lagunitas and Heggie’s pizza beer-pairing dinner at the Nomad World Pub. It was awesome. For $20 we had four (five?) glasses of Lagunitas paired with five different slices of the famous bar-only Heggie’s frozen pizza. As an appetizer we had a handful of Totino’s pizza rolls in a whiskey glass served with a tasting glass of beer and then from there, the beer and pizza were flowing. Before every new pizza and beer, the local Lagunitas rep gave us a brief description of both and why they went well together – there were no white tablecloths, no cloth napkins for that matter, just a lot of beautiful patio and tasty beers. I honestly can’t tell you why there weren’t more people there – am I the only one who likes cheap craft beer and above average frozen pizza? Perhaps.

But my point still stands. Through that event, Lagunitas got their name out in the community, we got to try more Lagunitas than I have even had at a beer festival and we ate plenty – it was a successful beer dinner by all definitions.  So now I want more but I have seen none. Unlike a wine-pairing dinner that teaches people that the only way to enjoy good wine and good food is to pay a lot at a fancy restaurant, the beauty of the high-low beer pairing is that it is inexpensive for everyone and a great way to focus on the beer and how to pair and enjoy it with everyday foods. That’s what craft beer is all about.

Beer Black Hole

As I stared at the never-ending rows of craft beer at Zipp’s, overcome with indecision and displeasure, I realized that I have a problem. I am bored by craft beer in its current state. It makes me sad and grumpy and disappointed – like a parent whose child wrecked the family car and claimed it was an accident when it was clearly a case of distracted driving. I have tried so many beers, and love trying so many beers, to such an extent that it is the core element of the beer experience for me now. I no longer want to just drink a beer; I want to try a new beer. I want to evaluate it. I want to recommend it to friends and love it for that moment, for that six-pack, and move on to another. And repeat. So I just stared at the beers, settling on a tried and true brew, but I was disheartened. How many others are suffering from this illness? This I-need-a-new-brew-to-survive disease? And the answer is, I’m sure, plenty. That’s why the beer scene continues to grow and there is literally a new brewery every other week in Minneapolis. But that begs the question, when will it be enough? A sinking feeling in my stomach – never. I will endure this forever, for better or worse, until the beer industry implodes on itself from too many beers.