Seth Levy

Seth Levy

Double IPA: Hoppy Treats for Maine Beer Drinkers

It's been a hard month, loyal reader. Together, we slogged through the monochromatic landscape of Oktoberfest beers. Silenus* bless them, but Oktoberfest beers aren't the most vibrant and diverse bunch. To shock our palates out of their long stupor, and stimulate our brains, I'm launching a month-long exploration of one of the newest and most vibrant category of beers – Double IPAs! We're starting close to home this time and sampling DIPAs from Maine. In fact, Maine has so many great DIPAs, that I'm going to break precedent and taste several weeks worth of beers from one state. There's some poetic symmetry in doing a double review for double IPA, so hold on to your pints, loyal reader!

Baxter Brewing Bootleg Fireworks
Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 9.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a vivid reddish orange with a thick scrim of white foam. Outrageously floral, herbal aroma rockets out of the glass – dried orange rind, hashish, asphalt and mint join pine and mango in an explosion of hop stink. Initial flavor is surprisingly warm and round – emphasizing citrus peel and spice characters. There's an oily sheen of citrus, conifer and dankness coating my tongue. “It's like an IPA-Jello shot!” says tasting assistant Ivan. There's a powerful bitterness lingering behind the warm fruit though, like the delayed sternum-shaking boom after a bright explosion of fruit. It's a powerful product, but the body is surprisingly moderate and it hides its 9% abv strength quite well.

Foundation Venture

Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 8.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a pale, transparent yellow with no head. Aroma is resinous and piney, with undertones of fresh citrus, and wet, sticky herbs. Initial flavor is dry, herbal and immediately bitter, reminiscent of a digestif liqueur. The bitterness subsides, revealing grapefruit, lemon and orange flavors and a whole sachet worth of herbs – too numerous to elucidate. The body is miraculously light and slinky – an amazing feat for a beer this packed with flavor and alcohol. Alcohol, you said? A glance at the can reveals it's an ambitious 8%, but it's dangerously mellow on the palate. The aftertaste is faintly sweet and remarkably clean. This beer glows in the pit of my belly like a warm coal.

Marsh Island Brewing Company 12 gauge DIPA
Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle

ABV: 9.3%

Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber with an ample off-white head. Aroma is spicy and strongly alcoholic. There is a strong tequila component to the smell – hot, volatile and potent! Initial flavor is also hot, sweet and packed with alcoholic force. There are notes of white pepper, a slap of hop bitterness, and a long, grape-like sweetness. This is a forceful, almost pushy DIPA. It would serve as an amazing digestif after a heavy meal or a wonderful warmer on a cold night!

*The Greek deity of over-indulgence in drink.

Beer Tasting Survival Guide

The timing couldn’t be better. Portland Beer Week is in the rear-view mirror, and I have a cold that’s so bad, I can’t tell the difference between and IPA and a tall Dr. Pepper! So, rather than publish a tasting complaining that everything tastes like Echinacea and mucus, I’m going to share some survival tips for a week of extensive drinking. I’ve gathered these tips over several decades of dedicated consumption, and they don’t fail me more than once a week. Cheers!
Eat
The less food you have in your stomach, the faster alcohol enters your bloodstream. So, start your tasting session with a light meal of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. Or, just go for volume and eat a bucket of greasy fries. Either way, don’t hit something so spicy, salty or strongly flavored that it numbs your palate.
Hydrate
Alcohol is dehydrating, so sip water throughout your tasting sessions. I’ll have a pint of water per pint of beer, and I’ve noticed that I feel significantly more alert at the end of a tasting with this regimen. A quick drink of water between different beers cleans the palate so you can appreciate the next beverage, and frequent trips to the restroom provide an enlivening exercise!
Slow Down
Not to literally be a buzz-kill, but it’s hard to taste beer when you send it directly into your esophagus, without a brief stop on your palate. Sip, pause, drink water and contemplate. You’ll have a more complete sensory experience and you won’t get as loaded.
Take Notes
I’ll bring a small notebook to tastings. Sometimes, I take detailed notes for a story, but more often I’ll just jot down the name of a favorite beer, or a new brewery, a flavor I’ve never experienced, or a new friend.
Use All Your Senses
A huge percentage of the sense we call taste is actually smell! Take your time to enjoy the aroma of the lovely beer in front of you. See the color, the clarity and feel the temperature. Beer drinking can be a complete sensory experience if you’re willing to engage all of your senses.
Start Low, End High
If you’ve got a lot of beers to taste, and you want to be able distinguish them to the very end, you need to prepare for palate fatigue. This phenomena occurs when your palate becomes accustomed to perceiving certain flavors, and has difficulty distinguishing them. If you start your evening off with a beer that has 10 percent alcohol, and a wheelbarrow-load of hops, everything you taste after is going to taste pallid in comparison. If I have to taste a variety of beers, I’ll focus on beers that are lower in alcohol, hops and lighter in color, and move on to progressively heavier beers.
Manage Serving Sizes
Pouring at a tasting festival, I was shocked when a well-known local brewer handed me back the remainder of his 4 oz tasting sample, mumbling, “That’s gross man. I’m saving my liver for something tasty.” I’ve since seen the wisdom of his words. Why finish a pint of something you hate? Order the smallest serving possible, and if you like it, order another!

Bitter parting: Northern Oktoberfest Beers round out category

October is over, but our tasting of Oktoberfest beers lives! This week, we're tasting Oktoberfest beers from the Northeast – highlighting breweries in NY, VT and NH. After a solid month of sipping Oktoberfest beers, my palate is all malted out, and I'm ready to hang up my Lederhosen until next year. But before I move my attention to another style of beer, I'm reflecting on lessons learned in tasting Oktoberfest beers, namely:

Potato totally works as an addition to a strong Oktoberfest! The Maine Oktoberfest beers I sampled were, as a group, the least assertive in flavor. The Northeast Oktoberfest beers I sampled were, as a group, the darkest and most assertive in flavor. Oktoberfest beers uniformly use subtle, Continental hops, with low levels of bitterness. I miss bitterness!

Vontrapp Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.6 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber and raises a fine head of off-white foam. Aroma is redolent of fresh apples, caramel and minerals, with a whiff of sulfur. Initial flavor is bracing, with unexpected sourness, backed up by a lovely, assertive bitterness. There is a warm, honeyed malt flavor after the initial attack of bitterness. The aftertaste blends the simple, uncomplicated malt sweetness with the lingering bitterness of the hops. Though it's initially more assertive than other examples of the style, the Vontrapp ends on a balanced, elegant note.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.5 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a bright copper with no head. Aroma has rich caramel with hints of slate and ginger. Initial flavor is a swirl of rich toffee, aggressive carbonation, and sour, spicy malt. This is punchy for an Oktoberfest! There is a building impression of vanilla and caramel as the spicy, sour notes fade. The aftertaste is multifaceted, pulling together all the previous layers of flavor. There's cinnamon, wood, spice, sharpness and a long, mineral finish.

Harpoon Octoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.3 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing amber, with a very scant tan head. Aroma has malt syrup, lemon, apples and alcohol. Initial flavor glows with sweet, light caramel flavors. The malt flavor is quite sweet, and minimally caramelized. A hop flavor slides in after the sweet, so subtle it's almost past before I recognize it. These hops are spicy, showcasing a mulled, orange-peel flavor instead of a bitter blast. The aftertaste is a bit sticky and acidic, a bit of a let-down after the strong opening. With the spicy sweetness, I imagine the Harpoon would pair very well with a herbed sausage.

Maine Oktoberfests to relish

In honor of October, I've dedicated an unreasonable share of my palate to sampling Oktoberfest beers. These malty beers have plenty of flavor, moderate levels of alcohol and hop bitterness. It was a challenge to find three Oktoberfest beers from Maine that I hadn't tasted before, or, at least, that had been reformulated since I had them last. Why? My theory is that, because Oktoberfest beers are a challenge to make, and are so distinctly seasonal, they aren't a huge focus for local brewers. Since most Oktoberfest beers are lagers, they need to sit in cold storage for weeks, or even months-an expensive and time-consuming venture for a beer with a short season. Additionally, I've always felt that Oktoberfest's malty bouquet and heartier body make it less versatile than even a quotidian pale ale. There ends my musings, loyal reader. Now is the heyday of Oktoberfest beer, so let's taste some of the freshest, most local examples of this style possible!

Foulmouthed Brewing Brat
Format Sampled: 32 oz CO2-flushed growler
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear copper with a thin layer of white head. Initial flavor is clean, velvety and metallic. The hops are up-front and immediately spicy, but not particularly bitter. The malt flavors are lightly toasted, faintly sweet, and emphasize metallic, mineral notes. This tastes sharp, clean and mechanical – an ideal vision of a German altbier. I can imagine the restrained sweetness and spicy flavors would pair well with a brat, draped in caramelized onions, or a salty pretzel with a whole-grain mustard.

Rising Tide Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 5.7 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling light gold, with a fine, white head. Aroma is clean, slightly sour, and redolent of fresh apple juice. Initial flavor is all about the smooth, creamy malt. It's a substantial sweetness, not cloying like candy, much deeper and much more complex. The flavor opens up quickly, with a bright, coppery taste, and more of the apple juice flavor. The aftertaste is slightly sweet, still coppery, with hints of elegantly subdued hops. This is an incredibly elegant, clean, practical beer. The body is rather light, the color is just on the copper side of pale, and the whole experience is lilting and lifting. Lovely!

Marsh Island Brewing Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.9 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, reddish amber, with a dense, tan head. Aroma is sweet, with hints of dusty stone, and a spicy, noble hop scent. Initial flavor is filled with mellow, mulled spices. The spices are held up by a firm base of toffee-like malt, rich, full and just sweet enough. The body is moderate. After the malt, there's a brief flash of assertive bitterness, a welcome change from some of the other Oktoberfests that don't emphasize hops. Underneath all of this is a consistent mineral flavor, steady, slightly drying and reassuring.

Oktoberfest beers worth sampling

In honor of, well, October, we're sampling Oktoberfest beers from near and far. With bigger, malty flavors, this beer style has enough substance to stand up to the cooler weather and heartier food of fall. Chili, sausage, burgers – Oktoberfest is a friend to all of them. Oktoberfests aren't “big beers.” Their moderate alcohol and flavor impact are sufficiently thirst-quenching power through a warm fall day.

What makes a beer an Oktoberfest? Oktoberfest beers must comply with the Reinheitsgebot, an archaic German beer purity law that limits brewers to only malt, water and hops. Further, traditional Oktoberfest beers are typically Märzens, a style of lager that's darker than the Czech lagers with which American drinkers are more familiar. Technically, only 6 German breweries can supply the official beers to the festival. I'm saving my tasting of German Oktoberfest beers for last. This week, we'll taste Oktoberfest beers from the inter-mountain west and the mid-west.

Left Hand Brewing Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 6.6 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber with a thin lace of whitish head. Aroma is enticingly spicy, toasted and augmented with a pleasant wine note. Initial flavor carries a bitter burst of bracing hops. The predominant flavors are herbal, and citrus, with hints of holiday spices. Yummy! After the brief bitterness, there's a pleasant interlude of warm, sweet, toffee malt. The malt is so gentle, so soothing and so pleasant, it lulls my tongue into a quiet reverie. Another round of bitterness, much gentler this time, rounds out the experience and lingers for some minutes.

Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz, capped bottle
ABV: 5.1 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear, light copper with no head. Aroma has toasted malts, apple cider, and spices. Initial flavor is an education in malt. There's roasted grain, honeyed sweetness, and caramel and toffee. After the malt flavors, there are bare hints of spicy hops, and a rapid diminution in flavor. The aftertaste is mild and agreeable – a mixture of sweet malts, and the ghost of the already faint hops. This is a simpler Oktoberfest, suitable for consuming in quantity, or for those that prefer beers with a simpler, lighter flavor profile.

Great Divide Hoss
Format Sampled: 12 oz can
ABV: 6.2 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a deep amber with a dense layer of off-white head. Aroma is sharp, clean and punctuated with notes of caramel and spice. The initial flavor is filled with rich, layered malt flavors, tending toward the darker and more toasted. There's a spicy character that's reminiscent of rye or coriander, and a lovely drying flavor – like a cedar stave. The aftertaste mixes wood, spice, and nicely toasted malts in a wondrous swirl of fall flavors. This is the richest and boldest Oktoberfest of the lot!

Head West, Oktoberfest!

It's October, and in my mind, that means only Oktoberfest. This seminal beer-holiday began as a local celebration of the marriage of a German king in 1810. The royal family invited the citizens of Munich to join in the fun, and the event gradually evolved into a public exhibition. The event certainly didn't begin as an exclusive celebration of beer. Perhaps it merely reflected German enthusiasm for beer, or perhaps it's become a pure and unique expression of beer enthusiasm in and of itself. This month, we'll celebrate Oktoberfest the only way we know how: by tasting a number of lovely Oktoberfest beers, starting with Oktoberfest beers from the West Coast.

 

Lagunitas TuberFest

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 7.5 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich amber with a volcanic head of tan foam. Aroma has bright piney hops, and a deep, earthy, smoky note. The initial flavor is smooth, slinky and slightly sweet. The sweetness is brief and gentle, and backed up by a roasted, stodgy carbohydrate flavor. Is it the label playing tricks with my tongue? I taste potato skins, and the unmistakable flavor of water in which potatoes have been boiled. It's rich, filling and not in the least off-putting. The hops are a fascinating contrast against the backdrop of the potato flavor. They are herbal, piney and resinous. I'm thinking chives and rosemary here. Let's just drop the Oktoberfest pretense: Serve this at Thanksgiving and you're a hero.

 

JosephsBrau Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.3 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a lovely copper with a thin head of eggshell-white foam. Aroma is sweet and spicy, with notes of caramel and citrus. Initial flavor is malty and metallic. The malt is quite clean, toasty and sweet withing being sticky, and just barely spiced with restrained continental hops.  Hearty, yet quenching, this beer is so elegant and simple, there's nothing more to say.

 

Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 5.0 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a brilliant gold with a tremendous pillow of white head. Aroma is  fresh and bread-like, with a hint of spice. Initial flavor is a study in restraint. There's a gently toasted, coppery malt, revealing the subtle sweetness of the grain. The body is just thick enough to be substantial, just thin enough for easy drinking. Hops are certainly present, but so subtle that they add the merest perception of bitterness and spice. This is one of the few beers that I could consume from a liter-sized mug, and reasonably expect to stay interesting until the warm, flat dregs.

Autumn beers from the Northeast

Last week, we sipped some autumn beers from Maine. For me, autumn is the season with the most saturated, distinctive smells and flavors. There's the spicy scent of dried leaves, the savory, acrid smell of wood stoves, the pungent, vomitous flavor of ubiquitous “pumpkin spice” (blaaargh) and the sharp, indefinable aroma of the cooling air. It's a season that lends itself to richer beers, with spicy flavors that evoke the leaves, the smoke, and the spices that signal autumn. Autumn beers tend to be darker in color, with heavier bodies, though there are as many exceptions as there are rules with autumn beers, since it's not a well-defined style. This week, we're expanding our scope, and tasting autumn beers for the greater northeast.

 

Southern Tier Harvest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 6.7 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a bright, coppery-yellow with a thin layer of bone-white foam. A profound hop aroma pours out of the glass, evident several feet away. Closer in, I get dark citrus, ginger, and dried flower petals. Initial flavor is as bright and coppery as the color. A sharp, citrus bitterness collides with pungently herbal hops, leaving my tongue in a state of bemused appreciation. After the bitterness, a firm scaffold of lightly roasted malt sweetness is apparent, perfect for holding up the hops and providing a lovely counterpoint to the early bitterness. Perhaps it's the cool evening, but I'm craving a little more body and some more roasted flavors. Enough complaint, the beer I have in front of me is a lovely “early fall” beer.

 

Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 4.4 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing mahogany with a thin layer of light brown head. Aroma has roasted grains, coffee, and vanilla. Initial flavor is thin, roasted, then rapidly and sharply sweet. The transition from the roasted grain to the relatively flat malt sweetness is so fast my palate has whiplash. The sweetness is distinct and pure, slightly longer lasting than the roasted grain notes. There's not a lot of bitterness, and the body is quite thin, putting this beer firmly in the “quenching” end of the spectrum of autumn beers, rather than the heavier-bodied “couch-locking” end!

 

Gritty's Halloween Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 6.0 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark amber with a trace of white foam. Aroma is very sweet, with a strong butterscotch tone and hints of sulfur. Initial flavor follows-lock step after the aroma. There's plenty of sweetness, with toffee, molasses, butterscotch flavors all represented. There is a faint bitterness in the aftertaste, that helps offset the largely sweet flavor profile. The body is moderate, which, combined with the sweetness, leaves me thinking of a Scotch ale. Since it leans to the sweeter end of the spectrum, this beer might be a good choice for those that dislike the roasted, spicy flavors common to autumn beers.

Getting autumnal: These beers spice up fall

Late September is a liminal time, in terms of both weather and beer. Days are warm and nights are cool. The pumpkin beers have begun to soften on the vine and Oktoberfest beers are just around the corner. This brief interlude, before summer truly ends, before fall truly begins, calls for an autumn beer. This isn't a true “style” of beer like a stout or a trippel. Autumn beers embrace different flavors, styles and interpretations and reflect the mood and tastes of the brewer as the season approaches. This week, we'll sample a selection of seasonal autumn beers from Maine, and learn what our local brewers think autumn tastes like. Cheers!

 

Atlantic Brewing Company Leaf Peeping Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5 percent
Tasting Notes: Pouts a dark amber with a thin, light brown head. Aroma is fresh, with a hint of caramel sweetness and a characteristic “English ale” smell. Initial flavor is mild and sweet. There's a hint of toffee and scalded cream layers upon a gentle, toasted malt base. The body ls light and quenching, but substantive enough to be satisfying. There are some subtle, spicy, gingery continental hops, but very little bitterness. Given the mildness of the flavor, I'm surprised that this is even 5 percent ABV. The Leaf Peeping Ale drinks like a simple, unpretentious English mild – perfect to enjoy in quantity watching the leaves change.           

 

Baxter Brewing Hayride

Format Sampled: 12 oz can

ABV: 6.8 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, coppery brown with a fine layer of off-white head. Aroma has melon and spiced cider. Initial flavor is dry, crisp and toasty, with notes of parched rye, and a woody, pleasant astringency. There's a spicy, peppery heat, which gathers together some of the woody, toasted loose ends into a strain coherent flavor. Dedicated sipping reveals spices, subtle, smokiness, citrus and a pervasive and well-balanced hop bitterness. Approaching this as a casual drinker is rewarding, but applying my imagination reveals a subtle symphony of flavors that are a simulacrum of the season. I can taste smoke of leaf piles burning, and the spicy scent of the cool air. It's autumn in a can!

 

Sebago Bonfire Rye
Format Sampled: 12 oz can
ABV: 5.7 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling amber, with a thin lace of white bubbles. Aroma has spice, tropical fruit and clove. Initial taste has the roasted flavor of rye, like biting into pumpernickel toast! A spicy hop bouquet joins the rye presently, bringing a dried orange flavor, a moderate bitterness and a bit of tropical fruit on the edge of my tongue. The body is quite thin and quenching, and there's a lovely drying, astringent, grainy character at the end. Maybe it's the marketing, but this would be ideal in front of the heat of a bonfire. It's thin enough to cool your lips, which, after all, are facing the blaze. But, it's strong and substantial enough to warm your booty, which is pointed at the cool, autumn evening.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Pumpkin beers that don’t suck

Happy almost-fall, loyal reader. Apples are ripening, school has begun, and pumpkin-themed beers are metastasizing all over the shelves of your local liquor store. They may look like innocent beers, loyal reader, but ghastly, swollen orange spheroids cackle in silent agony on their labels, and they conceal untold chemical horrors within, borne in the Halloween laboratory of some sadistic flavor chemist. Perhaps you can sense my skepticism about pumpkin beers, loyal reader. Last week, we tasted pumpkin-infected, rather, pumpkin-inspired, beers from East Coast. Surprisingly, a few weren't the gourd-horrors I expected. This week, I'm branching out to taste pumpkin beers from around the country.

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.8 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich, dark brown with a thin, tan head. Aroma has raisin, candied orange peel, cinnamon, and vanilla. The initial flavor like a bite of cool, tacky, day-old gingerbread in the best possible way. There's sweet molasses, warming clove and ginger, and a complex undertone of other seasonal spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon, orange, and allspice all make appearances. After the spice, there's a herbal, bitter hop note that's a surprisingly nice contrast to the sweet, spicy opening. For a Scottish-style ale, this beer has a uniquely dry aftertaste. A rye-like astringency lingers on my tongue for sometime, tempting me to whet my whistle with another sip.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.7 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a light brown with a thin head of pale foam. Aroma has cinnamon, ginger, and a sweet pumpkin puree smell. Initial flavor is smooth and modestly sweet. It's a rich, toffee/caramel sweetness, profound and deep without being cloying. Subtle spices bolster and warm the sweetness. Cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg add a nice, woody astringency. The body is a little full for my taste, and the sweetness seems to build upon itself as I sip, thickening a bit on my tongue. I'm surprised, frankly, that this is so balanced for a mass-market pumpkin beer. It could be great with a slice of pumpkin pie.

Uinta Crooked Line Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin
Format Sampled: 750 ml corked bottle
ABV: 10.31 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich, glowing oak-brown with ample tan head. Aroma is clean, fresh and very subtle. There's a hint of spicy leaf-pile, and hints of overripe fruit. Initial flavor is full, syrupy and bracing. There's a hot flash of alcohol, mellowed a bit by dark, dried fruits: date, apricot, cherry. There's a hint of exotic spices, nutmeg, and allspice, then a surprisingly firm, assertive bitterness. It builds sneakily, combining hops, dried bitter orange peel, and an oak flavor. The aftertaste is long, mixing the lingering bitterness of the hops with an ever-more assertive musty, wooden flavor. It's like drinking a spiced brandy, sitting on a pile of over-ripe pumpkins, and old cigar boxes, while the spicy scent of burning leaves wafts about.

Gulping gorgeous gourds with pumpkin beers

Welcome fall, loyal reader! In September, leaves change, the air cools, and pumpkin beers emerge on the shelves like fetid orange toadstools after a cold rain, their bloated pumpkin-faces grimacing balefully at us like evil gourd orbs. You can almost hear them sneer, “Chug my over-sweetened contents, and prepare for a hangover to bloom in your skull like the candle in a jack-o-lantern.” Perhaps you can sense my disdain for pumpkin beers, loyal reader? As a brewing adjunct (or even a pie base), pumpkin doesn't taste like much. So, for years, brewers have augmented their pumpkin beers with liberal doses of corn syrup, and artificial flavors that remind me of air-fresheners. It's been years since I've sampled a pumpkin beer, so, I'm venturing back into fray for you, loyal reader. Without further adieu, happy fall, and wish me luck!

 

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 6.5 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a crystal-clear amber with a thin layer of off-white head. Aroma is mineral, with nutmeg, some real pumpkin and dried citrus. Initial flavor blends a nice, neutral, toasted malt with assertive spices. I get nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, allspice, and a bit of peppery heat. Some piney hops with a nice citrus edge are skillfully blended in. The aftertaste is spicy to the end, but not overwhelmingly so. The lighter body and moderate level of spice suggest that I could enjoy several without feeling “pumpkin'd.”

 

Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 7.0 percent

Tasting Notes: Pours a transparent amber, with a thin whitish head. Aroma has nutmeg, cinnamon and sweet, toasty malt. Initial flavor is rich and malty, gradually warming with spices, a procession of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, clove and finally, peppercorns. The last spiced flavors have a hint of heat, perhaps from a dose of ginger. There a nice hop bitterness too. It's hard to tell if the citrus, clove and herb flavors come from the hops, or from those exact spices. It's a lovely conundrum, and requires repeated sipping to puzzle it out. Is there pumpkin? I can't honestly say. This is a lovely spiced beer, perfect for sipping in a snifter on a cool evening.

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