Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Red Hook "Out of Your Gourd" Pumpkin Porter

From August 16th, 2015
Last of the pumpkin ales currently in my fridge, Out of Your Gourd pumpkin porter is a surefire winner. Pours a chocolate brown with a frothy tan one-finger head, this isn't one of those ales where the flavoring overwhelms the beeriness of the beer...if you know what I mean. Solid roasted malt foundation, sweet, but not cloying. Lots of spices floating around but not clamoring for attention: nutmeg, cinnamon, even a little cranberry. If you're a porter guy or gal, if you're a pumpkin ale aficionado, then this gourds for you!

Notes added September 6, 2016
My appreciation for this porter increases every time I taste it. The head poured a lot deeper this year, four fingers easily with that reverse waterfall effect that characterizes a porter or stout pour. One thing that I did not notice last year was the maple syrup, which evidently gave Out of Your Gourd  its sweetness, but did not seem overly mapley this year, even when I knew it was there. This is by far one of my favorite pumpkin ales and one of my favorite porters.

Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout

From October 2015
I was looking for Red Hook's Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, but sadly they were out, but the helpful beer store guy suggested this pumpkin stout from the Utah Beer Collective: Black O'Lantern. It poured a deep mahogany, with scarlet highlights and a brief tan head. The mouthfeel was very thick and creamy, there was pumpkin and spices, but not overmuch, mostly nutmeg. It had an almost eggnogy taste to it, if that makes sense. Pretty decent stout, but if you're looking for a great pumpkin ale, this isn't it.

Updated September 6, 2016
I've changed my opinion since last year. While the words I used to describe the beer are pretty spot on, I think I must have been disappointed that I couldn't find any of the Red Hook pumpkin porter last year. Trying one now, I'm much more impressed than I was last year. Even without the pumpkin this would be a very good stout, the pumpkin spices just add to the seasonal feel.  I'd upgrade my opinion to "this is an outstanding pumpkin stout"

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rubus Black Blackberry Porter

Despite the 90° temperature outside, it is time for the Fall beers, the glorious stouts and porters, the upstanding Oktoberfests and all those other Autumn brews. I've tried a few Brau Brothers beers, but this is my first porter. Rubus Black pours a deep dark brown, almost black. The head is scantier than I expected from a porter, about a half finger that quickly disappears. What you can't help but notice is the blackberry aroma. It's very blackberry-ish, extremely blackberry scented and blackberry flavored. Not that blackberry is a bad thing - I like blackberry, but maybe a bit too much. In addition to the blackberry, there's a 8.9% ABV, and even though there's no mention of barrel aging, there seems like there's a bourbon edge to it. I would guess that some spicy barbecue or Mexican dishes would complement this beer very well. Overall, pretty decent, but an outlier in the taste department.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Brickway Coffee Vanilla Stout

Another offering in the "Session Series" out of Omaha's Brickway Brewery. Using cold-pressed coffee (look it up, I don't know what that is!) from Grey Plume added to their oatmeal stout with a bit of vanilla thrown in. As I poured it from the can I was immediately aware of the strong coffee and vanilla aromas. I'm not always in favor of adding flavorings to beer, as it sometimes distracts from the "beeriness" of the brew; but chocolate, coffee and vanilla consistently add to the quality a well-brewed stout or porter. This stout pours a mahogany brown with a "reverse waterfall" four-finger head which slowly recedes to a thick, tan coating. Aside from the flavorings, this appears to be a dry, that is non-sweet, stout. The ABV is a very sessionable 5% and the hop character that is sharp, but not overwhelming. I can definitely see myself enjoying a few of these on a chilly autumn night.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ales: Stouts and Porters

This article is not about dark beers. "Dark" is not a flavor, "dark" is not a beer style, "dark" is, broadly, a color. I will be discussing beers that are dark, but there are other beers out there that are dark hued but have completely different characteristics from the stouts and porters. Originally porters were a style of beer that was popular among the working class, the porters, of England in the 18th Century. Lagering and advances in brewing technology made it possible to brew an almost clear ale, but the darker malts were cheaper and the darker color became associated with the working class. Initially porters had a higher OG (original gravity) which translated into a higher alcohol content and heavier texture. This gradually changed as brewers looked for cheaper ways to produce their beers, even going so far as to use coloring to give it the expected hue. In the 20th Century craft brewers brought back the old style with it's heavier, creamier consistency. The main difference, in theory, between a porter and a stout is one of degree. Stouts are considered to be heavier and stronger than porters. Early on, a particular heavy or high alcohol porter was called extra superior, extra or double porter, or extra stout. In reality, whether a beer is called a stout or porter is often a matter of what markets better, which name sounds better with the name of the brewery for instance.

Within the stout/porter category, there are several subcategories. One of the earliest was Russian Imperial Stout, so named because it was exported to Russian for the Czar. Imperial Stout was characterized by a very high alcohol content. The appellation Imperial has come to be used for high alcohol versions of  other styles. Baltic Porters are similar in taste, but are typically lower in alcohol content. Milk Stout, also called Sweet Stout is a popular style. Brewed partially with lactose, which is not fermentable by beer yeast, the residual lactose sugar imparts a sweet creaminess to the stout. Dry, or Irish, Stout is kind of the opposite of the sweet stout. It's hoppier and drier; Guinness is a good example of this style.

Many stouts and porters have a distinct chocolate or coffee taste. This is not necessarily due to any flavoring being added, but qualities of the malts themselves.

Stouts and porters are perfect for cooler weather, and also go well with chocolate or other sweet desserts.

Don't be afraid of the dark...beer

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Empyrean Kölsch

The Kölsch is one of my favorite beer styles, a cross between an ale & a lager, it's at once crisp & refreshing and flavorful. Empyrean's take on the style, which originated in Cologne, Germany (Köln to the natives) pours the color of fresh pineapple with a three-finger snowy head. The alcohol content is four and change, with a bitterness score of 22 IBU. There are faint traces of peach and mango in the flavor profile, and breadiness that comes out as the beer warms up. Perfect for summer, but a great companion for spicy sausages or chili in the cooler months. Best Kölsch I've sampled yet!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Empyrean Peachy Keen Sour Ale

Sour beers are an acquired taste. I have acquired it.

Often when I go to Yia-Yia's for some "fancy" beer, I order some kind of sour beer - a gose, a lambic or a berliner weisse, the bartender always says to me, in a conspiratorial tone "You know that's a sour beer, don't you?" I started enjoying sour beers a few years ago when I was offered some samples of Goose Island's sour Belgian, Lolita and some of her sisters. Peachy Keen was originally a win barrel-aged beer, available only on draft. The bottled version does not seem to be barrel aged however. It pours a hazy golden hue with ruby highlights, minimal head, and a very low hop profile (21 IBU). Very light; it would serve equally well as a summer beer or an autumn ale in place of a Märzen. The peach flavor predominates, but it goes very well with the sour edge. If you're a fan of the sours, this is one that you would enjoy. 9/10 on the IGB Scale.