Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Is it still fall? Good, because I've still got a ton of fall beer reviews to get through.

If you've have had one fall seasonal chances are the beer you've tasted is Sam Adams Oktoberfest. In my mind Oktoberfest is probably the highest distributed fall beer in the country. Unbeknownst to me, they also make a pumpkin beer and I was lucky enough to taste Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale recently.

Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours a nice caramel brown/orange color and leaves you with an ample head that's full of delicious pumpkin and traditional spice aroma. From a taste perspective, Harvest Pumpkin rates as average. Typically, Sam Adams beer always comes off as incredibly well balanced no matter which beer you're talking about. But this Ale is just missing something. You notice a fairly subtle spice flavor initially and a bit of fruit flavor on the finish, but there isn't a whole lot going on middle of the mouth. Oddly enough, the first couple of sips I took I tasted more plum flavor than I did pumpkin.
On the whole, Harvest Pumpkin isn't a bad beer but it's very much middle of the pack when compared to all the other pumpkin beers on the market. If you're picking one Sam Adams seasonal this fall, stick with Oktoberfest.
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.7
IBU:  14

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beer Tastings: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Shall we keep the fall beer reviews rolling? Alright, then, let's get into another one. Today, we're talking about Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This is the first year I've had the chance to try this one out and I have a feeling I'll be adding it to the yearly rotation.

The color of Imperial Pumpkin Ale is one of the prettier pours I've made in awhile. It literally looks you are pouring liquid autumn as a medium brown/amber/light orange beer fills into your glass. Visually, you can't ask for much more.

Based off of the Imperial tag in the name I was bracing myself for a beer that might be a little harsh/alcoholy. Happily, I was greeted with a very easy drinking ale and there was none of that heavy alcohol flavor I was expecting. You do, however, find a well balanced mix of the traditional pumpkin ale spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom). Almost all of the flavor is middle of the mouth as you aren't hit with very much flavor at the beginning and you're left with just a faint pumpkin flavor on the finish.

I could really see myself getting in trouble with this beer. It drinks so smooth, but at 8% ABV it wouldn't be long before I'd be feeling it. Definitely a weekend drinker! If you happen across the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale this fall, don't be afraid to pick this one up. In a world full of pumpkin beers, this one stands near the top.

Style: Imperial Pumpkin  Ale
ABV: 8.0
IBU:  ?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heavy Seas Alehouse

A few weeks ago I wrote about the trip we made to Ellicott Mills Brewing Company when my brother and his girlfriend came down to visit. You might remember me mentioning that one of the things we share in common is a love of beer. So, keeping to the beer theme, I decided to take them to the Heavy Seas Alehouse. Once upon a previous visit we did a Heavy Seas Brew tour and over the years we've all developed into big Heavy Seas fans. Our trip to the Alehouse only served to make us bigger fans as we ate like kings.

 We came to the restaurant straight from an O's game on what was probably the first true scorcher of the summer. We were hot and famished so we went a little nuts when it came to appetizers. I decided to order shrimp cocktail and my brother decided to try their cornbread. After taking one peek at the cornbread, I immediately ordered another one so that Deana and I could share as well.

The shrimp cocktail was some of the best I've had. The shrimp were big and meaty and the homemade cocktail sauce made me very happy. But the real star of the appetizer party was the cornbread. It was beyond good. The cornbread itself was warm, sweet, and moist. Left alone, I would have been totally happy. By the time you throw in the crispy bacon, fresh jalapenos, and what they call a pale ale rarebit (essentially cheese sauce) you are in cornbread heaven. I can't say enough good things about this stuff. This was the best cornbread I've ever had.

For dinner, everyone got something a little different. My brother's girlfriend, Amy, ordered the Cavatelli. She had nothing but good things to say about her meal calling it delicious and the pesto extremely fresh. The ricotta cavatelli come with a roasted egglpant, piquillo pepper, and a basil pesto sauce.

Deana decided on the Cuban sandwich. I had a little bite of this as well and it was a great sandwich to have on a hot day. The bread was nice and crunchy, meat juicy and tender, and the cheese was super melty. Most importantly for any good cuban sandwich, the pickle tasted great and brought the whole thing together.

My brother and I both went with mussels. This was the first time I had ever ordered mussels. I know it's almost sacrilege on a Baltimore based blog, but I've never been the biggest fan of seafood. I'm doing my best to expand my horizons and I was pleasantly surprised with this dish. The mussels were plump and tender. The sauce they were served in was nice and briny and I really liked the burst of acidity you'd get from the cherry tomatoes that were sprinkled throughout the dish. My only complaint was that they were served without bread to sop up the broth. However, they are served with french fries and I was extremely into those bad boys. I felt like the fries and I were communicating on some kind of romantic level because I couldn't keep my hands off of them.

Beerwise I think we covered the basics with a Loose Cannon, Gold Ale, and Sea Nymph. But what I want to focus on is one of their beer cocktails. It seems like beer cocktails are the new thing in the craft beer world and so I wanted to try my first. I decided on the Sea Shandy which at that time was an ale mixed with basil and strawberry lemonade. Despite the fact that I got made fun of for drinking such a foofy drink, I found it really refreshing. By no means would I order this over a regular Heavy Seas beer, but if you're looking for something different this is definitely something worth giving a shot....especially on a hot day.

Overall, we had a great experience at the Heavy Seas Alehouse. The food was beyond what we were expecting and the beers we already knew were top notch. I couldn't have been happier. But with that said, the prices are bit expensive and could leave a lot of would be Heavy Seas fans on the outside looking in and I think that's a bit of a shame. I'm not saying they should dumb the restaurant down so that it turns into Buffalo Wild Wings, but I'd like to see a menu with a better mix in prices so that more people are willing to walk through the doors and eventually become fans of Heavy Seas.

Price: A little expensive, but not outrageous
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to order: Cornbread

Heavy Seas AleHouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beer Tastings: Spaten Oktoberfest

By the time this post makes its way to the public interwebs, I hope I'll be sipping on a Spaten in Munich itself. So, cheers to me! Hope you're having the time of your life.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Another fall beer. Another review.

This time we are discussing Spaten Oktoberfest. I love this beer for it's simplicity. Don't get me wrong, I love craft beer and all the twists and turns they can take you on with their new and exotic concoctions. But there is something to be said for the simple and perfect....the beers that have been tried and shown true for 500 years.

Spaten Oktoberfest pours a magnificently gigantic head and smells of roasted malt. The balance in this beer is something to behold.  There is the wonderful aforementioned roasted malt flavor balanced against the perfect amount of hops. The underlying sweetness brings the whole thing together and makes for an incredible beer. And really, when you're looking for a great Oktoberfest beer should you really be looking anywhere other than Munich? This is a fall beer not to be missed.

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.9
IBU: ?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stewart's Rootbeer

Hurry up and get to Stewart's Rootbeer in Rosedale! By the time you're done reading this post Stewart's could be closed for the season and you'll be left wanting until March. Don't be a fool like me. Get there, and get there fast. I can't tell you how many times I've driven past this place saying "we need to visit there" only to to speed by again and again.

Today, with only 5 days left before they are closed for the season, I decided I'd better put my money where my mouth is and made my way in for a Rootbeer Float. Served in a frosted mug you get Rootbeer from the tap and two or three scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was so good. The Rootbeer tasted great and I don't know anyone who doesn't love what I call the Rootbeer slush that develops on the ice cream. But as good as the float tastes the best part of the visit for me was the memories it opened up for me. Suddenly, I was 7 years old and in my Grandparents house. Anytime I slept over as a kid I always had some sort of float in this gigantic green plastic cup and it felt really nice to sit there eating this delicious dessert while telling Deana about the fun times I had at my Grandparents.

In addition to the floats there is a full menu of burgers, dogs, chili, soups, and other desserts that I'll be sure to go back for next spring. However, if you read this before September 9th, do yourself a favor and visit for a great float and maybe bring back some memories from long ago.

Price: Cheap
Recommendation: Get there quick!
What to order: Rootbeer Float

Stewart's Rootbeer on Urbanspoon

Beer Tastings: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

I think the coolest thing about fall seasonal beers is the extra appreciation you have every time you take a sip of one of these short lived beauties. For two or three months you get to go buck wild hunting down and tasting these beers as much as you can and as often as you can. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale is one of those seasonals I can taste in my mind all year long and can't wait to taste for real every fall.

I just got back from Delaware a few days ago and was hoping that while I was on the Dogfish Brewery Tour I would get to taste some. Lucky, I was not, finding none on the tour, and to add salt to the wound I saw that they had some on tap literally two days after I visited their brewpub. Yesterday, however, my urges were satiated when I finally hunted one down at Bobby's Burger Palace in Hanover.

As I said when I checked into this beauty on untappd, this beer is worth it's weight in gold. The taste is incredible. I don't know how they do it, but the flavor they get from their spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and all spice) is so well balanced and prominent without ever being cloying. Many times the sharp flavor from these spices takes your taste buds for hostage. Here you just get wonderful flavor and if you close your eyes you almost feel like you're eating the best pumpkin pie you've ever had in your life. If I had to guess, I'd say the brown sugar is what keeps this Ale so well balanced. The extra sweetness and subtle maple flavor does a great job of taking a lot of the bite out of all the other strong spice flavors.

If you don't like beer, try this one out. I guarantee it will make you look at beer in a whole new light. Punkin Ale is that approachable, but it's not so dumbed down that a craft brew veteran won't also be happy. Take my advice and get one ASAP. Punkin Ale is one fall beer you don't want to pass on until September 2013. If the Mayans are right, this is your last chance and it'd be a damn shame for the world to end having never tasted a Punkin Ale.

Style: Brown Ale
IBU:  28