Saturday brought nice weather—for November, that is! We had two morning sessions comprising eight beers. We started with the pumpkin ales. First up for consideration was the Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Weyerbacher, an up-and-coming brewer located near us in Easton, PA. Let's just say they make some strong beers (8.0%)! It scored fairly well in the Aroma and Flavor categories, but was the weakest beer in this group.
Second, was a Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. I have a soft spot for this Portsmouth, NH brewer. Their Old Brown Dog Ale is among my go-to brews and it's easy to find 'round these parts. The Pumpkin Ale (5.84 ABV) is not a typically sweet pumpkin ale. It is agressively spiced with Cascade and Liberty hops, as well as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Very nice!
Third, was Southern Tier Brewing Company's Pumpking. This imperial pumpkin ale, at 8.6% ABV, was strong and nicely spiced! We scored the Smuttynose slightly higher on our rubrics, but I note that this was not statistically significant. Pumpking scored a few points higher in Overall effect. Honestly, either beer would be a great choice for fall weather and cuisine!
We ended the session with a palate-cleansing Alimony Ale, a 6.8% ABV IPA. Originally brewed in 1987 for a customer who was going through a divorce, it had a reputation as one of the bitterest beers in America, a dubious award in my book. They've toned it down somewhat since then.
The next session focused on fruit beers. I have had fruit beers that add a sublime note and integrate well with beer's hops and malt dimensions. I have also had fruit beers that taste like wet newspaper! It is a difficult style to get right.
We started with Westminster, MA Wachusett Brewing Company's Blueberry Ale. It's a lighter beer and, as such, scored a middling 40 points on our rubric. In its defense, however, I think Wachusett has taken my words of caution to heart. What you have here is essentially a decent wheat beer, flavored with definite, but subtle blueberry notes. The fruit in no way overpowers the hops and malt; it is still a beer. This is a great summer brew that s available year-round, and one I try to pick up when in Massachusetts.
Next up was Lindeman's Framboise, a raspberry-flavored Belgian Lambic. This red beer used to be a favorite of mine before I discovered American Craft Beers. Now, it tastes cloyingly sweet to me, proof that tastes change. At 3.86% ABV, it was one of the weaker beers we tried. It scored well in Esters and Aromatics, Bouquet and Flavor Intensity, but fell far short in almost every other rating category.
Our third beer was the most problematic: Brewery Ommegang's Aphrodite Ale. It's outstanding quality is that it is a very pink beer. This thankfully limited-edition ale was very oddly spiced, with grains of paradise, raspberry and pear. Blech!!!. And at 28 points, Aphrodite was the lowest-scoring beer of our entire weekend. None of us really liked it. In fact, I would leave a bar that had this on tap!
Last up, was Founders Brewing Company's Backwoods Bastard (not to be confused with Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard). At 10.2% ABV, this is a HEAVY beer. The website describes this as "Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice, and a scintilla of dark fruit." That is a mouthful right there, and this beer was judged best of the session, although admittedly, this session had the weakest beers.Saturday PM⇒