Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Beers — Laurelwood vs. Dogfish Head vs. Rogue

Laurelwood Brewing Co.
Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale 
ABV 7.5%

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
ABV 7%

Rogue Chatoe Rogue First Growth
Pumpkin Patch Ale
ABV 5.6%

We always enjoy seeing the pumpkin beers show up on the shelves. The maltier, spicier flavors found in these seasonal beers provide a great transition from the lighter beers of summer to the heavier darker beers of fall and winter. This battle featured two beers from our home state of Oregon and one from the venerable Dogfish Head from clear across the country in Delaware. 

Each one showed off a unique hue with the Chatoe Rogue being the darkest, the Laurelwood showing off a hazy reddish orange and the Dogfish Head coming with a clear dirty orange. In the aroma the Chatoe Rogue was the boldest, offering up lots of cinnamon, clove and cardamom. The Laurelwood and the Dogfish head were much more restrained in the aroma with some slight vegetal notes. Flavorwise, the Chatoe Rogue continued the spice assault and came off a bit sweeter than the others. The Dogfish Head was the most bitter of the bunch and really was fairly pedestrian given their reputation for high octane beers. The Laurelwood found a happy medium between the two, tasting like a well-balanced amber with nice subtle pumpkin and spice notes. 

The decision went to the Laurelwood with myself, my dad and Ellen choosing it as the winner while my mom cast the lone vote for the boldy spiced pumpkin pie in a bottle, Rogue Pumpkin Patch.

One final note regarding labels. The Laurelwood dominated in the bottle artwork category. The Dogfish is completely uninspired while Rogue appears to be an advertisement for some sort of militant cult with the aggressive fist logo and self-promoting propaganda. Is it just me or are they kind of losing it out there in Newport?
Winner by majority decision: Laurelwood

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vintage Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts — Deschutes vs. Full Sail

2006 Deschutes Brewing
The Abyss
(Stout brewed with licorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels.)
ABV 11%

2006 Full Sail Brewing
Black Gold Imperial Stout
(Malt beverage aged in oak bourbon barrels.)
ABV 10.5%

Last night in honor of my dad's birthday I broke out some special beers that have been aging in my cellar. Similar to wine, some beers can benefit from aging, especially beers that are higher in alcohol like barley wines and imperial stouts. When cellared properly (constant temperature, preferably something in the mid 50s) the hop character in beer tends to fade while new and interesting flavors start to develop, giving the beer more complexity than it had upon first release. I was a bit nervous about this battle since both beers were great when they were fresh. Would they be any better after 5 years sitting in the bottle? The answer was a definite "yes." Both beers were fantastic.

The Abyss was an amazingly complex beer with rich fruity chocolate notes and a nice anise kick. There was really no hop presence at all. The Full Sail smelled very sweet and boozy and the flavor followed suit. The bourbon character was so intense it almost tasted like someone had poured a shot of bourbon into the bottle. If you like bourbon, you'll love the Black Gold. While we all really enjoyed it, most of us agreed that we'd be hard pressed to drink an entire bottle. It was very sweet and intense and tasted like it had more alcohol than The Abyss despite the fact that it had slightly less.

The final verdict had three of us voting for The Abyss while the birthday boy was alone in his dedication to the Black Gold. Again though, both were amazing and held up extremely well after their time in the cellar so don't hesitate to stash some of your good stuff away. Your patience will likely be rewarded.

Winner by majority decision: 2006 The Abyss

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Red Ales — Lompoc Brewing vs. Pyramid Brewing vs. HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery)

Lompoc Brewing
Proletariat Red
ABV 6.2%

Dark reddish brown.
Roasted coffee, chocolate, molasses.
Sweet coffee with honey and molasses.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Finish: Light acidity, roasty and smoky.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Mediocre +

Pyramid Brewing

Juggernaut Red Ale
ABV 5.6%

Light orangish brown.
Aroma: Sweet malts, light fruitiness, touch of iron.
Flavor: Bit thin and watery with roasty malts and slight citrus hops.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Balanced
Finish: Mildy hoppy.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre +

HUB Rise Up Red
ABV 5.8%

Hazy dark honey orange.
Aroma: Perfumy and sweet. Anise, floral, dusty and earthy.
Flavor: Earthy, citrus rind.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Moderate bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Mediocre +

Blow by Blow
With my parents in town again we decided to conduct a cage match featuring three red ales from the Northwest. HUB and Lompoc hail from Portland while Pyramid has many locations but calls Seattle home.

Just like our previous experiences with red ales these beers were wildly different despite their similar style designation. The Pyramid was easy drinking with a mild hop finish, the HUB was more aggressive with the hops and had a distinct earthiness and the Lompoc focused more on dark roasty malt flavors and came across as a watered down porter. Not surprisingly there was no consensus opinion but we did have a majority winner since Ellen and my dad chose the HUB due to its assertive hop character. My mom chose the Lompoc because she liked the coffee flavors and I chose the Pyramid because it didn't try to do too much and seemed like a simple but solid beer.

Winner by majority decision: HUB Rise Up Red