Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 Winter Beers — Cascade Lakes vs. MacTarnahan's vs. Pyramid

Cascade Lakes Slippery Slope
(A tasty winter ale) 
ABV 6.4%

MacTarnahan's Winter HumBug'r
(A rich holiday porter)
ABV 5.3%

Pyramid Snow Cap
Winter Warmer

(Full-bodied winter ale)
ABV 7.0%

Winter beers make us all warm inside (literally) and this battle features some readily available selections from Oregon breweries. I'm not sure about the Cascade Lakes but the Pyramid and MacTarnahan's are definitely something you can find in most grocery stores in the Northwest.
One of the things that makes winter beers fun is that every brewery does something a little different. Some make huge, sweet, malty beers and some prefer to take the road more hoppy. If you look closely enough at the packaging you should be able to get an idea of what type of beer they are offering. If not you might consult Beer Advocate, Rate Beer or Bottle Battle! for some info before you buy.
These three showed off three distinctly different hues with the Slippery Slope being the lightest (orangish-brown), the HumBug'r being the darkest (deep, dark brown) and the Snow Cap falling somewhere in between (cola brown). Aromas varied from a slight malty funk in the Slippery Slope to a sprucy, herbal hoppiness in the Snow Cap to lots of chocolate and coffee in the HumBug'r. The flavors pretty much followed suit with the Snow Cap being the hoppiest and the HumBug'r being the sweetest.
None of the beers were weird or bad in any way. We'd happily drink any of them on a dark and cold winter's eve, however the Slippery Slope got the nod as our favorite. Despite being the lightest in color it offered the most complexity in the flavor and finish. It was also a beer that has a broad appeal with enough hops to satisfy a hophead and enough malts to for those who like something a bit sweeter.
On a side note, we are offering the Slippery Slope at our bakery as our seasonal offering throughout this fall and winter so stop on by and get a bottle with your biscuit sandwich!

Winner by unanimous decision: Cascade Lakes Slippery Slope

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Beers Part II (Bigger, Badder & Older) — Midnight Sun vs. Elysian

Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
(ale brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
ABV 7.8%

Elysian Brewing
The Great Pumpkin
ABV 8.1%

We conducted this battle pre-Halloween and I'm just getting around to posting it. As expected, the rigors of being new business owners have significantly cut into our blog time. Working ridiculous hours with little sleep will not stop us however. The battles will continue. The battles must continue. It's good for us and it's good for you so here goes.

First of all, check out the photo. See that blurry skeleton ghost? That ain't Photoshopped. That's a genuine Halloween miracle. Just as I snapped the picture the skeleton finger puppet plummeted from his perch creating that excellent ghostly effect. Love it when things work out like that.

These beers had been in my fridge since last Halloween when I got a bit ambitious with my pumpkin beer buying and burned out before we could finish them all. Both are a bit more high octane than the ones we reviewed last time which is why I was comfortable letting them age for a year before popping the caps. Their colors were quite different with the Elysian Midnight Sun pouring a midnight black and the Midnight Sun Elysian coming out chunky (bits of sediment from bottle conditioning we suspect) and orange. Aromas also differed greatly; the Elysian Midnight Sun offered sweet chocolate, prunes and dried fruit while the Midnight Sun Elysian revealed cinnamon, clove and graham cracker. Both were sweet and malty in the flavor but the Elysian Midnight Sun continued down the chocolate path while the Midnight Sun Elysian featured more of the classic pumpkin pie spices.

Both beers were excellent and seemed no worse for wear despite their year behind glass. The majority of us chose the Elysian Midnight Sun, however, because of its fantastic mouthfeel and complexity. It didn't really have a ton of pumpkin character but damn it was a great beer. The Midnight Sun Elysian was also enjoyable but a bit too aggressive with the pumpkin pie spices for most of us. 

Moral of the battle: Don't hesitate to age your high-alcohol pumpkin beers and beware of poltergeists.  

Winner by majority decision: Elysian Midnight Sun
 (Ed. note: It was brought to my attention by an intrepid reader that I had my notes on these beers switched around, therefore I've switched it back to remedy the mistake. Thanks Eric.)