Monday, October 29, 2012

Autumn Beers — MacTarnahan's vs. Pyramid

MacTarnahan's Noble Scot
Scottish Ale  
ABV 6.5%

Pyramid Oktoberfest
(Autumn Lager)
ABV 6.7%

If you're anything like us, your drinking preferences change with the seasons. When the weather starts to turn we start to reach for beers that focus on the sweeter, maltier side of the taste spectrum. These two beers fit the bill as both Scottish Ales and Oktoberfest Lagers tend to be sweet, malty and perfect for crisp autumn imbibing.

The combatants for this battle are from two of the larger "craft" breweries in the northwest. Pyramid is headquartered in Seattle but has taprooms up and down the west coast while MacTarnahan's is located in Portland.

Right from the outset it was a tight battle. Both beers were almost identical in color with the Noble Scot being a bit darker. The aromas were very similar as well, mostly sweet smelling with caramel and honey notes. It was in the flavor that we finally were able to detect a noticeable difference. The Noble Scot had a touch of citrus while the Oktoberfest was richer and more full bodied. Both finished very sweet and malty but the Noble Scot had a little zip of citrus and a touch of bitterness as well.

This proved to be one of the tougher battles we've hosted. Neither beer was outstanding but both were good. We were also quite surprised at how similar they were. Given that one was an ale and one was a lager we thought it would be fairly easy to tell the difference. Not so. Just goes to show that you can make very similar beers with very different yeasts and fermentation temperatures.

After much discussion we chose the Oktoberfest mostly because we preferred its mouthfeel and richness over the slightly more simple Noble Scot. Try one or both with a nice hearty stew or a brat and some kraut.

Unanimous Decision: Pyramid Oktoberfest

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Beers — Elysian vs. Elysian

Elysian Dark O' The Moon
Pumpkin Stout 
ABV 6.5%

Elysian Hansel & Gretel
Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner
ABV 4.5%

Feel that chill running up and down your spine? That's a sure sign that All Hallow's Eve is approaching. It's also a sign that you need to relax and enjoy a pumpkin beer. So stop obsessing about the Lucha Libre Clown in the photo and pay attention to those beers. Both are from Elysian Brewing in Seattle which has established itself as the foremost authority on pumpkin beers worldwide. Their epic Great Pumpkin Beer Festival should be on any respectable beer geek's bucket list. It's pumpkin beer nirvana.

These two beers are on opposite ends of the pumpkin beer spectrum which should come as no surprise given that the The Hansel & Gretel is a pilsner and the Dark O' The Moon is a stout. But in the name of Bottle Battle it was our solemn duty to set aside all style prejudice in order to determine which one tasted better to us at that particular moment.

The Pilsner was as light and lively as you'd expect with a murky yellow color and some nice herbal spices (clove, coriander, ginger, cinnamon) on the nose. The flavor offered a sharp, citrusy ginger followed by a moderately bitter finish with a touch of woody tannins.

The Stout was as dark as a deserted alley where Lucha Libre Clowns might lurk. The aroma was dominated by smoke, coffee and chocolate and the flavor continued with those qualities while adding some subtle pumpkin pie spices with a nice malty sweetness and a rich, velvety texture. The finish was smooth and smoky with a mild coffee bitterness.

We ended up choosing the Dark O' The Moon not only because we liked it more than the Hansel & Gretel but because it is truly one of the best stouts we've had the pleasure of drinking, pumpkin or non-pumpkin. The Hansel & Gretel wasn't bad at all, but with the weather cooling down we find that our palates are often drawn to the darker, maltier side of malt beverages. Both are available now but the Hansel & Gretel is a special offering only found in Elysian's Pumpkin Patch 4-pack which also includes Dark O' The Moon! Combine the 4-pack with some pumpkins, some knives and some friends and you've got yourself an old fashioned jack-o-lantern carving party.

Unanimous Decision: Dark O' The Moon