October/November 2009

Autumn Craft Beers

Fall has never been my favorite season. Fall is all about back to school misery and the end of outdoor fun and summer sun. As I turn over a new colored leaf, my search engine overloaded brain lists all the magnificent reasons to celebrate fall: foliage, harvests, sweater season, pumpkins, Octoberfests, comfort foods, cool nights, apple picking, and robust hearty beers with strong character and a cornucopia of flavors. I guess fall is not so bad and the myriad of autumn craft beer offerings is astonishingly exciting!

The Beer Beacon panel gathered at the diligently well-tapped Pizza Plant at Transit Road in Williamsville for the fall seasonal beer tasting on a balmy Sunday evening. Dark Horse Rod Ale held up as a fabulous starter to a perfect evening (gotta love those aphrodisiacs).

Next: Holiday and Winter Beers

The Place:
Pizza Plant, Williamsville, NY

The Tasters:
A few of our loyal Beer Beacon tasters were on an exciting Beerventure to Scotland. They are cheerily
excused, assuming they bring us back something interesting to taste. Another among the missing has
been put on the PIP plan - so be there next time or beware the eager beavers. Our panel was an
enthusiastic group including steadfast Vinny and Evil and our gracious stand-ins Mensa Drop Out, Mean, and 'Lene. The Polish Hammer also took part in this myriad of styles beer session.

The Method:
Tasters are served each beer, with only the information of the style the brewery is emulating,
when there is a style. The beer name and brewery are revealed to the tasters as each next
blind round is served. Thus engendering a myriad of wild (and sometimes correct)
guessesfrom the tasters before that beer is revealed. - The Steward)

The Beers:

Perlenstrasse Octoberfest Ale, Pearl Street Brewery
76 Pearl Street, Buffalo NY
(716) 856-2337

“A nice, copper color and a robust, drinkable beer,” Mean commented. Vinny noted the yeasty, caramel nose and sweet candy malts that
faded to a light hoppy bitterness. Evil liked the sweet, honeysuckle taste and the light body mouth feel. Mensa Drop Out, an Octoberfest enthusiast, thought the actual taste was less powerful than the strong caramel malt aroma indicated. However, the subtle hop twang at the end made it an overall pleasant experience. The Beer Diva is not a huge malt lover and found this beer an edge syrupy, but flavorful. We agreed it would be great paired with roast pork or a bacon burger. 'Lene thought it was “awesome”.

MärzHon Octoberfest, Clipper City Brewing Company
4615 Hollins Ferry Road., Suite B, Baltimore MD

Evil thought this beer was rather pale in color and taste for an Octoberfest. When we realized it was a lager we appreciated the cleaner, subtler malt and hop flavors. Vinny found the light apricot malt aroma and mild caramel body smooth, and the finish slightly sugary. Mensa Drop Out likened it to an Alsatian style - perhaps Frenchified - not a traditional hearty Octoberfest. Gene agreed that it lacked complexity. 'Lene and the Beer Diva liked the smooth, clean taste and found it well balanced (Maybe it's a Chick Octoberfest?).

Imperial Red, Lagunitas Brewing Co.
1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma CA

The Magistrate classified this as a “true pilsner” with a nice crisp hop finish. Hop Jack noted the creamy head and straw gold color and admired its easy drinkability. Vinny said the Sazz, noble hops, sweet water malts and flavorful hops loudly proclaim a proud Pilsner. Evil agreed the beer was clean, refreshing and covered the alcohol well - a “Gateway Pilsner” - very impressive. Still early in her pilsner appreciation journey, the Beer Diva thought this beer was scrumptious. - “Is there another bottle?”

John Barleycorn Barleywine, Mad River Brewing Co.
195 Taylor Way, Arcata CA

Mean described this heavy, strong ale as a “mouth watering, hoppy, caramel monster”. 'Lene liked the toffee caramel taste, but said it was too big for her. Mensa Drop Out noted the macadamia nut and raisin fruit aroma and biscuity sourdough taste that preceded the strong alcohol middle and medium hop bitter finish. Vinny thought it was rich, and the dried fruits and viscous body made it a “Friggin Big Hitter”. The Beer Diva enjoyed the regal smooth, sweet prune taste that was well balanced by floral hops. “This would be an excellent choice to accompany ghost stories at a campfire or a fall hike in the woods,” commented Evil.

Imperial Pumpkin, Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
905 Line Street, Easton PA

The Beer Diva loves cinnamon and she was delighted to taste a pumpkin beer that was not too sweet with a surprisingly hoppy finish. Leo exclaimed “Spices rule!” and noted the nutmeg, clove and cinnamon almost overwhelm the pumpkin flavor. Evil is ready to cook a turkey basted with Imperial Pumpkin. Mean thought it was an “allspice, butternut treat with a warm after glow”.
'Lene suggested we drizzle it over crème brulee or a rum cake. Vinny agreed
that this beer was meant for food pairing - “it's like a pumpkin pie with booze sprinkled on it.” We all agreed this would be a perfect Thanksgiving celebration dessert beer.

Little Sumpin' Extra Ale Limited Release, Lagunitas Brewing Co.
1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma CA

Mensa Drop Out was caught by surprise on this one. “This is a phenomenal change of pace beer for a hop head because all the hops taste is in the middle” (as opposed to the typical hop aroma or bitter hop finish). Vinny noted the delicate citrus and floral hop aroma with a big hot and fruity hop taste and said it was “hop-burping good”. Mean thought this beer was perfect in every way! 'Lene liked the clean, crispness and smooth silky taste was fabulously quaffable. The Beer Diva agreed this is an impressive beer that goes down a little too easily. Evil described it as a fizzy hopped up golden elixir that would taste great with roasted chicken and vegetables.

Fall 09 Odd Notion Black Belgian Stout, Magic Hat Brewing Co.
5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington VT
802-658-BREW (2739)

'Lene commented on the very smokey aroma and smooth roasty mouth feel that lingered to a chocolate blueberry aftertaste. The Polish Hammer (eagerly taking over for Vinny) liked the hearty smoke flavor and thought it would pair well with sausages. Mean said the smoky coffee taste was not his ideal beer style and was puzzled by the complexity. Evil thought it was a smoky chocolate latte and suggested we all “drink this pretty momma tonight”. The Beer Diva is not particularly fond of smoked beers, but this cocoa, raisiny, sweet plum stout was captivating in a “joy of the unique and different”

Roxy Rolles Autumnal Amber Ramble, Magic Hat Brewing Co.
5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington VT
802-658-BREW (2739)

Gene found the piney citrus nose inviting, but the smooth malt roast taste had a metallic tinge that finished dry and hoppy. Mensa Drop Out enjoyed the sweet roasted nut and aroma and noted the hoppy taste was well balanced with caramel malts. The Polish Hammer was exited by the beautiful sunset rich copper color and fruity hop aroma but found the mouth feel rather weak, but still an enjoyable beer. 'Lene thought the scent was musky and there was a undefinitive flavor that improved as
it warmed. Evil called it a “malty bastardization of good intentions”. The Beer Diva wants to taste this one at the brewery - “Anyone up for aroad trip?”


Imperial Saison, New Glarus Brewery
2400 State Hwy 69, New Glarus WI
(608) 527-5850

The Polish Hammer thought everything about this beer was big and delicious; from the nose to the explosion of flavors that come through the sweet and sour body. Evil said “Someone put Kriek in my Saison - what a great idea!” Mensa Drop Out noted the grassy wheat farmhouse aroma with a bit of apricot tart taste and a swift kick in the hops finish. Both Mean and 'Lene wrinkled their noses a bit and agreed they have not developed an appreciation for the sour fruit Belgian style beers. The
Beer Diva raved about the bold complexity and thought it deserves an equally elaborate and courageous cheese - perhaps a Montenegro and Gala apple pairing.


Belgian Golden Ale with Brettanomyces, New Glarus Brewery
2400 State Hwy 69, New Glarus WI
(608) 527-5850

Mensa Drop Out noted that the Bergamot (Earl Grey Tea) aroma with a hint of spice and suggested this is a perfect beer to match with curry and 'Lene agreed and asked where we could find some good Indian food. Mean could not get past the funky nose and yeasty sour taste, but he's willing to give it a whirl. The Polish Hammer said “We got the Funk!” - this beer is almost crunchy, very balanced and well done. Evil deemed it a “funky MOFO” that although difficult, is a very impressive beer. The Beer Diva will be placing a tall order shortly - “How much is a case?”


Imperial Porter, Long Trail Brewing Co.
5520 Us-Route 4, Bridgewater Corners VT‎

Evil described this as “mmmmh, creamy chocolate goodness”. 'Lene was in agreement, “so smooth and silky, it slips right down my throat”. Mensa Drop Out noted the chocolate, smoke and peat aroma, roasty caramel and cocoa malt flavors; a sweet rich, sipper to be savored slowly. Mean relished the strong nose and called it a “Uber Porter”. The Polish Hammer suggested we “cuddle up with your honey by the fire place as this roasty, toasty porter warms the soul” It brings excitement to the porter style that may even include toe-sucking fun. The Beer Diva smiled, “Aahh, I recall this fondly as the crowning jewel at the Ithaca Brew Fest,” with a special toast to Nuco, Kate, Richard and Gerry.


--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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