Tag Archives: Seasonal Beers

Pumpkin Beer Nine, This One is Fine

I think by the end of this endeavor I will have created an excellent (adult) skipping rhyme…

Well I am nine beers in and the diversity of pumpkin ales has made this task far more enjoyable than I thought when I initially posited drinking a pumpkin beer a day for nineteen days. Luckily there hasn’t been anything undrinkable so fingers crossed that Tree Brewing Co.’s Jumpin Jack Pumpkin Ale continues the streak.



Jumpin Jack pours a deep amber colour with tons of sediment. There is a small amount of cream coloured head that has good staying power. There are hops and pumpkin pie spices on the nose. Jumpin Jack has good body, edging towards a medium bodied ale, which suits the complex flavours happening in this beer. Earthy pumpkin comes through as you drink it and the hop and spices also linger making this one a bit more substantive than some of its’ pumpkin counterparts. The finish has a hoppy bitter quality. Overall another really drinkable pumpkin ale.


I give Jumpin Jack seven candy corns out of a possible ten.

Pumpkin Beer Eight, A Good First Date

Day 8. I am starting to wonder if I will ever be able to reach into my fridge and drink one of my many non-pumpkin offerings ever again, this makes me a little sad, but I soldier on for the greater good …the greater good.



St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale is deep amber coloured ale with lots of head on the initial pour. This ale has amazing clarity and your standard complement of pumpkin spices on the nose tinged with just a little bit of sourness. Malt and spices are the dominate flavours when you drink. As it warms the earthy pumpkin element comes to the forefront. Overall a very clean drinking beer; it is pretty light bodied and tastes uber filtered. Not a lot of finish to this beer but I really don’t mind the simplicity makes this one.


St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale is an excellent starter pumpkin beer; a well-balanced ale with all the right pumpkin and pumpkin pie notes plus it is available at the BC Liqour Stores so you can get it pretty much anywhere.


I give this one eight candy corns out of a possible ten.




The world’s fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin is 20.1 seconds, by David Finkle (UK), on October 7, 2010 – Guinness World Records

Pumpkin Beer Seven, A Little Taste of Heaven

Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales marks one week into my kooky pumpkin project and since I am still enjoying the ales I sample that is a pretty good sign I just might make it all the way to Halloween.



Punkin Ale pours a very clear deep orange with a small amount of white head that has really good retention. There is lots of pumpkin pie spice on the nose, definitely all spice and nutmeg, and a little caramel sweetness. It is very smooth in the mouthfeel with just enough body to carry the big flavours. Taste wise this one is more pumpkin pie than real pumpkin but there is a touch of earthiness that reassures you there were pumpkins in the brew. The flavours carry through to the finish but there is no lingering aftertaste. Punkin Ale is imminently drinkable.


This is my second go with Punkin Ale; the first time I had it I was not a big fan but this time out …wow. Punkin Ale may just rival Southern Tier’s Pumking as my favourite pumpkin ale this year but I’ll hold off on a final verdict until the bittersweet end.


I give Punkin Ale nine candy corns out of a possible ten.





“Because the movie Halloween (1978) was on such a tight budget, they had to use the cheapest mask they could find for the character Michael Meyers, which turned out to be a William Shatner Star Trek mask. Shatner initially didn’t know the mask was in his likeness, but when he found out years later, he said he was honored” 

Halloween Facts from http://facts.randomhistory.com/halloween-facts.html

Pumpkin Beer Two, A Brew I Thought I Knew

The second beer on my pumpkin quest is Steamworks Brewing Co. Pumpkin Ale.

Steamworks Pumpkin Ale is not new to me, in fact I have been known to espouse the wonders of this beer from time to time on this very blog BUT this is my first time trying it in the bottle so I will temper my bias when I get to the review segment of the show.



Steamworks Pumpkin Ale pours a deep amber red colour with good clarity. There is a decent amount of cream coloured head that lingers for sometime. Initially there is very little on the nose but as it warms a subtle spiciness comes through. Flavour wise this beer is akin to a good brown ale but the pumpkin element seems somewhat lacking. Raising the temperature helps but I find the pumpkin flavours far too mild. Oddly this beer gets a bit of banana on the nose as it warms up. It is pretty light bodied all in all and the finish has some maltiness to it but nothing lasting. I also tried Steamworks Pumpkin Ale in a growler this year and I prefer the draught form to the bottled version, though the bottle is really cool looking.



Overall I give this one six candy corns out of a possible ten.

Pumpkin Beer One, This Idea is Still Fun


First beer to kick off the pumpkin binge-drinking spectacular is Two Beers Brewing Co. Pumpkin Spice Ale.


Pumpkin Spice Ale pours clear bright orange with just a little white head that quickly leaves. The pumpkin pie spices on the nose are pretty dramatic with clove and nutmeg dominating. The spices continue in the flavour but not through to the finish. The beer is light bodied and relatively low in alcohol at just around 5%. There is a slight metallic taste that did not seem to dissipate from the beer even as it warmed. Like all spiced brews, this one benefits from time outside the fridge before consumption. I found the spiciness mellowed out a bit as it warmed and subtler notes came to the front. Still not much in the way of finish on this one even by the end of the glass.




I would give this beer 5 candy corns out of a possible 10.

Winter Beer-Off 2: Saltspring Porter vs Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

It’s time for another winter beer-off and this time I am putting two Porters head to head in a battle royale for that most coveted of distinctions – being named amongst the chosen few deemed to be superior winter beers on my blog (just kidding). This time around I thought I would revisit a couple Porters to see what works, what doesn’t work and perhaps even why one beer is a better ambassador for a style than another. Tasting two beers in the same style side by side, or a flight of beers, really improves your ability to articulate those elements that you enjoy as well as your ability to discern areas for improvement.

Salt Spring Porter: Deep brown almost black ale with good clarity and a bit of carbonation. This Porter has an off-white head that sadly does not stick around for the party. Definite coffee-like nose. I say coffee-like because the nose reminds me of roasted coffee beans but not necessarily fresh ground beans; almost like coffee that has gone a bit bitter or has sat around for a bit. Not a ton of flavour in the mouthfeel, again the coffee notes dominate but I do not get much else. It is light in body and has that distinctive Saltspring taste. I am not sure what exactly gives this flavour but it reminds me of mineral water or artesian water and it imparts a really clean taste to all of the Salt Spring beers. This beer has a minimal finish just that same slightly bitter taste.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter: Night black ale that may have clarity but you cannot see anything through it to tell; perhaps no discernible sedimentation is the best conclusion I can draw. This Porter has a stiff mocha-coloured head that is definitely large and in charge. The nose is malty with a slight bit of coffee. This beer is light in body with some stickiness in the mouthfeel from the sweet malt. Excellent balance between the bitterness imparted from the roasted elements and the sweetness brought by the malts.  There is a notable bitterness that lingers nicely on the finish.

The Verdict? I have to go with the Samuel Smith on this one. Porters are like a fine art, there is not a ton of body to this beer style so the balance between bitterness and malts really needs to be spot on. At the same time the darkness of the beer speaks to the amount of roasted elements, which if left unchecked can become the sole taste dominating the beer. Saltspring Porter seems to be lacking in the balance so all you really get is the roastiness. Taddy Porter on the other hand seems to have found that elusive balance. Tough style to master I would think. I didn’t try blending the beers this time because I think the addition of more coffee elements to the Taddy would have been doing a disservice. It is a shame Samuel Smith’s is only brewing the Taddy Porter as a seasonal beer – go get it while you can!

Winter Beer-Off: Deschutes Jubelale vs Tree Vertical Ale


There are a lot of great winter beers out there but there are also a fair amount of good ones too. Often I try so many different winter beers over the season that I tend to forget which ones are the best bets for repeat purchase. Barring the crazy knock-your-socks-off standout ales that are so over the top you could not forget them even if you wanted to, I really wanted to revisit some of those winter beers that were highly drinkable i.e. beers you can serve to Christmas company who are not raving beer geeks or beers you can buy in a six pack because you won’t get tired them after one beer. In this pursuit I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale and Tree Brewing’s Vertical Ale.

Deschutes Jubelale: A deep amber red with lots of off-white creamy head that has great retention. Sweet malt on the nose with a trace amount of bitter hop. Medium body with a ton of malt flavour and a hefty amount of hop at the finish. Overall I am not sure what makes this a winter beer per se. It is a great beer, well-balanced, and definitely representative of the hop-loving style that has come to define the Pacific Northwest. However, the ale seems to need something else to really make you think winter. I would give this beer a 3.5/5.

Tree Vertical Ale: A very clear orange amber ale with a minimal amount of bright white head and a slight effervescence. Vanilla really dominates on the nose and dominates on the palate as well. It is very light in body but smooth to drink. It reminds me of cream soda. Drinks better quite cold. Overall another highly-drinkable beer but I feel like this could benefit from a bit more body to really make it winter ale. Honestly the overall lightness made me think great Spring beer –if there is such a thing. I would give this beer a 4/5.

The obvious solution …blend these two beers together!

The Result: The sum is really better than the parts in this instance. The vanilla from the Tree softened the bitter hop bite of the Deschutes while imparting that unmistakable Christmas taste element. The Deschutes really gave depth to the Tree beer giving the blended beer a distinct malt character and more substance. Very drinkable. I would give this inspired collaboration 5/5.

*Thanks to my neighbour for the picture, the beer and the blog idea!

Warming up with Winter Beers at Firefly

Tuesday night was only my second ever ‘La Table Commune’ event at Firefly Fine Wine and Ales. I know, I know, how come a beer geek such as myself is not a regular at any and every beer event in the lower mainland. Well to be honest I often feel like I have tried so many different beers that I am becoming a challenge to impress; however, ‘Winter beers’ was an impossible temptation for me to pass up. As a lover of all beers dark, liquory and spicy especially as the temperature drops and the sun sets earlier, I was ready to be wowed with something new to add into my rotation. First up a little background on the beer selection courtesy of our hostess Lundy from Firefly. Winter warmer beers tend to be higher in alcohol, heavier in spices, roastier (?) in malt and generally all around bigger and bolder versions of our everyday ales. Styles can run the gamut but winter beers tend to work best with stouts, porters, barley wines, eisbocks and scotch ales as there starting points. Eisbocks were new to me so I will give you a bit more detail on this style before proceeding with the tasting notes. Eisbocks are doppelbocks that are frozen and then the ice is removed to concentrate the flavour and the alcohol. Eisbocks are lagers in the sense that they undergo a cold fermentation to clear the beer. This is analogous to the process for making ice wine. Now back to the matters at hand. I would like to introduce our evening’s line-up and offer some of my tasting notes:

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome 6.0% ABV IBU 32 – This beer is clear and copper in colour with a nice cream coloured head. I get sour malt with a bit of apple on the nose. There is a caramel sweetness when drinking and a bitter hop aftertaste. It is smooth and well-balanced. Improves as it warms up closer to room temperature.

Mission Springs Mr. Brown’s Mashed Pumpkin 8.0% ABV – This ale is golden amber with very little head. It has the most distinctive root beer nose I have ever encountered. Light in body but heavy in allspice/nutmeg/cinnamon. There is a bitter almost burnt finish.

Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale 7.0% ABV IBU 17 – Amber to red in appearance with minimal head. I really get a floral (lilac) nose with sweet malt. There is a tinge of sourness to this beer, which plays off the heavy malts and spices. Also, a sherry-like quality.

R&B Auld Nick Winter Ale 6.5% ABV IBU 18 – Deep amber to brown coloured ale with average head retention. There is a sweet crystal malt nose and a bit of molasses. A heavy bodied beer and you can really taste the molasses. Slight hop bitterness on the finish and a scotch element as the beer warms up.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter 5.8% ABV – A deep brown relatively clear beer with a large caramel coloured head. You get sweet caramel/malt, raisin and sherry on the nose. Christmas cake spices and sweet liquor dominate the mouthfeel. Very smooth and well-balanced.

Vancouver Island Brewery Hermannator (Eisbock) 9.5% ABV – A deep amber to brown coloured beer with a small amount of head. Sweet malt is the dominate element on the nose. It is light in body, almost tepid, with a syrupy quality. Powerful liquor taste. This beer would cellar quite well.

Howe Sound Pot-Hole Filler Imperial Stout 9.0% ABV IBU 65 – Deep black stout with a dark caramel coloured head on this ale. The nose is a mix of crystal malt and roasted barley. It is a very heavy and smooth beer with subtle coffee and molasses elements.

Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine 9-10% ABV – Clear and amber in appearance with a stiff ivory head. Malt is very present on the nose of this beer. It is smooth and dry with a fair amount of hop bitterness at the finish.

Brooklyn Monster Barley Wine 9-10% ABV – Similar in appearance to the Pike. You get a sweet malt nose and some liquor vapour as well. It is extremely well-balanced with no discernible bitter aftertaste. Drinks like a spirit.

Overall it was a fun, albeit cramped, winter beer tasting. Perhaps ‘La Table Commune’ really intends for you to embrace your new beer friends by tightly packing you into a small space. Diligent note-taking and photograph-happy beer geeks be forewarned that you may inadvertently clear the table in your attempts to document the evening (sorry about the glass Lundy). Our hostess was both knowledgeable and considerate offering up some of her own cellared beers for the event and making non-regulars such as myself feel most welcome. I am definitely looking forward to another tasting event at Firefly. To wrap this post up in a neat little (Christmas) package my picks for the best winter tipplers for the season are:

1. Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

2. V.I.B. Hermannator

3. Brooklyn Monster Barley Wine

Staring into The Abyss

The Abyss 2010 Reserve

It has been awhile since I wrote a post entirely devoted to one beer but it has also been awhile since I had a beer so memorable that I wanted to devote a post entirely to said ale – the proverbial chicken and the egg paradox for beer if you will. I have been staring at my bottle of The Abyss for quite some time now waiting patiently for the best after date to come about. Every time I opened the cupboard there it was but no I could not drink it yet; so I waited, and waited, and then on a cold and rainy Saturday I finally opened it. Here is the description from Deschutes: “It’s dark. It’s deep. It’s mysterious. This imperial stout has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich complex profile. The flavour of this special brew draws you in further and further with each sip. The Abyss beckons. Enjoy the journey.”

The Abyss 2010 Reserve from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon is a stout brewed with liquorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels. This stout clocks in at a hefty ‘winter warmer’ 11% ABV, and the beer comes in a black wax sealed bottle with a best after date so the drinker can enjoy the benefits of the bourbon cask aging. The Abyss has a great label, which gives the impression that fine aged ale lay within through its interesting use of texture and colour as well as the spartan amount of detail. It is one of the bottles that you just have to pick up and read. The Abyss pours a deep black with a big caramel head. Immediately you get a sweet molasses nose with hints of roasted coffee and something reminiscent of the nose on a nice whiskey. The mouthfeel is cloyingly sticky and heavy with a big molasses taste; full bodied is an understatement here. Interestingly the molasses flavour lingers in your mouth long after you finish. This is one of those beers that really needs to breathe and warm up to be fully appreciated. As time passes more subtle tastes come to the forefront such as, sweet liquor and earthiness. There is a real bitterness to this stout that mellows out as you drink. The high ABV can really stand up to the strength of the molasses where a lesser beer could easily have been overwhelmed. Overall a near-perfect winter quaff the kind that warms you from the inside out and feels like a meal in a glass.


It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (for Beer!)

It is dark, cold and rainy in Vancouver and that can only mean good news for beer enthusiasts because the seasonal ales are finally here again. The fast approaching holiday season seems to bring out the kid in all of us -beer drinkers and brewers alike. That time when we want to spice things up, ramp up the roasted malts, kick up the ABV, lovingly cask our beers in winter spirits like rum and brandy, sprinkle in a little dried fruit and add a titch of vanilla to create those ever so wondrous winter ales. Not to mention the plethora of fantastic (and cheeky) beer names and labels that adorn these seasonal creations. To kick off a series of blog posts relating to the wonder that is winter beer I thought I would give my top twelve seasonal beer names (not to be confused with my top twelve stocking stuffers):

1)      Ridgeway Santa’s Butt Holiday Porter AND Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout AND Seriously Bad Elf (three-way tie from the creative folks at Ridgeway)

2)      BrewDog There is No Santa

3)      Full Sail Wassail

4)      Blue Ridge Snowball’s Chance Winter Ale

5)      Deschutes Jubelale

6)      Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve AND Yellow Snow

7)      Moylan’s White Christmas

8)      Boulder Never Summer Ale

9)      Odell Brewing Company’s Isolation Ale

10)   R&B Brewing Co. Iceholes Celebration Lager

11)   Leavenworth Snowblind

12)   Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig

*Honourable mention to the Hanukkah themed He’Brew Jewbelation

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