Monthly Archives: October 2015

Hall of Fame Beer!

Brewery Ommegang

It’s autumn, it’s the baseball post season, and thoughts turn to Cooperstown and the Hall of–wait a minute–my thoughts turn to beer, and Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang has been one of my favorites for years. Now Cooperstown comes to Nanuet with a tasting at Growler & Gill. Mind you, I’d be delighted to visit the brewery in the fall . . . or any other time.

2005 FALL 8in _4

NirvanaIPA_Mar30_V1Nirvana IPA

Since Ommegang is famous for its Belgian styes, Nirvana is a change of pace. So what do we get? Slightly hazy rose gold with a generous–if brief–white head. It starts with a nose of piney hops with citrus over light malt. It shows much more biscuity malt on the palette but still with plenty of hops, nicely balanced. Lingering restrained hops flow through the finish, fairly bitter but with a hint of honey. 6.5% ABV


Now we move to classic Belgian, very hazy straw with a moderate to generous foamy white head. The aroma is yeasty with lots of banana & peach, then comes a lovely estery mouthful, silky, with light effervescence. A little hop bite leads the finish, then a light sweetness. More than satisfactory! 5.2% ABV

Grains of Truth

Apparently this is the same recipe as last years Scythe & Sickle, which wasn’t especially memorable. It’s amber with a fairly generous white head. The nose is light malt with a hint of caramel. There is more flavor than suggested by the nose with lots of bready malt. The finish is light with a touch of banana. Maybe it suffers by following Witte, but really there’s not much going on. 5.8% ABV

ommThree PhilosophersThree Philosophers

This is a Quadrupel described as “98% ale with 2% ale with cherries added.” It’s dark garnet in the glass with a medium fine-grained yellowish head. There’s a rich liqueur nose with lots of dark fruit, yeast, and dark malt with a hint of sourdough. The first sip is a mix of brandy and port, followed by a silky foamy mouthfeel with tangy banana over caramel malts and a pervasive cognac highlight. Lots of malt supports ongoing black cherry with spicy hops in the background. The finish is smooth, fruity and quiet with nice biscuit malt. 9.7% ABV

ommHennepinHennepin Farmhouse Saison

Described as “Ale with spices: Grains of paradise, ginger, coriander and sweet orange peel,” this pours hazy golden straw with a big fizzy white head. The aroma is spicy and yeasty with an herbal tang. On the palette, spices play tag with hops and there’s a strong presence of “botanicals” like a good gin. Crackery malt carries all of this and continues into a gentle finish as hops dry out the end. This almost defines “saison” for me, the mix of varied spices, herbs and malts. 7.7% ABV

So, can a TV show inspire a beer? A series of beers?


Brewery Ommegang and HBO are partnering on a series of beers inspired by the critically-acclaimed drama Game of Thrones. Launching ahead of the season 3 debut . . . Iron Throne, a blonde ale, is the inaugural beer in the series and the result of a creative collaboration between Brewmaster Phil Leinhart and HBO.

ommIronThroneIron Throne Blonde Ale

The first of the Game of Thrones series, and the only one I had not had before, so “Thank you!” for releasing it again. This pours straw with a generous white head supported by ample effervescence. It has a nice Belgian nose of yeast, bananas and hops with plenty of crackery malt underneath. The flavor is fairly light but complex with citrus and peach esters, spicy hops and a varied malt backbone. The finish takes these and adds enough hops to firm things up. Never sweet, things end even a bit drier. 6.5% ABV

ommTakeTheBlackStoutTake the Black Stout

It’s black all right, with a big head of big dark tan bubbles. Starts with chocolate & coffee on a very light nose with a slight chemical note. As the beer warms, that note becomes smoky wood. Bitter flavor like very dark espresso with very dark chocolate, with almost a burnt note. The finish smooths right out and the harshness ebbs away leaving pleasant cocoa and roasty malt. This seems to be the weakest of the five GoT beers so far, but definitely don’t drink it too cold. 7% ABV

Ommegang logo alternate - Circle red

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Attack of the Pumpkins! (Part 2)

Continuing my pumpkin odyssey . . .

Pumpkin Flight

Uinta JackedUinta Crooked Line Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin (Salt Lake City, UT)

Pours dark garnet with a generous foamy orangey head. The aroma is of pumpkin rather than pumpkin pie but with a nose-tickling spiciness where the hops hold their own among the mulling spices. This may be the strongest pumpkin flavor of all, kind of a purist’s pumpkin, like a dish of squash with enough spice to accent the meatiness, and with oak coming through. Utah’s heart of oak. On the finish the hops give bracing bitterness and dry out what wasn’t very sweet to begin with. This would go great with a main course like turkey or pork or grilled tofu. 10.31% ABV and in a 750ml bottle that last 0.01% could be a killer! 39 IBU, unusually high bitterness for a pumpkin ale but it works.

Dogfish PumpkinDogfish Head Pumpkin Ale (Milton DE)

Medium amber in the glass with a bubbly vanilla cream head. The nose is biscuit malt first then melon or squash with a dash of spice. The flavor starts with liquor, a fruit brandy, and then a creaminess with a touch of spice and spicy hops. The finish carries this forward with brandy fading and hoppy malt growing. Nice mild sweetness develops as the beer warms a little. Beautifully balanced. This is not an eye opener, this is just calmly excellent. 7% ABV

Alltech Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale (Lexington KY)

Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, aged in bourbon barrels. I was a bit too busy savoring this to take proper notes. Their regular Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale has a great bourbon nose, this adds pumpkin and spices. Very satisfying. 10.0% ABV

Horseheads PumpkinHorseheads Brewing Pumpkin Ale (Horseheads NY)

This is a medium to light amber with a generous orangey head. The aroma is very pie spicy with rich malt just underneath. The flavor is restrained pumpkin pie with cinnamon and nutmeg and spice-cake malt. The finish is moderately long emphasizing malt and slightly dried out by hops. 7.0% ABV

Hoppin Frog Double PumpkinHopping Frog Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale (Akron OH)

This pours amber with a brief tan head. The aroma delivers more spice than pumpkin and unusual spicing with ginger in the mix. The flavor starts wth a toffee note, smooth, with spices coming in, especially clove. The finish is mild, mixing malt and spice. There’s not a whole lot of pumpkin in flavor or finish. It’s a nice strong Fall beer but not especially a pumpkin beer. 8.4% ABV

Saranac PumpkinSaranac Pumpkin Ale (Matt Brewing, Utica, NY)

Clear amber in the glass with a moderate off white head. Starts with a very malty nose with lightly funky melon. Spicy flavor led by cinnamon with a very light body and just a touch of fruit. The finish has a little malt but is a bit bland. 5.1% abv 15 IBU their website calls it “hearty …with full body” but I find it thin and light.

Whole Hog PumpkinWhole Hog Pumpkin Ale (Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point, WI)

Pours a slightly hazy chestnut with a moderate yellowish head. The aroma is of liquid pumpkin pie…the whole pie, crust and all. Flavor starts spicy instantly changing to meaty pumpkin, then the spices come right back and meet crackery malt forming a great balance. The finish leans toward darker spice like nutmeg with a shot of bittering hops leading into lingering maltiness. 7.5% ABV, 10 IBU

stPumkingSouthern Tier Pumking (Lakewood, NY)

Light copper in the glass with a brief off cream head. Starts with a big pumpkin aroma more like a pumpkin bread than pie, lots of malt. That bready malt and rich fruit flow into the flavor mixing with the spices and vanilla (almost as if aged in oak.) As it warms a tiny bit of candy-like aroma emerges but is tinged with hops. Very low bitterness but not without a touch of hop flavor too. The finish is long but restrained. Sneaky strong, it doesn’t drink like 8.6% ABV. As it says on the bottle, “This beer is brewed with pagan spirit & should be enjoyed responsibly.”

samFatJackSamuel Adams Fat Jack (Boston, MA)

Brown ale with a medium yellowish head. The nose displays caramel malt with Euro hops and subtle pumpkin or pumpkin & yam. It’s Brown Ale on the palette with toffee and a hint of smoke, sweetness but not sweet. Enough hops and enough roast to be interesting.

stWarlockSouthern Tier Warlock (Lakewood, NY)

Opaque brown in the glass with a fairly brief tan head. Rich pumpkin spice cake nose a bit sweeter aroma than Pumking. Rich and roasty on the palette with coffee notes…have some coffee with your cake. There’s a ton of malt and smooth spices, cinnamon and vanilla and nutmeg over the pumpkin body. The pumpkin isn’t the first or even second thing you notice, but it asserts itself on the finish amid waves of spice, malt, and coffee notes. 10.0% abv

Elysian PunkuccinoElysian Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale (Seattle, WA)

“”A pumpkin ale with the attitude of a world-weary barista.” Very dark brown with light barely coming through it. And a generous relatively persistent tan head. Aroma of coffee the instant the cap comes off. Rich coffee aroma with spice and pumpkin. Flavor of good very smooth coffee without bitterness. Very similar to Warlock with more coffee and slightly less body. In both cases the pumpin is tertiary to the malt or coffee and spices. In both cases these are fabulous beers. Out if season I may be dismissive of pumpkins. Mea culpa. 6.0% ABV

I was dismissive of pumpkin ales out of season, and even felt dismissive of their worth even in season. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I’ve really enjoyed my journey through the pumpkin patch, and I look forward to coming back next year!

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Attack of the Pumpkins! (Part 1)

Pumpkins! Quite a crop!

Pumpkin Crop

Yes, I grumbled because pumpkin beers were flooding the shelves in July. I was delaying the inevitable. Yes, for a while I focused on Oktoberfest Bier (and enjoyed them very much, thank you). But now Oktoberfest is over, it’s the same month as Halloween, and it’s time to give in to the pumpkin tide. As a bonus, these are very much to the liking of my family, where there is not a hop-head among them.

Captain Lawrence Pumpkin AleCaptain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale

Captain Lawrence says, “this is the perfect beer to drink as the weather starts to turn a bit cooler.” Yes, there’s good reason to wait until after July! Medium amber with a tight off white head. A light malty aroma comes with just a hint of squash and then some spice. The palette is crisp and again lightly malty. There is not much pumpkin at all, but rather a good ale with a hint of pumpkin, a refreshing beer. 5% ABV, 20 IBU, setting the stylistic pattern of minimal hops. This brewery is in Elmsford, NY.

Defiant Headless HorsemanDefiant Headless Horseman

A glass of dark pumpkin-y amber with a medium creamy head, this comes from Pearl River, NY. Pumpkin leads the aroma with a little shot of hops and bakery malt. There’s a tiny metallic note. After the aroma, the spicy flavor surprises, carried on a bed of malt. The pumpkin comes back on the finish, mixed now with the spices. There is more going on than the Captain Lawrence. 5.5% ABV

Schlafley Pumpkin AleSchlafly Pumpkin Ale

From St. Louis, this was a favorite with my friends, and with me. Pours chestnut with a brief bubbly off white head. Pumpkin pie nose! Absolutely! The flavor continues the pie and brings in bready malt (the crust?) and a little shot of spicy hops to join the cinnamon, nutmeg & clove. There is great balance among the spices as one then another stands out. Then comes a long spicy finish with that sweet pumpkin. 8.0% ABV, 16 IBU

Harpoon Imperial PumpkinHarpoon Imperial Pumpkin

This stout is an almost opaque cola brown with a brief tan head. There is a shot of pumpkin aroma as soon as the cap comes off, then it gets relatively mild with restrained nutmeg and perhaps butternut squash. No, it’s pumpkin: “We had some fresh pumpkin puree leftover from a recent brew of our UFO Pumpkin…” The flavor is richly spiced and lightly pumpkined with roasty dark malts coming almost to dominate. The finish says stout first, then nutmeg & cinnamon like a spice cookie, and only mild pumpkin. 10.5% ABV

WeyerbacherWeyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

They say “we set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins!” This comes from Allentown, PA, chestnut in the glass with a brief off-tan head. Lots of pumpkin aroma arrives with spices in the background and a layer of warming malt. The flavor delivers spice and pumpkin together, and more pumpkin than pie, it’s not as sweet as some. There’s cinnamon & nutmeg & cloves–like many pumpkin ales–but Weyerbacher gives a little something extra with cardamon. The finish starts with malt and pumpkin but it’s the spices that linger through a long finish. Very good. 8.0% ABV, IBU 21

KukaLabelKuka Pumpkin Dubbel

From the Andean Brewing Company, Blauvelt NY, this fills the glass with deep amber with a moderate bubbly off white head. There’s a nose of musty fermented pumpkin and spices. Their beers are unique, featuring maca root in the recipe. This stands out among the pumpkins with a strong fermenting fruit flavor over medium dark malt. It’s almost a sour, and is only barely to my taste. Wraps up with malt and raisin. 6.5% ABV

Shipyard PumpkinheadShipyard Pumpkinhead

This was served at Growler & Gill in a glass rimmed with sugar & cinnamon, as appropriate as rimming margaritas with salt, and what does Shipyard write about it? “A seasonal favorite! Try Pumpkinhead with a shot of spiced rum or in a pint glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon.” This pours amber with a light off white head, followed by a nose of pumpkin & malt & spice. The flavor delivers more spice than pumpkin with medium bakery/cara malt. It has a light body not quite watery. The finish is quite light with pumpkin & malt and lasts for a little while. I may have to look for some spiced rum! 4.5% ABV.

Flying Dog The Gourd StandardFlying Dog The Gourd Standard

Fills the glass with pretty copper and a generous lemon chiffon head. Pumpkin pie spiced with hops gives a nice big aroma. The flavor starts more melon than gourd with malt and pie spices and hops in the background. The hops emerge on the finish making this a nice variant on the less hoppy pumpkins. 6.7% ABV, breaking the mold at 60 IBU.

Yes, there’s more where these came from. After all, we haven’t touched the Dogfish, and we haven’t touched the superstars Pumking and Warlock. These will be along as soon as my liver recovers.

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Sweet Georgia Brown (and more)

SweetWater Brewing Company

Atlanta GA

“Don’t float the mainstream!”

Sweetwater 2

Sweetwater Take Two PilsTake Two Pils

“Call us in the morning!”

Crystal clear gold in the glass with a full foamy white head. The aroma comes with biscuit malt, a yeasty tang and light American hops. “Light” is a relative thing as this beer is not for hop haters. The presenter estimated 35 IBU. The style is Czech but the flavor is a little muddy and not as crisp as classic pilsners. It has a fairly brief finish but lots of malt drying out the end. Good beer but not outstanding, however it gets better sip to sip. If I think of it as a good hoppy lager rather than a pilsner per se, I like it better and better. 5.5% ABV

Sweetwater 420420 Extra Pale Ale

“Drink ’em if you got ’em!”

Pours a clear medium amber with a brief white head. The nose is of biscuit & bread malt, then lots of resiny hops. On the palette comes a very smooth malty flavor, nice mouthfeel, and with more hops from bottle than draft. The finish continues the same smooth malt but with notes of green pepper and hops. 5.7% ABV

Sweetwater IPAIPA

“The beer you’ve been training for!”

A dark amber brew with a generous yellowish head. It leads with a very hoppy citrus nose, citrus and melon with a dash of bakery malt. Mild effervescence sustains the head for a long time. The flavor leads and continues with hops over malt, somehow balanced or at least very smooth. The nice bitter finish becomes surprisingly crisp. It’s very drinkable, suggesting a session ale but stronger than that at 6.3% ABV

Sweetwater Hop HashHop Hash Infused Double IPA

“Pour Pour Pass!”

So what is hop hash? Some might say “the crap left over in the pelletizer” but the SweetWater brewer saw pure gold, pure hop lupulin. Like another sort of hash, it concentrates the point of the exercise and intensifies the experience. Medium amber with a big white head which heavily laces the glass. The hop aroma is deceptively mild with plenty of malt. The flavor is uniquely hoppy, resiny and piney, but as flavor rather than as bitterness. This is very rich. The finish has a sweetness and softness with very smooth hops. This is a very good, very unusual ale. 7.8% ABV

Sweetwater-Hash-Brown_02Hash Brown

“Not You Momma’s Hash Browns!”

This is a solid brown ale with hop hash coming around again. It pours dark brown, a bit of chestnut looking through toward the light, with a tan head coating the glass. The nose hits with strong citrus & pine hops which almost hide the complex malt base. It’s just excellent with rich flavors of malts (“2-row, Wheat, Pale Chocolate, Cara-Brown, and Midnight Wheat”) plus a ton of balanced hops. It finishes up with a nice bitter & malt finish, lingering a long time. 6.2% ABV

I notice they have “Best If Enjoyed By” dates on the bottles, a nice touch that more breweries need.

Sweetwater Cap

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