Monthly Archives: August 2012

Spoooky Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery’s Scarecrow Golden Pale Ale

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Wychwood Brewery’s Scarecrow Golden Pale Ale

 

As I mentioned in this earlier review, I don’t think Wychwood Brewery is selling seasonal brews; I think this is what they sell year-round. Which is great. There’s nothing better than going to your local liquor store and seeing a Hobgoblin or a Scarecrow on the shelf amidst all the IPAs and numerous variations of Guinness that are all deep, dark and weighty.

While I love “Hobgoblin”, I am less enthused with “Scarecrow.” It’s a pale ale which are, to me, usually a bit less interesting in terms of flavor. They’re never too bitter. They’re not heavy. They’re not bursting with strange and unusual flavors. Pale ales are good for people who aren’t the biggest fans of beers, but need something to drink on a hot summer day. They’re light, refreshing and don’t leave a lot of aftertaste. You drink it down and look for the next one.

And that’s exactly what “Scarecrow” is. There’s nothing truly interesting here. I don’t dislike it. But once I’m done with it, I won’t really be able to remember what it really tasted like. Honestly, the first thing I thought of when I took my first sip was a Heineken. It was really disappointing after “Hobgoblin,” a beer with interesting and complex flavors. I know this brewery is capable of more and I felt like they let me down.

This is like watching Friday the 13th Part V and making it all the way to the end, only to find out that it wasn’t even goddamn Jason behind the mask.

Spoiler alert.

I give “Scarecrow” one Pyscho remake and a handful of direct-to-video Hellraiser sequels.

-D-

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Spoooky Beer Review: Magic Hat’s “Hex”

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Magic Hat’s “Hex”

After all these pumpkin ales, I needed a break. There’s only so much cinnamon and pumpkin you can drink before you start sneezing holiday cheer. So I went and picked up Magic Hat’s Hex, a Halloween theme beer that promises no kind of pumpkin and delivers on that promise.

When a brewery decides to eschew more traditional means of a seasonal beer (light ales in the Summer, IPAs in the Spring, Rauchbiers in the Winter {ugh}), they have to really go the extra mile to sell it as that season’s beer. This generally means the packaging is going to get all holiday up in your grill.

Take “Hex” for instance. There are demons and vampires being served beer by a floating witch waitress while they sit at a blood red table under a blood red sky and the whole thing is framed with wrought iron and spiky brambles. Bam, there’s Halloween for you. Now, it doesn’t have to taste  like Halloween at this point. You bought the beer for a party and you’re going to use the actual bottles as decoration.

But it does have to taste goodIt can’t all just be gimmicky labeling and spooky boxes. If you don’t want to drink what’s in the bottle, then you just plunked eight dollars down on a refrigerator decoration, which would have been better spent on cotton ball webs and plastic spiders.

Luckily for you and for me, “Hex” is a pretty decent beer. It has a good, strong burst of flavor; kind of tart and there’s just the slightest hint of Belgian in there. It’s not the most intense beer, but nor is it the disappointingly bland brew that is Scarecrow, a beer you’ll be meeting later in the week.

I’m not generally a fan of Magic Hat, but I like this. It’s that little bit of tartness that does it for me. It’s a little heavy, but not too much and it doesn’t overpower you with flavor.

On the downside, it does tend to…linger a bit. Like an IPA that overstays its welcome a bit too long, Hex leaves behind a bitter aftertaste, but on the periphery of your mouth.

All in all, “Hex” was surprisingly decent and a well rounded seasonal beer that made me want to give Magic Hat a second chance. Bring a six pack to that Halloween party you’re going to. The host will welcome the additional spookiness and people won’t break half-empty bottles over your head when they taste it.

I give it, Hell, I don’t know…two zombies and a murderous conjoined (but detached) twin in a wicker picnic basket*.

-D-

*A head nod and a wry smile to the person who gets the reference.

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Spoooky Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Smashed Pumpkin

 

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Smashed Pumpkin

Remember yesterday when I was talking about beers that call themselves pumpkin ales, but don’t really deliver in that department? This is one of them.

Oh, it has that same gorgeous orange color as the others and it smells great, but it smells like cinnamon. It smells so strongly of cinnamon that it doesn’t even really smell like beer. That’s a little alarming.

The first sip basically verifies what your nose already told you; this beer tastes a lot like cinnamon. And not much like anything else. It’s by no means terrible. I think there are only a few people in this world who hate the taste of cinnamon and those people are heartless fiends who also dislike marshmallows in their coco and videos of panda babies stumbling down slides.

But this is a flavor that’s more evocative of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving than Jack o’ Lanterns and Halloween. Or Christmas! Cinnamon is a Christmas spice too!  If you removed that bad-ass label with the Jack o’ Lantern, the orange and gold and the pumpkin themed name, you could totally market this as a Christmas beer (“Kringle Ale”) with a drunk elf in snazzy green elf shoes on the front.

It’s a good beer with a strong kick (9% Alc./Vol.), but in spite of all the Halloween marketing, it’s hardly a Halloween beer with nary a pumpkin flavor in sight.

I give it a goddamn Ho-Ho-Ho! and a Merry Christmas! for this Halloween brew.

-D-

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Spoooky Beer Review: Southern Tier Brewing Company’s “Imperial “Pumking”

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Imperial Pumking

 

The first thing you’re going to notice with any pumpkin ale is that they tend to have an orange cast to them, and Pumking is no different. Look at that orange luster. If you forget, even for a second, that you’re drinking a pumpkin beer, that color will always remind you.

Around this time of year (you know, end of August, Halloween time), you can’t swing a dead black cat without sweeping half a dozen pumpkin ales off the shelf. There are some decent ones out there, but for the most part, the first thing you taste when you drink one is cinnamon. And the last thing you taste will be cinnamon. And in the middle there too.

There is one out there that’s a huge offender in the cinnamon department, but I won’t be reviewing that tonight. But it’s coming. It’s coming.

It’s like they’re not really shooting for the flavor of pumpkins and more going for the flavor of pumpkin pie. And then decided that would be too hard, so they just went with cinnamon instead.

Pumking does have a cinnamonny flavor to it, but it’s more of a flourish at the end. The dominant flavor here, is the rounded, orange and nutty flavor of pumpkin. Imagine that; pumpkin flavor in a pumpkin ale. It’s robust and strong, a bulldozer of fall flavors and it just makes me think of the whole damn season. And we’re still in summer!

To top it off, the label goes a long way to making it a strong Halloween beer. It claims it’s named after a creature of Celtic folklore and that it would waylay travelers. It has a scary story! On the bottle!

Two beers in and I’ve already found two beers I would make people drink on October 31st.

I give Pumking five Bluebeard’s wives and a Druidic blood sacrifice.

-D-

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Spoooky Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery “Hobgoblin”

Now, I know it’s too soon to celebrate Halloween, no matter what the candy section at your local grocery store is telling you. But I am, truly, unable to contain myself. I struggled with the best way to let off some of my Halloween steam early and then the thought struck me: While most people are probably not in the mood for horror movies and gruesome make-up tips, they’re always in the mood for my beer reviews.

And, luckily, those same grocery stores are also shoving every fall and Halloween based beer to the forefront. So I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Up first, we have Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin

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With a name like Wychwood Brewery, I’m going to assume that Halloween is a yearlong thing for these folks. Their two beers I picked up at the store had scary themes. I’ve already forgotten what the other was and I’m not getting up to check, seeing as how the kitchen is now more of a trek from my chair for me.

This is a dark English ale (think Newcastle) , though not as dark as I’ve seen, it has a beautiful deep red color, which the photograph does not do justice. It’s very smooth tasting, surprisingly so and a bit sweet, though only a little bit. In all honesty, the first thing I thought of was apples. It’s a round, full flavor that just goes down so smoothly and without any lingering bitterness.

I’m surprised. I’m generally wary of breweries that go to such lengths for what appears to be a gimmicky label (it has witches riding broomsticks on embossed on the bottle itself, for God’s sake), but this is a solid brew and at five dollars for a pint bottle it runs cheaper than some other specialty beers that go for 7, 8, 9 dollars for a pint.

If you want a beer that gets you in a spooky, autumn mood, I can definitely recommend Hobgoblin.

I give it fifteen severed heads. And a Jason Voorhees.

-D-

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It’s on the Air

You can’t sense it, but I can. I step outside and I can smell it, hovering on the fringes, hanging back from the senses; that lingering odor of decay in a basement that promises something hidden under the floor. You don’t notice it.

But it’s coming.

It’s in the way the shadows are cast now; Longer, darker, stretched thinner like tension in a darkened alley when you see a slow movement behind that dumpster. You don’t see it, not like I do.

But it’s coming.

In the back of your mind it tickles; a fingernail running down your spine, the breath of a whisper on your ear in the middle of the night. It’s the hum in the air around a downed power-line. You ignore the feeling.

But it’s still coming.

Be prepared….

It’s almost Halloween.

-D-

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My One Word About Chick-fil-A

I am not good at not being angry. I am not good at not letting my emotions run away with my words so by the end of an argument, I’m spewing inarticulate venom at the person I’m arguing.

And, at the end of things, I’m just tired and sadder and unable to understand and empathize.

Let’s start slow and let’s see if I can keep my temper.

Let’s say that you have misinterpreted this whole Chick-fil-A thing as a First Amendment issue, which it’s not. It’s about the restaurant donating money to anti-gay groups. Groups that are AGAINST human beings because they have a specific kind of CONSENSUAL sex.

Let’s say that you see how upset and sad and angry people are who are being singled out because of this one difference. Let’s say you notice that there are millions of people who are affected by this, who are hurt by this, who are feeling like they are treated like second class citizens.

If your response is to immediately go to that restaurant and buy Chick-fil-A’s food specifically to say, “Ha! Your problems and worries and fears are inconsequential! I’m going to turn this into a I’m right, and You’re Wrong argument that I clearly just won”, then you’re an asshole.

You’re not fighting for rights. You’re not championing free speech. You’re not sticking up for the little guy. You’re giving money to a fast food chain that donates to groups that hurt people.

There’s no way to dress that up. There’s no way to polish that turd.

You’re an asshole.

Let me repeat this: You gave money to a fast food company and you told yourself you were protecting free speech. You told yourself you were a hero.

Really what you did was contribute to the severe, nationwide problem of obesity and helped to contribute to a company that actively works to restrict freedom.

Good going.

You have our eternal thanks.

You asshole.

-D-

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