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Spoooky Beer Review: Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin

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Harpoon makes some of my favorite beers, from their UFO White to Leviathon, you’re generally going to get a solid, complex beer with a lot to offer. So I had high hopes when I picked up UFO Pumpkin.

And those hopes were resoundingly rewarded. This if the kind of pumpkin ale that I want to be drinking; when there’s more pumpkin than spices and I feel like I’m in the middle of Halloween instead of the middle of some over-saturated, over-spiced pumpkin pie being served up for someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s unfiltered, so it has a deep, cloudy orange, making it look heavier than it actually tastes. It’s a deep, rich orange. It’s a satisfying color, letting you know exactly what you’re in for.

There is cinnamon and spice up front, which gives way to a solid and hearty pumpkin flavor. Much like Pumpkinhead, it’s very crisp and ultimately very refreshing.

For day to day drinking, both Pumpkinhead and UFO Pumpkin are good beers. They both have a relatively low alcohol content and don’t overwhelm you with unnecessary flavor. It honestly depends on what you’re looking for in a pumpkin ale. If you’re looking for a more spice heavy beer, I’d go with Pumpkinhead. If you want something a little more pumpkiny (that’s a technical term), UFO Pumpkin should be your go-to this season.  The spices and the pumpkin flavoring go hand-in-hand.

For me, UFO Pumpkin is the way to go and I give it seven cheerful Jack O’ Lanterns and a scowling black cat.

-D-

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Spoooky Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead

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

In spite of the fact that I have now reviewed it twice on my blog, I am really not a huge fan of Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin. There is a LOT of flavor in there, but’s mostly spice, with the minute amounts of pumpkin being overwhelmed by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now, you may be asking, why am I talking about Smashed Pumpkin for the third time? Well, because I have, somehow, never tried Shipyard’s main Halloween offering: Pumpkinhead Ale.  Smashed Pumpkin is a fancy beer that you can only purchase in those oversized pint-and-a-half bottles with a gold foil cover; Pumpkinhead is more like Smashed Pumpkin‘s little brother. It has a lower alcohol content and is sold in six packs and even in…cans.

It is a big seller round these parts and a symbol that Halloween is barreling down the highway like some lunatic truck.

And I have never reviewed it.

So I’m going to rectify that…right now.

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As far as pumpkin ales go, Pumpkinhead is a nice golden color. Not really that deep, orange I expect form pumpkin ales, but it’s rich and reminds me of Fall. And really, that’s all you can ask for in a Fall themed beer.

The first thing I notice when I poke my nose in the glass is cinnamon. Lots and lots of cinnamon. And maybe nutmeg. And I know that I’m not going to be thrilled. It’s a sweet and heavily spiced aroma that promises little in the way of pumpkins and a lot in the way of spice.

And drinking confirms it.

It’s more spice than pumpkin, much like with Smashed Pumpkin. However, unlike Smashed Pumpkin, it’s much lighter: lighter flavor and lighter alcohol content. It’s more refreshing and less overwhelming. Smashed Pumpkin can put you on your ass and leave you there gagging on spices. Pumpkinhead is gentler and a better beer for it, though still not quite what I’m looking for in a pumpkin beer.

It’s the perfect middle-of-the-week beer. You need something to remind you that Halloween is coming and forget the eight hours of work you just endured. You grab a Pumpkinhead. You don’t swirl it in your pilsner glass and comment on the aromas, like some asshole with a blog. You sit on the couch, turn on a baseball game and wonder what in God’s name happened to the Red Sox this season and let Pumpkinhead take you away.

I give it a handful of cinnamon sticks. And a ginger root. Because I bought a ginger root a few weeks ago thinking that Emily and I were going to make dumplings, but that didn’t really happen and now it’s getting a little shriveled.

-D-

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Beer Review: Samuel Adams Third Voyage

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For a long time, I had a love/hate relationship with IPAs. They were too bitter, too strong tasting, too hoppy. Now I feel like I could go the rest of my life never drinking anything else. So when I saw a new Sam Adams Double IPA, (Third Voyage) I ran and grabbed my specially designed, high tech Sam Adams guzzlin’ glass and filled it to the brim with hoppy.

And I’m underwhelmed. I’m never happy with an ordinary IPA. I want to be sandblasted with flavor. I want to have trouble finishing the whole glass because the flavor is punching me in the uvula with a ferocity that could only be equaled by Jake LaMotta roid ragin’. I want my taste buds to be knocked out so hard that the only thing they’ll be able to handle is watered down PBR.

The problem with Third Voyage is that it’s too….nice. There’s no bold flavor at the front and there’s no bold flavor at the back. It’s smooth, almost downright mellow and it’s ticking me off. It hits all the right notes, but not with the right intensity. It has a sharp bark, but no bite. It has that bitter finisher, but not that throat puckering grab that some IPAs have.

It’s a perfectly good Double IPA, sweet and grapey and strong, but it’s just not the IPA for me. I recommend it if you’re not into ultra-hoppy IPAs like Harpoon’s Rye Ipa.

I give it half a hop and a skip.

-D-

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A Place of Our Own

Emily introduced me to sushi a few years ago and, since then, we’ve gone to about six or seven places in the Boston area and never more than once. None of the places we went to were necessarily bad (except for the one in Somerville where the waitress corrected Emily in the most condescending manner possible. Good fish though.), but there was just nothing there to make us come back.

But now I think we’ve finally found a place that’s worth revisiting a second time. We went to Cafe Sushi in Cambridge tonight and it was one of the better sushi places I’ve been to, either in Boston or anywhere else. It’s a middle-sized place, definitely larger than some of the hole-in-the-walls we’ve been to recently, but nowhere near as large as Fins. The waitstaff were friendly and helpful and it’s convenient to get to, especially for the car-less.

Now, the fish was good and I enjoyed the rolls, but that’s not what sold me. They have craft beers! From Japan. Of course, I managed to go through almost their entire selection of Japanese beers, but not all, so I still have a reason to go back again. They serve beer brewed by Hitachino Nest, which has the most adorable owl mascot. I tried the Sweet Stout, the White Ale and the Red Rice Ale, all of which were uniquely flavored and delicious in their own ways.

The White Ale is crisp, sweet and refreshing. The sweet stout, very smooth, mellow and also very refreshing. The Red Rice Ale was extremely fruity and sweet. Emily said it tasted like gummy bears and I think that’s the best possible description. It was a great trio of beers and if I can find them outside of Cafe Sushi, I’ll definitely pick them up.

If you want great sushi, great beer and without a hefty price tag, I recommend checking out Cafe Sushi.

I give it four owls. In their nests. Eek! They even have a little owl icon for the Chrome tab.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part IV)

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The only way to gain an education in anything food related is with a lot of practical experience. If you want to know how to make bouillabaisse, you need to make bouillabaisse. If you want to know how rabbits taste, you need to taste rabbits (poorly worded, will fix later).

Similarly, with beer, you need to get out and drink a lot of beer. You can’t just read in a book about the flavor of hops and the intensity of aromas. That only teaches you the vocabulary and the techniques. But, after that, you’re on your own.

So I’m drinking more beer is what I’m saying.

I’m trying another porter, this one Samuel Smith‘s Taddy Porter, an import from Yorkshire. Seeing as how both porters and stouts are a British invention, a lot of what you’re going to find in your local grocery or liquor store are going to be imported from across the way.

I’ve had a few porters and a few stouts since I’ve started this project and this porter is little less flavorful and a little complex than some of the other porters I’ve had. It had a fruity aroma, again bringing to mind cherries. The flavor is more chocolate than coffee, a little more hoppy than I’d expect.

It’s very crisp and smooth, with a small bitter flourish at the end. It’s refreshing, a good beer for summer and spring.

All in all, I can see myself ducking in a bar on a the tail end of a summer day and ordering this to cool down, but it’s far from the complex intensity of Zwiec’s offering.

A handful of cherries and a glass of lemonade for this porter.

-D-

 

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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part III)

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Continuing on along our education of stouts and porters, we have come across our first porter. Now, from everything I have read, porters are a bit of a mystery. Once, a long time ago, porters were an extremely popular form of beer of which stouts a type. But, along the way, porters fell by the wayside and, eventually, people stopped making them entirely. The last porter brewed was by Guinness and they stopped in the mid-seventies. Then, after a good twenty years, people decided to bring back porters based on half-forgotten recipes and old myths of what porters were supposed to be.

As a result, there’s not a lot of consensus of what a porter should taste like, because, in truth, no one knows what one should taste like. Different breweries try their hand at porters and they all come up with different answers to the question: what is a porter?

Today, I tried Zywiec‘s Porter and if all porter’s taste like this, I would drink them more often. It has a very hearty, fruity aroma out of the bottle and the taste followed suit. It tasted like dark cherries, sweet and heady and full of flavor. It had a very smooth and full mouthfeel without being thick and syrupy.

For a type of beer with close ties to stouts, I was surprised to find how refreshing it was. It was clear and strong and wasn’t overwhelming in either texture or taste.

It was very decadent, sweet without a lot of bitterness. I would serve it with a dessert, but a less rich dessert like a white cake or  some vanilla ice cream  It was a great beer, maybe not one that you would all the time or one after the other, but definitely a beer that you would have every once in a while as a way to remind yourself of how different beers can be from one another and how good those differences can be.

I would give this one three chocolate covered cherries and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

This rating system might prove to be prophetic considering an entry I have planned down the line.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Part 2)

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I’ve been reading a book called Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and I’ve been using it as a guide to beer tasting (obviously). While I already knew some of the basics (checking the clarity, the color, the aroma) I was/am still very much a novice. The best part about this particular book is that it goes into great detail about absolutely everything to do with beer; from how taste buds work to the history of particular brewing styles to the chemical compounds that produce the specific flavors. You get what you want from the book. If you’re not interested in a chemical breakdown of the smell of beer, you can always move ahead to the history of the stout, instead.

Speaking of stouts (and leaving this very forced segue behind), the Founders “Breakfast Stout” is next up.  After the last two, fairly disappointing stouts, the “Breakfast Stout” is pretty amazing. It has a well rounded and smooth mouthfeel, which is, apparently, common of oatmeal stouts. It’s a hearty beer and one that’s best suited for cold winter nights when the snow is falling and you’re warm and snug inside and full on heavy beer.

There is a strong coffee flavor, especially at the start, strong, black coffee. If diners served beer, this would be on the menu.

It’s a little sweet, but ends with a bitter flourish that’s very reminiscent of an IPA. All-in-all, it’s a very satisfying experience. I can see this being paired well with roasts and potatoes and steamy rolls with melted butter.

I give this one two baked hams and a crackling fire.

God, I’m hungry.

-D-

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