March 14, 2012


I know it's not the season for pumpkin beers, but I've had a bottle of Southern Tier Pumking sitting in my fridge behind a wall of other beers for the past few months and I finally got around to cracking it open. Think of this as an advisory post, an advance notice for the beer you must try next fall (and each one subsequent) if you haven't tried it already. Over the years I've tried a handful of pumpkin beers including Dogfish Head's Punkin, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, Harpoon UFO Pumpkin, Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin, Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin, and a few others I can't recall... but in the end Pumking is, well, the king!

Pumking is what you would get if you took the freshest pumpkin and made it into a pie with a homemade graham cracker crust, sprinkled some crushed pecans on top, covered it with fresh whipped cream, grated a little cinnamon or nutmeg on it... then made it into a liquid... with alcohol in it. Yeah - it's that good.

Southern Tier Pumking

The only other pumpkin beer that equals Pumking is The Great'er Pumpkin from Heavy Seas. It's oak-aged, and I had it on cask once, right along side Pumking, and I couldn't decide which I liked better. An oak-aged version of Pumking was released in December 2011 in very small quantities, draft only, and hopefully it will be available in bottles later this year.

March 9, 2012


A lot of breweries are staying local these days, turning to farmers and artisans for grains, hops, coffee, honey, chocolate, or whatever. Hopivore from New Holland features Cascade and Brewer's Gold hops sourced through the Michigan Hop Alliance. I bought a bottle because I like the name, the artwork and the fact that local ingredients are being used.

Keeping in mind that this is a "harvest" ale and not a pale ale or IPA, I was still disappointed by this beer. Pouring it didn't give off any citrus, pine, or floral notes, which I expected at least a little bit of considering the fresh hops used. Instead it smelled of dried grass and muted herbs and grain. Flavor was a combination of toffee and nuts and dried grass again. Mouthfeel and finish were also pretty dry. This beer just didn't have much going on.

I'm not a brewer, but I'm guessing that the hops being used wet and so soon after harvest is part of the reason why the typical hop flavors aren't present. I love dry-hopped beers, but in most of those cases I think brewers start with a base beer that can stand on its own without being dry-hopped. I think Hopivore could benefit from an improved recipe that is more flavorful by itself before wet hops are added.


March 6, 2012

All Day IPA

Founders Brewing Company says this is the beer I've been waiting for. They say it will keep my taste satisfied but my senses sharp. And they also say it's the perfect reward for an honest day's work. Well, they're right.

All Day IPA serves up a nice range of flavors, with orange up front and grapefruit towards the end, with a bit of lemon and pine mixed in. It's very refreshing, with a light but crisp carbonation and a clean finish. That's all balanced out with a biscuity, toasty malt backbone. The best part is (and I think this is the part we've really been waiting for), it's only 4.7% ABV. Now you see inspiration behind the name.

In no way have the folks at Founders sacrificed anything in creating this lower alcohol IPA. This is a welcome change to a style that can typically be well over 6% ABV. Not to mention, with just 42 IBU's, it won't pummel your palate. I was really excited that I was able to get a six pack of this while in Asheville, NC a couple weeks ago (thanks Bruisin' Ales). When Founders comes to Maryland*, All Day IPA is going to be a regular in my refrigerator.

Founders All Day IPA

Trivia: Founders won a silver medal in the session beer category at GABF 2010 for the All Day IPA recipe, but at the time it was called Endurance IPA Jr.

*Founders plans to begin distributing in Maryland sometime in 2012. A little more info here.

March 4, 2012

Bitch Creek

Grand Teton is one of those breweries that, for me, just seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Makes sense though. Except for Massachusetts and South Carolina, they don't distribute any farther east than Illinois. But as you know, I'm in South Carolina quite a bit. So, on my most recent trip I picked up a six pack of Bitch Creek ESB. Grand Teton is another brewery that's put a spin on ESB. In this case it's an Extra Special Brown, sort of a beefed up 'double ESB', same idea as a double IPA I suppose. Anyway, forget the analysis of the name - this is a tasty beer. Bitch Creek is bottle conditioned and 6% ABV. It's earthy, malty, nutty, toasty, everything a good brown ale should be. There's a touch of coffee and a little caramel sweetness to balance things out.

Grand Teton Bitch Creek

If you happen by any place pouring or selling anything from Grand Teton, I highly recommend giving them a try. A couple of my other favorites are Persephone and Wake Up Call. Cheers!