RE-POST: Pumpkin Ale in Cinnamon Sugar Rimmed Glass

It’s always interesting to watch your blog stats and see what people reading. What’s even more interesting is when a three year old post keeps getting lots of hits. Since the 2013 pumpkin beers started coming out, this post on “Pumpkin Ale in Cinnamon Sugar Rimmed Glass” has been in our top ten most popular posts day after day. For us, that means it’s time to re-post it for those of you who haven’t seen it yet. Enjoy!

We heard about a bar that is serving seasonal pumpkin ales in glasses rimmed with cinnamon and sugar…a la salt on a margarita glass. Not ones to shy away from playing with our beer, we decided to try it out for ourselves in the safety of our own home.

For the beer, we chose the RiverTown Pumpkin Ale – not only because it is fantastic, but also because it is not too heavily spiced. For the glass, we chose fluted tulips because we thought it would make the application of the cinnamon/sugar easier. And because drinking out of them makes us feel fancy.

The application of the cinnamon/sugar is just how you would do it for a margarita glass. We wet the top edge and side with some water using a finger and water, poured out some cinnamon/sugar on to a plate, then rolled it around. Then just add beer.


The verdict? Pretty darn tasty! It compliments the beer very well, adding a shade of sweetness and spice that is almost impossible to achieve in a finished beer product. It hits the front of the tongue and the beer washes over the back of the palate, making for a nice layering of flavor. The only downside is that it hardened after a while, but it would dissolve away as we sipped. We wouldn’t want to drink a pumpkin ale like this every time, but it was an enjoyable embellishment we would certainly try again.

Next time, we might try adding or replacing with some other spices. And we didn’t use fresh ground cinnamon, something that could take this up another notch. We’re already getting ideas for other experiments. Perhaps cayenne or a chili powder with an IPA?

Has anyone else tried anything like this before? Do you think this is complete beer blasphemy?

-John (#13) and Erin (#102)
Special thanks to Erin’s sister, Megan, for tipping us off to a Boston bar that was serving pumpkin ale this way!

Yeah, We Tried It! : Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat

So what is a “Yeah, We Tried It!” post? In general it has come to be something of a running joke where we sample a beer from one of the larger brewing companies whose names shall most times not be mentioned unless I want to hotlink or tag their name in a shameless attempt to garner more hits. It oft times results in nothing more than a slam fest where I bash the beer, the company, curse fizzy yellow American lager, and invoke brand names that attempt to crush the heart of all things that are “Better Beer”.

This one is a little different, maybe not so much in conception, as it was based on a bit of Twitter goading from fellow Hoperative John Lavelle, but perhaps in outcome. It would seem that I have become the guy who will try any beer and that’s not far from the truth as it’s not hard to twist my arm into drinking a beer. In fact out of the thousand beers I have tried I would say that there is probably only one where I couldn’t finish a glass, but that’s a story or post for a different day.

Now that I’ve stated my intentions and preconceptions, let’s move on to the beer.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat

Belgian-Style Wheat Ale Brewed with Pumpkin and Spices

Appearance: 2/3

It’s slightly hazy with a light orangish color. The head retention was poor despite my best efforts to froth it up.

Aroma: 3/3

The main aromas are sweet caramel malt, pumpkin, and nutmeg. It’s nice a festive but not overpowering.

Hop Malt Balance:3 /4

It’s very sweet but I guess that’s what you are aiming for when you are looking to mimic pumpkin pie in light form. The main detractor is that it’s called a Belgian style wheat but it doesn’t really hit that mark for me with any yeast and refreshing citrus tones covered up by the pie components.

Aftertaste: 3/3

The aftertaste is reminiscent of pumpkin pie with a nice faint pumpkin flavor and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mouthfeel: 2/3

Medium bodied and easy to drink but seems slick. Perhaps that’s the creaminess that my wife perceived when she said “It’s like they added the whipped cream too”.

Overall Impression: 3/4

It’s a decent pumpkin beer and my wife liked it, which is saying a lot considering I’ve never seen her take more than two sips of most beers and she drank almost half of one of these. It plays to the light American beer palate as you might expect but it is better than most of the big brand forays into different. If my wife will drink it and I’m willing to drink a 6 pack then “Yeah We Tried It!”, but we kind of liked it. . . this time.

16/20

B

Cheers!

-Jared

@jrodwhalen

 

Better Bitter Beer Bread Recipe

This beer bread recipe is super easy to make and turns out amazing every time.

Just make sure you tell everyone it’s a Hoperatives Recipe!

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 Bottle Beer (Imperial IPA such as Bell’s Two Hearted)

2 Cups Flour Sifted (Yes, sifting makes a difference)

3 Teaspoons Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Salt (I use Kosher. Hat Tip to Alton Brown)

1/4 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Butter Melted

1 Tablespoon Honey

 

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Fahrenheit (Not Kelvin, It’s good for thermodynamics but not baking apparently)

Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk.

Mix in the beer to bring it together. Stir as little as possible to combine all of the dry and wet. Over mixing creates gluten and makes the bread tough.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan.

Melt the butter and mix the honey into the butter until completely dissolved.

Pour the honey butter mixture over the top of the batter DON’T mix it in.

Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Allow to cool a little and remove pan.

Enjoy!

– Jared Whalen

@jrodwhalen

Yeah, We Tried It: Pumpkin Ale in Cinnamon/Sugar Rimmed Glass

We heard about a bar that is serving seasonal pumpkin ales in glasses rimmed with cinnamon and sugar…a la salt on a margarita glass.  Not ones to shy away from playing with our beer, we decided to try it out for ourselves in the safety of our own home.

For the beer, we chose the RiverTown Pumpkin Ale – not only because it is fantastic, but also because it is not too heavily spiced.  For the glass, we chose fluted tulips because we thought it would make the application of the cinnamon/sugar easier.  And because drinking out of them makes us feel fancy.

The application of the cinnamon/sugar is just how you would do it for a margarita glass.  We wet the top edge and side with some water using a finger and water, poured out some cinnamon/sugar on to a plate, then rolled it around.  Then just add beer.


The verdict?  Pretty darn tasty!  It compliments the beer very well, adding a shade of sweetness and spice that is almost impossible to achieve in a finished beer product.  It hits the front of the tongue and the beer washes over the back of the palate, making for a nice layering of flavor. The only downside is that it hardened after a while, but it would dissolve away as we sipped.  We wouldn’t want to drink a pumpkin ale like this every time, but it was an enjoyable embellishment we would certainly try again.

Next time, we might try adding or replacing with some other spices.  And we didn’t use fresh ground cinnamon, something that could take this up another notch.  We’re already getting ideas for other experiments.  Perhaps cayenne or a chili powder with an IPA?

Has anyone else tried anything like this before?  Do you think this is complete beer blasphemy?

-John (#13) and Erin (#102)
Special thanks to Erin’s sister, Megan, for tipping us off to a Boston bar that was serving pumpkin ale this way!

Yeah We Tried It: Michelob Hop Hound Amber Wheat

Not the worst thing out of Michelob but it seems they left the hop out of the hound.

Appearance 2/3

This beer is a clear golden orange color. It has a thin light head that hangs around pretty well.  Despite its name, it is not very amber. It seems to fall more in the pale ale color range.

Aroma 3/3

Sweet fruit and hop aromas with a bit of grass and citrus. It’s very easy on the nose.

Hop Malt Balance 2/4

For something called Hop Hound, the malt is sweet and up front in this beer.  The aroma is deceiving because the hoppy citrus notes do not come through in the taste. The hops taste much more earthy most likely because of the use of Hallertau as the main bittering hop with only late additions of Pacific Northwest style hops to add to the aroma.

Aftertaste 2/3

The aftertaste is slightly sweet with a bit of caramel and a faint grassiness (which is a word for the sake of this article despite the continued nagging of spell check to change it to glassiness which would change the entire tone of the review).

Mouthfeel 3/3

It’s a medium bodied beer but it is still quite drinkable. The wheat and carapils do a good job of adding body to a brand that is often lacking in substance.

Overall Impression 3/4

It makes good use of hops but not enough for it to be the namesake of the beer. It is not amber and the clean yeast used doesn’t really do justice to the wheat malt that was used. Had this beer been named Hop Pup Pale Ale my continued assault on the semantics of beer naming would have been rendered useless.

This is not a bad beer. In fact I enjoyed drinking the 6-pack. Michelob is attempting to lure some of the craft brew drinkers to try their wares and perhaps steal away a small chunk of the fringe market but I think this is much more successful as a gateway beer. A beer that may lead Michelob fans down the dark and twisted road to craft brew land.

Overall Score 15/20

B-

Yeah, We Tried It: Blue Moon Grand Cru

Blue Moon has an identity problem. It’s part of the MillerCoors conglomerate but it’s the beer they push as their “craft” offering. Their basic white is decidedly not the normal bland fizzy yellow brew churned out by the other divisions, but it’s “weird” to the typical mega-brew customer. It’s not, however, a craft beer in the artisanal sense1, and that makes a difference for the enthusiast.

To hear MillerCoors tell it they produced the Grand Cru version of the brand because a “blue moon” occurred New Year’s Eve2. I’m sure the marketing department was thrilled to notice that fact, but I suspect its appearance had more to do with the fact that Bud Light Golden Wheat appeared on the scene and has almost immediately matched Blue Moon’s sales. Releasing a special edition is one way to demonstrate a commitment to the style rather than treating it like another beer flavor-of-the-month (“We do lime, we do wheat, what do you want next?).

So how’d they do? Not bad, really. Let’s go to the specifics:

Appearance (0-2 points)
A dirty golden straw and cloudy with a frothy head that dissipated in a few minutes. Lots of yeast in suspension, which is where the “dirty” in the golden straw comes from (not a bad thing). Good lacing. Score: 2
Aroma (0-2 points)
Orange and spice. Not as pronounced as the color suggested it might be. Certainly pleasant: Score: 2
Taste (0-4 points)
Grows on you. My first impression was that it wasn’t as assertive as I would have liked, but as I let it warm the orange and spice popped a little. The spice digs in a little at the end (along with the alcohol), which is nice, but the overwhelming flavor is a ever-so-slightly sour orange. Not really sour, mind you, just a hint. The problem is that the whole seems less than the sum of its parts. Score: 2
Aftertaste (0-3 points)
The spice and orange really hangs on, and it’s really nice. Score: 3
Mouthfeel (0 – 3 points)
Not thin, but thinner than I was expecting given the cloudiness and the suspension Score: 2
Overall Impression (0-4 points)
I look at this score as being reflective of how well each of the individual components hang together. While there wasn’t anything especially notable about this beer, there was absolutely nothing that I can point at and say “wow, this is really bad.” Indeed, once I let the my glass warm just a little, I rather enjoyed it. It’s credible, and as much as that may sound like damning with faint praise, it’s not my intent. Score: 3

If this beer were just another consumer product, it might have been named “Blue Moon Plus.” If you like Blue Moon, you’ll likely like this. I’d not be likely to choose this if there were an true Belgian or American craft brewer alternative available, but if there weren’t, I’d feel fortunate that this was available. I’ve used the standard Blue Moon White as a refuge from bland beers in the past, and this is a cut above that.

Blue Moon Grand Cru: 14 (of a possible 20) points. B-


1 This isn’t the place for a long discussion of this issue, but the term “craft” has many meanings and I’m loath to say that the people actually responsible for brewing mind-boggingly large amounts of beer in an amazingly consistent manner aren’t practicing a craft. I may not be a fan of what they produce, but it’s not like what they’re doing isn’t difficult. I may not like the product, but I respect the people who produce it. Not the “suits,” necessarily, but the guys sanitizing the tanks and all the other tasks that have to be done right. Corporations are only faceless if we think of them that way. I think we lose sight of that sometimes. So much for not having a long discussion…
2 In case you were sleeping the day they read the Farmer’s Almanac aloud in class, a blue moon is the second full moon that falls in a month.

Yeah, We Tried It: Bud Light Golden Wheat (with Bonus Editorial!)

I’ve often said that my main qualm with the macro brewers (Bud, Miller, Coors) is not that they make bad beer.  In fact, they make a very consistent, high-quality product on a gigantic scale.  That’s really hard to do with a product like beer.

No, my issue is two-fold: 1) They’ve defined beer as one singular style, and 2) Their interpretation of that style – while extremely clean and refreshing – is not very interesting.  So then Budweiser comes out with a new Bud Light…and it’s a wheat beer.  That’s a step at remedying my first issue with them.  Let’s see how it does on the second one.

First, the formal review.  I’ll keep it short and sweet.  I’ve done my best to try to judge it by its style…Light Wheat Beer?…like I said, I’ve done my best.  Down the hatch!

Appearance: 2/3
It has a nice light amber color, darker than I would have expected from a beer with the words “Bud” and “Light” in the name.  Pours very effervescent, but retains a surprisingly decent head.

Aroma: 1.5/3
Definite orange on the nose.  The aroma is weak, but there.  It’s actually quite pleasing.

Taste: 2/4
There is still orange there, but it is not very prominent – it’s definitely a light beer.  The profile screams of Blue Moon, no doubt who Bud is targeting with this.  The wheat and orange is so slight, though, that it feels like more of an “apology” than an actual flavor note.  It ends up coming off flat and a bit acrid because it doesn’t really commit to the orange and follow through.

Aftertaste:
1.5/3
Very clean, very refreshing.  But not terribly interesting.

Mouthfeel:
3/3
Surprisingly full for the style and appropriately carbonated.

Overall Impression: 3/4
I was pleasantly surprised, but I can’t say that my expectations were very high going in.  One sip, and it is obvious that this beer is engineered to capitalize on Blue Moon’s success, at least from the standpoint of the flavor profile.  But it also dances between that and the Bud Light parent brand.  And in the end, it underdelivers on the promised flavor of orange peel and coriander.

Final Grade: C (13/20)  It’s a Light Wheat Beer…if that’s not a style you’re looking for, then this is not the beer for you.  As a footnote, bear in the mind that this beer will more often than not probably be consumed directly from a bottle, so a lot of the tasting notes above kind of go out the window at that point.

So why review Bud Light Wheat, other than for the sheer entertainment?  Love or hate the macro brewers, they own the market and therefore shape it.  For decades they have stuck to American Light Lager as the singular style for their mainstream brands.  But craft brewing continues to grow, and even the macro brewers have tried to get in on the game with their more premium brands (Blue Moon, Michelob).

But Bud is taking their most mainstream brand and adding to its lineup a new style of beer?  That strikes me as huge.  And as much I and other beer lovers/connoisseurs/snobs might roll our eyes, I propose that this is a good thing.  That’s right, I said it.  This is great.

Why?  Because maybe this will be one more thing that helps get more folks interested in better beer, even if it’s only slightly better than what they are drinking now.  The truth is, most Americans only drink American Light Lager because that’s the only option that they’ve been given in the mass market.  Once their options are opened – perhaps by a mainstream, trusted product like Bud Light – they might be more likely venture out and try new things like…wait for it…ALES.

It’s the Starbucks effect.  Studies have been done that show that when a Starbucks moves in across the street from an independently owned coffee shop, that shop almost always sees their business go UP.  Why?  Because overall awareness of coffee in that area has been elevated by a known, trusted brand.  I have no love for these types of techniques employed by Starbucks (or the macro brewers and their distribution practices), but the data supports this effect indisputably.

Do I think that Bud Light Wheat will change the beer world?  No, but I think it’s a recognition of the success of the craft brewing movement and a sign that it isn’t going away.  And maybe it will help turn a few more folks on to a world of better beer.

A few months ago, I was at the Dilly Cafe with some friends of my fiancee.  I was raving about their beer selection, but it was clear that none of them were big beer drinkers, let alone knowledgeable of things like Belgian sour ales.  “Well, what are some beers that you like?  Do you like Blue Moon?” I asked.  Oh, yeah, they liked Blue Moon a lot when they’ve had it.  Before long, they were nose deep in a strange goblet of the challenging, yet very accessible, Tripel Karmeliet.  And dammit, they liked it.  I’ll have ’em drinking Dogfishhead 120 Minute in no time.

Am I completely off-base?  What do you think?

Budweiser’s Select 55: Kinda sorta almost like beer.

I will let it be known at the outset of this review that I am not a fan of low calorie beer and never have been. In fact, had certain events not unfolded this past Sunday, I would have continued to happily skip along through life and perhaps never have even tried Select 55.

I attended the Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay, Indiana and was pleasantly surprised to find a “Beer Garden” on the map of the festival. My mind wandered and I was soon craving some sort of new beer that perhaps was only brewed in this small river area of Indiana. It was not to be. I was disappointed to find myself staring down a small collection of mega brewed fizzy yellow beer. Still craving a beer and undeterred I decided to try the only new thing I saw: SELECT 55

If Perrier and Bud Light had a baby, you would have SELECT 55. This new Super Ultra Light American Style Lager has not only taken calories to a new low aroma, appearance, and taste have also suffered the same fate.  What you end up with is barely yellow, highly carbonated, lightly malty, white bread scented beer with a finish that elicits memories of those times when the soda fountain runs out of syrup.  “Excuse me, sir. . . I think your beer tap is out of syrup. All I’m getting is carbonated beer flavored water”.

It was unremarkable in a very well rounded kind of way. The normal rating system I use to review beer would fail this beer before I even made it to the overall impression category, however I’m not going to fail it.  I’m going to give it a D- and recognize that there is a niche of people who want a beer but don’t want calories, taste, or perhaps just want to drink a nice ultra light fizzy beer after they finish a 5K.

Overall: D-

-Jared Whalen

Yeah, we tried it: Budweiser American Ale

So this is the third review I’ve written for the site.  Both of the previous beers have gotten “A” grades from me, and I stand by them.  I do worry, though, that new readers (hey, it’s not like we have any longtime readers) might take me for a pushover. Besides, if you think I got it wrong, that’s what the comment section is for.  Plus, if you’re an official Hoperative (which means you’ve sent us an e-mail asking us to be one), you can write your own review and send it to us.  We’ll put it up.  You didn’t know that because I just made it up, but Carla agrees so we’re good.

Today I’m reviewing Budweiser American Ale in a review category we’re calling “Yeah, We Tried It.”  That should be a tip-off that the fine folks (and I mean that sincerely) in St. Louis (or Leuven, Belgium, for that matter) probably shouldn’t be expecting an ‘A.’  And I’m sure they’re in the process of alerting the media right now as a result.

It’s obvious to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together that this was Anheuser-Busch’s (now A-B InBev) attempt to blunt the craft beer movement.  Logically this has a couple of problems.  First, I don’t think anyone who’s really into craft beer has been waiting around hoping against hope that they could buy once again buy something with Budweiser on the label.  Secondly, while it may not be to my personal preference, a lot of people really seem to like plain old Budweiser.  They sell enough of it, after all, and have for a very long time. That counts for something.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

What I really don’t get, though, is why they went with an ale instead of a lager.  Lagers are their heritage.  It’s in their DNA, for crying out loud.  I know the motto of the flagship brand is “America’s Great Lager” which doesn’t leave a lot of room for another one (“America’s Other Great Lager” probably wouldn’t cut it), but c’mon, just do an Amber Lager and call it ‘Budweiser Amber’ and stick it in the fancy bottle.  Better yet,  do a Pilsner and be done with it. Heck, as light and carbonated as regular Budweiser is, I’d really be kind of jazzed to see how they’d do a Pilsner.  A Budweiser beer using their traditional brewing style with an actual malt and hops flavor, that’s something I could get behind.

Alas, they decided to do an ale instead.  So with no further ado, I’ll talk about the beer they did make instead of the one they should have made:

It’s a gorgeous amber color with a lot of carbonation.  The head doesn’t hang around.  It smells like caramel malt.  It tastes like caramel malt.  There are no other discernible flavors.  Apparently no hops were harmed in the making of this beer.  OK, intellectually I know the hops have to be there, but to me the malt overwhelms them.  The malt flavor dissipates quickly at the end, and I’m assuming that’s the effect of the hops.  It’s a one-note beer.  It’s certainly not unpleasant.  If you like really malty beers, you might like this more than I do.

If offered this beer and a regular Bud, I’d check to see if they had caffeine-free diet Coke before making up my mind.  If the Coke wasn’t an option, I’d might pick the regular Bud. It knows what it’s trying to be.

Snarkiness aside, I really was hoping for better.

Budweiser American Ale:  C+