An annual tradition at Piehole & Co! Now that Great Lakes has ramped up production of Christmas Ale, they release bottles into the wild on Halloween. I was fortunate enough to find this display on All Saints’ Day – this batch is best by January 7, 2017. The beer might be a bit more honied this year, with fewer spice notes, but that variance from year to year is part of the appeal. It’s still my favorite beer and still a wonderful winter warmer.
I’m always a fan of single-hopped beer, as it’s a great way to profile that hop variety. This beer is no exception – the only hops used are Simcoe, a west coast hop variety. This particular beer is retired (but the normal version, the filtered type continues to be available year-round). Double Simcoe IPA from Weyerbacher weighs in at 9.0% ABV, squarely into Double IPA land and nearing Triple IPA land.
I picked this up on a whim, as I enjoy Simcoe hops and thought that this would be a good way to explore the nuances of that hop. There was a lot of sediment (yeast) in the bottle due to it being an unfiltered beer, but that adds to the creaminess and head retention of the beer itself (and the head on this beer is truly massive). It produces a hazy look to the beer, and of course there are some “floaties”, but none of that is an actual detriment to the beer itself.
Poured as a very dark amber (rich mahogany) with massive white head every time. Wonderfully grassy and prickly pine Simcoe flavor that transforms into a citrus cacophony while finishing creamy. Wonderful DIPA that doesn’t overwhelm you with a barrage of hops, and allows its Simcoe flavor to truly shine. The unfiltered version adds creaminess to the mix. Isn’t a hop explosion as most DIPAs are – but actually is a quite nicely balanced DIPA, although it would disappoint the hop-heads. Demands to be a beer to be savored, to ponder on the variety of flavors that comes from a single type of hop.
Hopside Down is an interesting India Pale Lager (really an American Pale Lager) that also doubles as a spring seasonal for Widmer Brothers. This was sampled in 2013, and was released as part of their Rotator IPA Series (or at least “IPA” inspired, like this one is). Weighing in at a healthy 6.7% ABV, this is definitely one of the hoppier and stronger lagers that you’ll ever find.
Crisp and refreshing, lacking the malty beefy body that you would expect from a traditional IPA. Nice peppery hoppiness makes this a superb lager that I would be happy to drink throughout the summer, especially as it has plenty of drinkability and the hoppiness & bitterness are just as strong as a traditional IPA’s. The flavor is mellower and somewhat muted. That’s a tradeoff, but in the hot sun, it’s the better end of the bargain.
Nice grapefruity/citrus flavor profile, even if it’s a bit ethereal at times. Solid beer, but nothing exceptional.
Behold, the first ever beer I’ve found with this blog’s namesake as part of its label. It’s made expressly for pouring into your pie hole! Now, that alone would probably guarantee that this beer gets a fantastic review. But as always, I remain impartial.
The Great Pumpcan from MadTree Brewing Company based in Cincinnati, Ohio is a 7.9% ABV Pumpkin Ale. I didn’t notice this release last year (2014), but picked it up in 2015 when the cans reached the Columbus market.
Being hopped with Fuggles hops means that Pumpcan will have a mild and pleasant bittering flavor from the hops. The hard part is that it’s a pumpkin ale. There are basically three styles of pumpkin ales – you have the “gourd types”, the “pumpkin pie types”, and the hybrid styles that mix the two. I haven’t really enjoyed anything that land on the extreme end of this scale (Pumking from Southern Tier falls under the “pumpkin pie” to the extreme). I’m hit by a pleasant earthy pumpkin (gourd-type) flavor at the outset of every sip. However, the adjuncts used in this brew: molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice don’t mix very well for me. It ends up being a toasty malty, medium-bodied and dark flavored ale. A balanced entry (you get the gourd at the start and the pie flavors at the finish), but not one of the better ones I’ve had. In general, I just don’t quite enjoy pumpkin ales, but would be able to polish one of these off.
Overall Rating: 75
The very first release of Samuel Adams’ Oktoberfest in cans came in August of 2013. That’s probably the best shelf spotting I’ve ever made for my particular interests. I love Samuel Adams’ Oktoberfest and love cans. It’s about time that Sam Adams finally transitioned to canning some of their beers, especially after having some issues with their glass bottles in 2008 that forced a recall and issuing of rebates.
Spotted in August 2013 – the Samuel Adams “Small Batch Collection”. Four bombers in a cardboard box – suggested retail was about $19.99. At $5 a bomber – that’s an economical way to sample some of their special batches. The four beers included are:
- Merry Mischief – Gingerbread Stout
- The Vixen – Chocolate Chili Bock
- Norse Legend – Sahti
- Griffin’s Bow – Oaked Blonde Barleywine
All are intended for immediate consumption or to be aged. I didn’t pick up the set, as none of those styles typically interest me, but if I was offered any of those beers to sample first, I’d go with The Vixen.
A double IPA in a can, brewed during the hops shortage a few years back. Aged on oak spirals, it lends a woodsy and smoky character to the beer. Blend of Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade hops – nothing special, just a typical pine-citrus flavor blend. Medium bodied, but drinks rich. Head is excellent but doesn’t lace well. Mainly malt-forward. Good attempt at a DIPA, even better when you consider you can get it in a can.
In Columbus, we’ve got a soccer supporters club on Hudson Street (with its own private establishment as well) that supports the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. Elevator Brewery has a long list of brews, but they renamed their Xtra Lager to Hudson Street Hooligans Lager and began serving it exclusively as a contract-brewed beer for Hooligans and at Crew Stadium. This beer has since been retired, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wax somewhat poetic about it. It was an easy drinking Helles Lager with more flavor than your standard macro lagers. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was much else to recommend besides it being a superior option to macros.
Great Lakes Brewing Co introduced Rye of the Tiger as a pub exclusive beer quite a few years ago, but only began bottling it recently. A Rye IPA is rare enough, much less a world-class one. Rye of the Tiger combines the spicy bite of the rye with the citrusy bouquet of the hops. Finishes dry with a nice bittering kick. Has a mainly grapefruit flavor and is highly drinkable despite its 7.5% ABV. Moderately carbonated and has a nice light to medium body. Definitely one of my favorite spring beers by far (it’s been released in the spring in both 2014 and 2015).
This is a review of the original Hop Head by Green Flash (2009 version). This version was 55 IBU and only 6.4% ABV (it’s currently 70 IBU and 8.1% ABV). When it was at the original version, it was a nice hoppy American Amber that showcased how Green Flash could hold off on all the hops for once. The new version is more of a Red IPA, whereas the original was teetering on the brink of being one. The hops mixed with the deep roasted malt led to a surprisingly long finish for a nice bodied ale.