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.
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
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).
Lake Erie Monster is Great Lakes Brewing Co (GLBC)’s rotating Double IPA. Weighing in at a whopping 9.10% ABV and 80 IBU, this beer packs plenty of punch. Brewed with Simcoe and Williamette hops, they provide a muted presence for a DIPA. You’ll find that this is more of a caramel-malt forward balanced DIPA that happens to be highly drinkable as well. Usually released in the summer only – and not even every year, it’s always an event when this beer hits the market. Has a sweet flavor which is a bit surprising, especially as you’ll expect some sort of hop assault that never comes. Bitterness from the hops nicely counterbalances the sweet notes, creating a smooth mouthfeel that ends up being a bit sticky. Appearance is lovely as can be seen from the photograph. Head is excellent, long-lasting, and laces beautifully Recommended, but if you’re a hop-head, give this one a pass.
Archived review (Dec 27, 2008): Poured as an amber-mahogany color with a nice tan head that dissipates far too quickly for my taste. But it’s very nice looking.
Smell was rather average – smelled like “beer” with a touch of orange… rather faint overtones of honey and ginger. But you have to struggle to discern them.
Taste was of ginger, honey, and orange. But again, have to struggle to discern them. Nice combo of flavors that were harmonious together though.
Mouthfeel was rather thin and the head didn’t help very much. Carbonation didn’t add pop either. Rather flat at times, but was quite smooth.
Drinkability is very high. Was able to polish off the growler within a couple of hours. Would definitely buy this again and polish another growler off again. Very easy to drink – I think the ABV is actually in the 5-6% range. Reasonably priced as well, definitely a must-drink if you have access to it.
*From the Archives – 29 Dec 2008*
Poured as a brown clear liquid with a small amount of white head that disappeared after about a minute. Doesn’t lace. At the edges of the glass, the color lightens up and becomes honey-colored.
Smell is of nutmeg and some alcohol. It’s better than most winter warmers I’ve had in the past, but nutmeg isn’t my favorite of the spices used in this brew. If you like nutmeg though, you’d bump this up a notch.
Taste is of nutmeg with a touch of cinnamon and a hint of ginger. Certainly couldn’t detect the honey that they used. The taste is somewhat boozy as well, but if you’re into that, bump this up a notch. It was almost like a nutmeg-rum-soaked cookie ball flavor, minus the cookie. And minus the rum flavors.
Mouthfeel was average. No creaminess after the head went away. It was crisp and clean though and not cloying or suffocating with spices. Solid 3.
Drinkability suffered a bit as you can taste the alcohol and it shows. I like the alcohol to be well-hidden or for the beer to be easily drunk without worrying about the heat coming from it. Maybe if the booziness goes away with age, then this would be a prime candidate for aging.
Overall, it’s a decent beer but certainly not a replacement for either Great Lakes or Barley’s Christmas Ales. The three are similiar – the thing that makes this one different is the nutmeg and the booziness of the brew. If you’re into either one of those features, then by all means go for this brew. Otherwise, it’s a solid beer but not one that I’d buy year after year.