He Said, He Said Elysian and 21st Amendment Brewing

He Said and He Said is an interesting collaboration between the pumpkin beer guru at Elysian Brewing in Seattle and 21st Amendment Brewing in San Francisco (which brought you Hell or High Watermelon). The idea is that there is one package with two beers in it brewed with pumpkin. Both beers have an ABV of 8.2%. However, one is a Belgian tripel with pumpkin, tarragon and galangal. The other is a Baltic (meaning big) porter with pumpkin, Vietnamese cinnamon and ground caraway. Both beers are a real treat. The tripel has the familiar banana and fruit flavor of a tripel. The tarragon definitely comes through as well, giving it a mellow herbal feel. I’m not sure what influence the galangal had. Nevertheless, it was quite delicious. The Baltic porter was an even more complex blend of roasty malt, coffee, chocolate, vanilla with a hint of pumpkin and cinnamon. I couldn’t distinguish the ground caraway specifically, but there was a little something I couldn’t quite place that smoothed and rounded out the other flavors and I think that’s what the caraway did. Both of these beers was very, very good. If you have a chance to get one, get it. I give them both five out of five proper pints.

Steen Brugge Tripel

This is my first review of a Belgian abbey beer. A friend of mine recently visited St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar in Cleveland Park, in D.C. and the bartender recommended it. I decided to hunt it down and found it at Total Wine in McLean. This one pours a pale orange color with a very fluffy white head. The aroma is banana and malt with a little bread. The flavor is very complex. This one is made without hops, but with gruit instead. Gruit is a combination of herbs that you don’t see used for very much (e.g., mugwort, sweet gale, yarrow, horehound and heather). The resulting flavor is a combination of banana, apple, a little bit of lemon, honey and some bread. It has a relatively high ABV – 8.7%, but it’s well masked by the complex of flavors. It’s very drinkable, though it will sneak up on you. I liked this beer a lot. I give it four out of five proper pints.

Timmerman’s Pumpkin Lambicus

I came across this beer in researching my earlier review of 13 Pumpkins 2013. I was intrigued, but didn’t think it fit in against the other pumpkin beers. It turns out I was right. This is a lambic, which is Belgian fruit beer allowed to ferment with wild yeast. This one is flavored with pumpkin. It pours an orange-y copper with a large, soft white head. It has the aroma of pumpkin with a little spice. It has a light body and is very drinkable. It tastes a little of pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice with a little apple thrown in. There is a little sourness in the after taste. I liked it, but it is clearly different from other pumpkin beers. I give it three out of five proper pints.

Trve Brewing Death Ripper Common

On my recent trip to Denver, I decided to visit Denver’s “True Heavy Metal Brewery.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d seen their website and knew they had some intriguing beers. For example, one called Diotima was a smoked tea saison. However, the one that stood out was the Death Ripper Denver666 Common. I thought it was going to be a California Common along the lines of Anchor Steam or Port City Derecho Common, but it was different. It poured a dark brown color with a thick white head. It had aromas of roasted malt with a little smoke. It was light bodied, however, and very drinkable. The flavor was along the lines of a brown ale, but with a smoky feel. There was also a slight sour bite at the end. This was a great session beer at 4.2% ABV, as well. I read up a little more on the style and it turns out rather than a California Common, as I thought, this was a Kentucky Common. Kentucky Common is an unusual style, that practically went extinct. The idea is that the brewer would make a sour mash like he or she was making a whiskey, e.g., steep the grains and then keep them warm for 48 hours, then boil and add the hops. This causes the mash/wort to sour a bit before the boil. The rest of the process is the same as any other ale. The other difference between this and other ales is that the base grains include corn and rye, along with some darker specialty grains to give it color. Anyway, it really makes a delightful beer. I hope more breweries pick it up. I give this one four out of five proper pints.

Copper Kettle Mexican Chocolate Stout

On a recent visit to Denver, I decided to meet my sister-in-law at the Copper Kettle Brewery on Valentia Street. It’s a small brewery operation. I think it may even be a nano. They have a nice tasting room in an industrial strip mall. A number of their beers were very good, but this one really stood out. It won the Gold Medal in the Spice/Herb Beer category in the Great American Beer Festival in 2011. It pours a dark brown to black with a thin head that dissipates quickly. It has strong cinnamon notes, along with some chocolate. The bartender described how the flavor of the chile peppers in it kind of grabs your throat by literally grabbing her throat. Well that was exactly what happened. It really had a strong chile pepper kick in the after taste. It is meant to be like a Mexican Hot Chocolate, which is made with peppers to make it spicy. This tasted exactly like that, only in beer form. The chocolate with a little coffee and cinnamon was very prominent, followed by the pepper bite. I loved this beer. I give it five out of five proper pints.

Great Divide Hibernation

I’ve been going to Denver since the early 90s, before craft beer became as big as it is now. One place I’ve always enjoyed is the Great Divide Brewery. I have had few beers there that I have not liked. However, one that I look forward to every year is the Hibernation. Hibernation is their winter ale. This one has been around a while, but it’s really earned its place as a classic. It’s classified as an Old Ale. However, that really doesn’t do it justice. It’s a very wonderful, complex mix of flavors. It pours a dark brown. It has some strong roasted malt notes, along with toffee, caramel and fruit (maybe cherries). As you drink it, you get strong flavors of coffee and chocolate as well. It has a heavy-ish feel to it, but it’s not overbearing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had more than one at a time. I give this beer five out of five proper pints.

The Bruery Autumn Maple

As with the Brooklyn Mary’s Maple Porter, I had this one at Scion in Dupont Circle during their Fall Beer Fest. Just like with the Mary’s Maple Porter, the name intrigued me. I wondered what maple would taste like in a beer. I was also intrigued because it was billed as a new take on pumpkin beer. The Autumn Maple poured a dark copper color. I would say it was a Belgian dark ale. It had the familiar Belgian yeast aroma, along with maple, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (pumpkin pie spices). I read that it has yams in it as well. I didn’t really taste the yams, but the beer was very pleasant and smooth. It did taste similar to a pumpkin ale because of the pumpkin pie spices, except that you could also taste the maple. I would compare it possibly to an imperial pumpkin ale with a rich flavor. I actually had a taste of Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin along with it and while they were very different, there was a vague similarity. It might be more akin to Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin or Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. The funny thing is how the name influences your taste. I would have focused on it being a maple beer if the description had not billed it as a different take on pumpkin beer. Anyway, this was a very good beer. I would give it five out of five proper pints.

Brooklyn Brewery Mary’s Maple Porter

I have a soft spot for anything from Brooklyn Brewery because when I lived in New York, I used to visit there frequently for their Friday night happy hour. It has since gotten too popular to be as enjoyable, but I love their beer just the same. I happened to go to the Scion Restaurant in Dupont Circle here in DC to check out their Fall Beer Fest. The Scion has a very strong beer menu with a lot of hard to find craft beers, but I sense the restaurant does not have a strong following. Anyway, they did have a nice selection of Fall themed beers all for $5. This one practically jumped off the page at me. First, because while I like Brooklyn, they are slightly more old school in their craft beer line up. They have established their Lager, Brown Ale, East India Pale Ale, Pennant Ale, Summer and Winter Ales and they do have a small line of Belgian style beers in champagne bottles, but they don’t often experiment the way some of the newer breweries do. I knew I had to try this one. I was not disappointed. The maple was noticeable, but did not make the beer sweet. It was just there along with some vanilla, roasted malt and coffee flavor. It was slightly dry as opposed to creamy for a porter. Overall, a great beer. I would have it again, if I could find it, but it seems it remains hard to get. Judging from the Brooklyn website, this may even have been an old keg. The website lists it has last being made in the Spring of 2012. Be that as it may, I still liked the beer. I give it four out of five proper pints.

Ommegang "Game of Thrones" Take the Black Stout

I happened to find this one without knowing it existed. It was a happy little surprise, but I did mistakenly think this was the same as the earlier Ommegang “Game of Thrones” beer, Iron Throne, which sold out before I could buy any. I’m told Ommegang made more of this beer to meet the demand. Anyway, it is billed as a star anise/licorice stout, which I thought might be intriguing. It pours a nice black color with a large tan head. You can distinctly smell the aroma of the Belgian yeast and some licorice, though I would say it was faint. There is a strong roasty malt flavor with coffee tones mixed with the banana-like flavor of the yeast. There is a slight flavor of licorice and some vanilla. I was a little disappointed the licorice flavor was not more forward. It was a good beer nonetheless. I would most likely have it again. Three out of five proper pints.

Rogue Mocha Porter vs. DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter

I picked up these two worthy Porters while on a jaunt to my favorite local beer and wine store, Grateful Red. Both came highly recommended by the staff. I decided to put them head to head and see how they compare. I would say both were very nice choices and you can’t go wrong with either. They were different, however. Both look very similar poured into the glass. They both pour a nice oily black with a thin off-white head. They both have about a 5.5% ABV. They are also both medium bodied and have a slightly creamy texture. Ironically, though, the Mocha Porter had much less noticeable chocolate flavor than the Penn Quarter Porter. The Mocha Porter carried a much stronger coffee flavor, though both had some coffee. They both had the trademark roasted malt flavor of a porter. Overall, I would say I liked the Penn Quarter Porter better. The flavor was a little bigger and more of chocolate. I’d rate both four out of five proper pints.