Maybe it was the garlic that I had just finished chopping, or the parsley in the delicious quinoa salad my wife had just made, but my first whiff of New Belgium’s Pumpkick was an instant flash forward to the fourth Thursday in November. This feels a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but who am I to argue with one of my favorite Colorado breweries? This is the first Pumpkin beer on the shelf at the local Trader Joe's, so maybe they're just getting a jump on the competition.
One of my friends is already posting Facebook pictures of snow in his backyard. Meanwhile, I'm like Ron Swanson over here in my thick sweater. It's definitely going to be a booties and gloves surf day.
Winter means a fresh collection of seasonals. Usually, these are dark, heavy beers with plenty of spices. The kind perfectly suited for sticking into a snowbank to chill, and where "too cold" never applies. When you crack the lid on one of these icy winter lagers and take your first sip, the warmth stretches all the way to your toes and sub zero temperatures are forgotten.
New Belgium's Accumulation is an outlier in this group. As a White IPA, it's a wheat beer seasoned with Belgian yeast and just the right amount of hops. Pouring it into your glass, it looks like champagne.
When you take your first sniff, it's like slicing open a sweet ruby red grapefruit. There's very little of the bitter, sharp citrus some of the stronger IPAs have. Accumulation reminds me of Peak Organic's softer, refreshing IPA style.
Sipping Accumulation is like crushing the pulpy sweet fibers of a fresh ruby red in your mouth. It is thirst quenching, and then some. The hops are softened and balanced by the wheat, leaving me both satisfied and wanting more as I reach the bottom of the glass.
Accumulation White India Pale Ale is yet another reason New Belgium is one of my favorite breweries. Even if you don't like IPAs, it's worth a try this holiday season. I'm guessing it won't be around past December. That leaves a two month window to get your fill. If I can brave these sub-70 temperatures and make it to the store, I'll be huddled up under a blanket sipping some here in L.A. I suggest you do the same.
Tasting Notes: Nose: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops. Taste: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops softened by wheat and Belgian yeast.
It's Fall, and this year, that means it's time to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon with some pumpkin infused beer tastings. As time goes on, I hope to add to this list, but let's begin with two solid brews: Mendocino's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale and Anderson Valley's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale. Both are solidly pumpkin and have a similar lineup of the usual suspects when it comes to spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The main difference between these two is body and coloring. Fall Hornin is much darker and a little heavier, while Engine 45 is on the lighter side.
Mendocino Brewing Company Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale Nose: Nutmeg, pumpkin and cinnamon over a buttery nose. Taste: Just like it smells, but the emphasis is on the nutmeg. Fairly well balanced, this beer makes me crave a pumpkin pie. Still, it's easy to see why pumpkin flavored drinks are only popular for a season.
Anderson Valley Fall Hornin Nose: Nutmeg, sour ale nose. Taste: Darker, sour, caramel, with more pumpkin and more nutmeg than Engine 45. I find this one to be a little more balanced as well.
About the Breweries Both breweries are located in Northern California. Mendocino Brewing Company was founded in 1983 in Mendocino County California. They are easily recognizable for their use of birds of prey on their labels (Engine 45 would be an exception). They distribute from coast to coast, also brewing at the Old Saratoga brewery in New York state.
Valley Brewing Company has been in existence since 1987, and with Mendocino, was one of the first 20 craft breweries in the country. Today, they are known for their high quality brews, including their Barl series of bourbon aged beers created in partnership with Wild Turkey Bourbon.
Give both of these beers a shot, and then let us know: What do you think? Should these breweries bring them back next year, or abandon the whole "pumpkin beer" project altogether? Or do you have a pumpkin beeer that you can't stop raving about? Review it below, so we can give it a try as well.
Watermelon beer? Er... yes? Maybe? No? It was right there on the shelf, and I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Was this another gimmicky hipster beer, designed for the trendy kids on cool bicycles? Or could this actually be something worth sipping on the back porch while waiting for the corn to reach it's state of charcoal perfection on the grill?
Seeing my confusion, a helpful Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian print shirt skipped over to my side. "Watermelon beer. It's delicious. I tried some last time it was in. Better get it now, this stuff goes so fast." With a twirl, she was gone.
After a few cloudy, rainy, and especially humid days here in L.A., summer is officially back in session with blue skies and an invigorating new beer from one of my favorite breweries. The New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale was originally slated to be released on August 10, but it is currently available at my local Trader Joe's. New Belgium is marketing this as a Fall beer, and I can see why. The Long Table Farmhouse Ale packs a walloping fruity, spicy, herbal punch, with Belgian overtones that are impossible to miss in both the smell and taste.
Farmhouse ales (also called "saisons") like Long Table originate in Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium. They were brewed in the cooler off season on the farm, then served to farmhands during the hot summer months. For more on farmhouse ales, click here. And for more on New Belgium Brewing Company (where, if I lived in Colorado, I would be applying for a job), click here.
Long Table Farmhouse Ale:
Nose: Fruity, spicy, coriander. Taste: Just like it smells! Recommendation: Get out there and buy a six pack before this seasonal brew goes out of stock.
Mendocino holds the distinction as being the first post-prohibition brewpub opened in California, and the second in the U.S. The original brewery is located in Hopland, CA, two hours north of San Francisco. Its doors were first opened in August of '83.
Today, Mendocino has breweries in California and New York, and produces over a million cases of beer every year. They are also responsible for the Kingfisher lager produced in the U.K. and sold throughout Europe. You might also recognize their subsidiary Olde Saratoga, an East Coast favorite brewed in the Vienna lager style.
Their trademark marketing is recognizable on any shelf. Just look for the 6-packs with the colorful birds of prey, created in 1989 by artist Randy Johnson. If I'm counting right, they are responsible for at least 23 different beers, including their rotating seasonals.
Mendocino Oatmeal Stout is their heavy winter brew.
Nose: The nose is sharp, with oats, molasses, and iced coffee.
Taste:Toasted oats with a sour molassesfinish. Like all oatmeal stouts, this is a heavy and filling beer, perfect for keeping you warm on those cold winter nights.
Recommendation: I won't say this is my favorite oatmeal stout, but if you don't mind a heavy, filling beer every once in a while, drag your rocking chair over by the fire. Grab a good book, light up your pipe, and crack open this oatmeal stout. You've got nothing to lose! See the "seasonal" in the title? Grab it before it's gone!
As if anyone needed proof that I'm not a beer and wine snob, when I first bought the New Belgium Portage Porter (try saying that ten times fast), I had forgotten what a porter was. I was expecting something more like a lager, or a pale ale.
On taking my first sip, I was shocked by a caramelly darkness that swirled and lingered on my tongue for several minutes. As I began to recover my senses, the aftertaste was similar to what you might expect after finishing a thick chocolate and peanut butter shake.
[[A porter is a nicely-hopped brown malt, developed in London in the 18th century.]]
New Belgium is one of my favorite breweries, and they've never let me down. You may recognize the name from their go to beer, Flat Tire. I'm also a fan of their Ranger IPA and Accumulation White IPA, and Snapshot Wheat Beer. Surprisingly, this Colorado company is the third largest craft brewery in the U.S. The brewery was started in 1989 when the founder, Jeff Lebesch, took a bike trip across Belgium and came back with a suitcase full of recipes and a head full of ideas. Belgian beers are my favorite, and New Belgium makes Belgians with a crisp American twist that is irresistible.
It all goes to show that you don't need to know what you are talking about to know what you like.
(If you're looking for a job, apply here. Seriously. New Belgium is 100% employee owned, and the benefits are intended to keep you happy. How does 18 vacation days sound? And an all expense paid trip to Belgium on your 5 year work anniversary?)
New Belgium Portage Porter:
Taste:Chocolate, fresh roasted coffee.
Fun Facts: 6% ABV, 187 calories, 38 IBU.
Available: January 2015
Recommendation: Buy it before it's too late, and enjoy it ice cold. I don't drink New Belgiums every day, but they are never far from my refrigerator.
If you still need convincing about how cool New Belgium is, watch this employee video: