Long Trail Unfiltered Pumpkin Ale


Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Long Trail
Locale: Bridgewaters Corner, VT
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%



Sight: Hazy, deep amber body with a frothy white head.

Smell: This is pretty much exactly what I would expect from a Pumpkin  Ale–a mediocre malt aroma with some pumpkin pie spices. Of the pumpkin ales I have sampled this seasons, this seems the most promising based purely on scent.

Flavor: Well, this is MEH: Part 2! The aroma is far better than the taste. Once again, this tastes like a macro lager with all of the hop bitter and none of the hop flavor. I get nearly ZERO pumpkin taste and just a hint of bitter cinnamon. As I keep drinking, it’s beginning to taste like a wet armpit, courtesy of my wild imagination.

Feel: Thin body with high high carbonation. Also, you can really feel the heat of the alcohol, which is odd given its relatively low ABV.

Concluding Remark:  Oh, the Pumpkin Ale. I just have no love for you at this point. Sure, I relied on my bodega to provide me with this style’s test samples, but 3 out of 3 ended up being Le Suck de Complet? NON PLUS POUR MOI, MADAME!

And to end this review on a rhyme-y note:

If you’re looking for decent pumpkin ale, instead eat pumpkin pie.

If you’re desiring decent Long Trail, Double Bag you must try.

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Mendocino Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Mendocino
Locale: Ukiah, CA
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.o%



Sight: Clear, dark mahogany body with no head. This is much darker than your run-of-the-mill pumpkin ale.

Smell: Ahh…Mendocino’s pumpkin smells like Cinnabon, Cinnamon Crunch Toast and Cinnamon Sugar Toast. Well, hey, like cinnamon. There’s a hint of yam/pumpkin in there as well, and it smells like it’s going to be cloyingly sweet…

Flavor: …but it’s not. There’s an unexpected bitterness in here, which is likely from the cocoa nibs that it’s brewed with. The bitterness is so prominent that this reminds me of what a coffee/espresso soda would taste like if I ever tried one. You know, the Manhattan Special? That drink you see in bodegas but never actually buy because why when beer?* Regardless, there is very little pumpkin flavor and instead, it tastes like a lightly sweetened coffee soda.

Feel: Thin body with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Mendocino of California’s pumpkin ale reminds me of why I usually don’t drink pumpkin ales: the flavor is whack and I am not enjoying this beer one bit, despite this moment being the highlight of my long day. It tastes like a Yeungling/mocha flavored non-dairy creamer hybrid. MEH! I’m giving this to my roommate.


*If you would like to learn more about the Manhattan Special, please read this adequate NYT article on the subject. It is eons more fascinating that this beer.

Manhattan Special: Made in Brooklyn

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Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale

Beer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Captain Lawrence
Locale: Elmsford, NY
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%



Sight: Hazy orange body with all of a centimeter of white head.

Smell: It reminds me of a health food store. Its smells like a cross between apple cider vinegar/kombucha and organic toothpaste.

Flavor: Picking up on the toothpaste note, the general flavor is slightly medicinal with some anise flavors and an odd peppermint cooling sensation. There is a trace of generic pumpkin flavor upon burp, however the second wave of flavor is that of from-old-NYC-pipes water and a hint of sugar.

Feel: It has a thinnish body with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I’ll start with the caveat that this is my second pumpkin beer all season. My dearest of friends brought some Post Road to a gathering the other evening, and if it weren’t for our years of friendship, I would’ve rather un-politely declined the aforementioned brew. Thus, Captain Lawrence’s pumpkin is my first true pumpkin beer in nearly two years. (I obnoxiously boycotted pumpkin ales last year, is my memory. No judgment, all, I know many of you are doing the same with PSLs every morning.) And to be frank with you the internet, I should’ve grabbed my go-to bodega beer, Stone’s Go-to-IPA, and resisted the overwhelming urge to review a series of pumpkin ales. CL, what a let down. The label states that it was brewed with pumpkin and spice. That’s nice, and I still want a pony. But I doubt that pony would be any happier cooped up in my small apartment than I am drinking this beer.

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THE PUMPKING OF BEERS! The History of Greatest Seasonal Beer Ever

The Year in Beer is in the process of drinking and rebooting. In the interim, please enjoy a timely post about the history of Pumpkin Beers.

It is with our most humble pleasure to bring to you the history and magnificence of the Pumpkin Ale. As ubiquitous as candy corn, mashed potatoes, cornucopias, and hayrides, the Pumpkin Ale is a symbol of autumn. The most delicious symbol of autumn (perhaps only second to your mom’s apple pie).

While adding pumpkin and spices to beer might seem like the most natural thing in the world, Pumpkin Ales are in fact manmade. And even more shocking, this cold ambrosia has only been around for the last ~400 years. We know, we can’t begin to fathom a world without Pumpkin Ales, but those times once existed. Let’s just be thankful we live in 2012 and not 1600.


The Tale of the Ale of Necessity

The origin of the Pumpkin Ale has its roots in a colonizing America. In fact, Pumpkin Ales were some of the first beers brewed in the New World. Picture this: you’ve been on a rough, two months-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat alongside a hundred other fellow disgruntled Separatists. Although you are strong in your convictions and know in your heart of hearts that coming to America is the right thing to do, you’re already missing pub culture back in England. But, you think, the New World HAS to have beer, right? How could any of these self-respecting Englishmen (and Dutch) leave for a country without beer?

Well, let’s just say that when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, no one greeted them with welcome beer cocktails. No one greeted them at all, really.

So our pilgrims land and quickly learn that the New World, while rife with exotic goods such as corn and tobacco, is void of barely. One of the key ingredients of beer. (Insert a series of old timey expletives.) Well, these colonialists were a scrappy bunch (pretty much a requisite for surviving in these lands),  and not long after their arrival, they began experimenting with new beer recipes.

The Untold Story of the Plymouth Colony.

As with all other facets of colonial life, the pilgrims had to make do with what was available to them. Hence, in lieu of barely, for example, local ingredients were used for brewing. One of these was pumpkin, plentiful in the New World. The first mention of this experimentation was in a 1643 folk song depicting food culture in the colonies:

Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies, Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies; We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon; If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone. If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be contented and think it no fault, For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

It’s becoming evident that our country was built on pumpkins. Anyways. These necessity-based Pumpkin Ales were consumed into the late 19th century. However, once brewers gained access to the ingredients for regular ol’ beer, the pumpkin ale disappeared. Why, you ask? Well, the Pumpkin Ale of days past wasn’t a symbol of the holidays like it is today. Instead, it was a symbol of scrappy beer making in the early days of the US of A. (Frankly, it probably wasn’t all that great.)

The Modern Pumpkin Ale: A Love Story

However, the Pumpkin Ales you know and love (FANATICALLY ADORE) are of a more modern luxury. Like many other historic styles, the Pumpkin Ale reemerged in the 1980s as the craft beer movement developed. As the story goes, we all have Buffalo Bill to thank. Allegedly, Bill Owen, owner of Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub, went out into his garden one day, picked a pumpkin, and brewed a pumpkin beer. Not finding it terribly interesting, he added the notorious flavors we all know and love today: cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. The result? Pumpkin pie in a bottle. As pumpkin pie is recognized as the single best dessert in the world, and beer is clearly the best beverage in the world, it should not come as a shock that many breweries followed Buffalo Bill’s lead. Many Pumpkin Ales now have cult followings (Dogfish Head’s Punkin’ Ale is one of them), with breweries selling out their stock before all of the leaves have fallen.

Good Ol’ Buffalo Bill.

This reincarnated brew has little resemblance to the early Pumpkin Ales. What would have been a more savory, earthy beer then, is generally a dessert-like brew now. (Although there has been a recent trend of highlighting the natural flavor of the pumpkin.) While many people love it and others find it silly and kitschy, the Pumpkin Ale has nevertheless seeped into the American holiday season. And that’s something for which we are personally thankful.

What to expect

Another recent trend in the Pumpkin beer kingdom has been the emergence of Pumpkin Lagers, Pumpkin Stouts, Imperial Pumpkins…you catch our drift. Brewers are pretty much dumping pumpkin chunks and juice into every style of beer imaginable. Thus, each of the following categories will vary greatly from beer to beer. However, we assume the general characteristic of “awesome” will remain constant.

Sight: The color will generally be a deep amber/mahogany.

Smell: It will range from subtle to overwhelming clove, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon aromas.

Flavor: Like the smell, you should expect familiar holiday flavors. Some pumpkin beers are brewed with roasted pumpkin, giving the brew a slightly smokey taste.

Feel: Expect a watery body from some, and a creamy, thicker body from others. There is little regularity in this category.

May we all have the opportunity to drink from a pumpkin keg

And with that, we hope you enjoy the Pumpkin beer season as much as we will. Happy holidays!

Categories: Pumpkin | 1 Comment

Captain Lawrence Captain’s Kölsch


Beer: Captain’s Kölsch
Captain Lawrence
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5.5%

cpt kolsch

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Bright, clear golden body with a small white head that, in typical Kölsch-style, quickly simmers down to a few bubbles.

Smell: If ever a beer smelled like the innards of a German bierhaus, well, this would be among the German beers that smell like the innards of a German bierhaus. Dominant aromas are lemon, a funky yeast, biscuits, and fresh white bread.

Flavor: Not quite as strong as its smell, the taste is a combination of copper, lemon floor cleaner, pretzels, and a crisp bitterness from the addition of American hops.

Feel: It has a thinnish body with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I can’t in my right mind give a non-German Kölsch a 5, right? Captain Lawrence’s Captain’s Kölsch isn’t in the Kölsch Konvention, after all. HOWEVER, if I wasn’t such a stickler for the beer rules (which are in no way affiliated with the BJCP guidelines or anyone else’s rules or ideas or beliefs or religions), the Captain would be well on its way to earning the top award that every beer seeks: theyearinbeer’s 5 pint glass rating. Alas, this is my house, and my rule is that I can’t give a “Kölsch-style” beer a perfect score.

So, 4.5 it is for Captain Lawrence of New York. Nevertheless, the Captain is exactly what you would expect of a German-American Kölsch-style ale. It’s hella refreshing, with a seemingly impossible lightness that is balanced by a surprising amount of flavor for the style. And good looks to Captain Lawrence for not dousing their  Kölsch with hops; no, they mitigated what was probably an uncontrollable desire to dump in gallons of hops and instead included just a smattering of Crystal hops.

My final words are, this beer would please anyone. Simply put, excellent job, Captain Lawrence. But, if you’re looking for that 5 pint rating, I suggest you pack your bags and head off to Cologne and get your ass into the Kölsch Konvetion.

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New Holland Full Circle Kölsch-Style Ale

Beer: Kölsch-Style Ale
Ful Circle
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.9%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Slightly cloudy, golden body with a large fluffy head that recedes to small bubbly rim.

Smell: Crisp, metallic aroma with a hint of alcohol, spice, raisins, and sparkling apple cider.

Flavor: Mellow, underwhelming flavor compared to its smell. Some might not agree, but there is a slight glue and cleaning product flavor.

Feel: Medium, creamy body with low carbonation. Quite a strange mouthfeel for the style.

Concluding Remark: Well, this is my first go at an American Kölsch-style ale, and really, what was I expecting from a German beer made solely for drinking at ein brauhaus? I’m nowhere near Cologne right now, and on a slow night in suburban New Jersey, seemingly even farther away from a beer garden. While drinking some beers evoke memories of beer halls and debauched nights in Germany, Full Circle’s Kölsch just reminds me of drinking an unmemorable beer. Which means I’m reminded of nothing and instead painfully aware of my present, which consists of drinking this average beverage.

So, it’s totally not a bad beer–it does capture the sweetness and subtle malt flavors of a standard Kölsch. However, it falls short of what makes the style so drinkable: its exceptionally crisp, fresh, and light qualities. Oh well. Stick with the authentic brews certified under the Kölsch Konvetion. That is all.

*Ironically, I drank this beer before I photographed it while waiting for my camera to charge because I was just so gosh darn excited to try it and clearly couldn’t contain myself. Not worth it.

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Gaffel Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Privatbrauerei Gaffel
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%


Serving Style: Draft
Drinking Establishment: Pilsnerhaus, Hoboken, NJ
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Clear golden body with no head. It looks like a generic macro lager ala Budwesier.

Smell: There’s an overwhelming aroma of watery pennies. That’s all I get.

Flavor: Oddly, it tastes like mozzarella and parmesan cheese, paired with a side of white bread and barley. I will issue the caveat that I am hungry and just saw a plate of Obatzda– a cheese spread–go by and would much rather be eating that than drinking this and thus there is a 15% chance that I am projecting my cheese spread desires onto this poor unknowing beer.

Feel: Thin with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Gaffel is a standard Kölsch from Cologne, but it’s somehow not as delicious as the Reissdorf despite being brewed to the same specs. To say it’s lacking complexity would be an understatement. As the Gaffel Brauerei states, it has a “light and refreshing taste that compliments almost all foods…it is superbly drinkable and subtle without being too filling.” While I might not go as far as to say that this is “superb,” and maybe by “subtle” they meant “the flavor is subtle, i.e. nearly undetectable,” the Gaffel Kölsch is a a Cologne favorite. I could be bribed to agree if presented with a plate of Obatzda in the next few minutes…

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Reissdorf Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Crystal clear golden body with a bright white head that disappears after a minute, which is typical of a Kölsch.

Smell: The initial aroma is bright and sweet, with hints of fresh apples and metal from the special yeast with which the traditional Kölsch is brewed. There’s also a fresh baked bread smell.

Flavor: The prominent flavors are mineral-y water, those thin pretzel sticks, and a slight hop bite. There is a lingering sweetness, which tastes a little like salted caramel.

Feel: Thin, watery body with high carbonation. This has the mouthfeel of the perfect summer bier, i.e. you could drink this for hours on end instead of water and walk around in a sunstroke haze and soak up the beautiful memories of the sun. Summer cannot get here fast enough, clearly. What I’m getting at is, is that this is exceptionally easy to drink.

Concluding Remark:  As the label states, the Reissdorf Kölsch is “THE CLASSIC KOLSCH.” Well, it might not be “THE” Kölsch, but it is certainly A Kölsch, as this beer is brewed in Cologne and abides by the Kölsch Konvention. A typical Kölsch, it’s bright, lightly malted, and has just a slight fruit flavor. While not particularly complex, there are a few layers of flavor here that make Reissdorf one superiorly drinkable beer. Don’t go trying a Kölsch thinking you’re in for an innovative micro beer; no, this is one of the most popular in Cologne (i.e., it appeals to thousands of people and can’t be that delicious). However, the Reissdorf Kölsch is an exceptional example of the Cologne ale. Man, the Cologne volk were hella smart for  resisting conversion to the lager cult.

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Exploring German Bier: The Kölsch Ale

After spending the last few months exploring the ales of the New World, it’s time to get back to the birthplace of modern beer: Europa! Specifically, we take our beer magnifying glass and old-timey pipe back over to Germany to inspect some styles that are oft written off as simply “easy to drink” and “not particularly interesting.” If you walk into bar with over five taps, chances are you will find a Hefeweizen or a Pilsner. However, other German beers do exist and this month we are going to study one style a week in order to make clear the differences between each type of beer.

To get started, we will be consuming the Kölsch Ale–a warm-fermented and cold-conditioned (“lagered”) ale straight outta Cologne (Köln), Germany. This ale, a variant of the wheat beer, was first produced in 1906, and the term “Kölsch” appeared in 1918. But as these things go, there’s more to this story….

note the Cologne Cathedral in the background

History of Kölsch

The Kölsch ale was not a wild hit when Sünner Brauerei produced the first modern version in 1906.  No, it was the lager that maintained popularity throughout Germany. This all changed after World War II. During the war, over 95% of the breweries in Cologne were destroyed. After the war,  these breweries slowly rebuilt their facilities, and the brewing industry was revitalized by the 1950s. It was at this point that the Kölsch began to reign the Cologne beer market.

The Kölsch is a reliable ale–you won’t find too much variation from one Kölsch to the next. This is largely due to the fact that the beer is defined by the Cologne Brewery Association in the Kölsch Konvention of 1985(1). Like the infamous Reinheitsgebot, a Kölsch is only a Kölsch if it meets the terms in this Konvention. Certainly, there are other German breweries–and American breweries–that produce Kölsch-like ales; however, they aren’t (and shouldn’t be!) labeled “Kölsch.”

(1) In case you were wondering what the Kölsch Konvention stipulates: 1) the beer must be brewed in the Cologne metropolitan area, 2) must be pale, 3) must be top-fermented, 4) must be hop-accented, 5) must be filtered, and 6) it must have a gravity between 11-14% plato. 

The good Kölsch name was further protected in 1997 when it became an appellation of origin under EU law. This means that, much much like Parmesan cheese or Bordeaux wine, only Kölsch beers brewed in the designated region can be referred to as a Kölsch.

Regardless of these exclusive protective regulations, the Kölsch isn’t all that popular outside of the Cologne MSA. Less than 1 out of 20 beers consumed in Germany is a Kölsch. In Cologne proper, the  Kölsch accounts for about half of beers downed in das bierhaus.

Kölsch Ale is not a German Lager

What is particularly special about the Kölsch, is that not only is it one of the few ales in Germany, it is actually a hybrid beer–neither a true ale nor a true lager. An ale, as you may know, is a warm-fermented, top-conditioned beer, and a lager, the opposite. A Kölsch is a combination of these two techniques: it is warm-fermented, but bottom-conditioned, and it sits for about two months before consumption, which is typical of a lager.

Cologne was an anomaly in German beer history. According to moderately credible sources, lagering techniques slowly made their way to Cologne. While lager was all the rage in most of Germany, Cologne only really began brewing lagers with the advent of refrigeration. Instead of jumping on the lager bandwagon, the stadtvaters (city fathers), decreed that top-fermented beers (ale) were to be brewed in the city in 1603. Later, the city outlawed lager production after Bavaria prohibited summer brewing due to potential quality and spoiling concerns. Lagers, which are cold-conditioned (i.e., designed to sit in the winter), were brewed in the winter and ales in the summer. Thus, it was illegal to brew ales in Bavaria. Cologne and neighboring Dusseldorf had no intention in following Bavarian trends, and began producing a “Keutebier”–a wheat-based ale falling somewhere between a Belgian Wit Ale and a German Hefeweizen–which was consumed between the 1500-1800s. Slowly, the wheat content of Keutebiers petered out and slowly transformed into the beer we know today as the Kölsch–an all barely ale. Dusseldorf produced a slightly darker, copper ale called an Altbier, or old beer, referring to medieval pre-lager (ale) techniques.  The major difference between the Kölsch and the Altbier is that the latter is brewed with Munich malts (giving it a dark, amber color–like a Marzen) and the former with Pils malts (giving it a pale, straw color–like a pilsner). They are both barely-based and filtered, unlike German’s popular ale, the Hefeweizen, which is wheat-based and unfiltered.

A Cologne Ritual 

As the Kölsch is a regional speciality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are a number of cultural rituals attached to the consumption of this hybrid ale. For one, the Kölsch is a party beer: this is a beer that is often served in large quantities via special beer-carriers (kranz), and this is also a beer that is meant to be consumed quickly. Lots of beer consumed quickly = PARTYBIER. Further, while the Koln Konvention stipulates how the beer is brewed and with what ingredients, there might as well be a Konvention that mandates how the beer is served. Kölsch ales are served in something called a stange–a 200 ML narrow glass.

Köbes mit einem Kranz Kölsch

Köbes, or male waiters in Cologne, deliver these beer holders while wearing a long blue apron and a money pouch. As you finish a beer, the Köbes will replace your empty stange with a new one until you admit yourfail at life by putting a coaster over your stange, or you become a bierleichen (beer zombie) and fall asleep at the table.

someone couldn’t keep up…

What to Expect

Brewed with one malt, the pale Pils malt, and the quintessentially German Hallertauer hops, expect the following from your Kölsch:

Sight: Clear, pale straw-colored body with a little head that quickly dissipates.

Smell: The aroma should be slightly apple-y, hoppy, and fresh.

Taste: Light hop bitterness, with a hint of sweetness from the malt, and a slight fruity flavor from a special yeast.

Feel: Dry with medium carbonation that will become slightly flat if you let it sit for too long.


As you go forward with your Kölsch drinking, make note that it is traditionally served in a tall cylindrical glass called a “stange,” or pole. As the story goes, these ales are served in small glasses because they lose their flavor as they sit. So, get yourself a Stange, a Kölsch, and drink quickly.


Categories: Kölsch | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

End of Month Report: Top 5 Amber/Red Ales

As I am no longer in graduate school and work one of them job things, a monthly GET BLIZTED DAY is sort out of the question. The weekends are for laundry and errands, amirite? Just kidding, I’m going to a brewery tour AND a beer garden today. Woot!

But anyways, instead of a GBD, we are going to institute an “End of Month Report” that analyzes the data we’ve collected over the last month and synthesizes our findings into a TOP 5 LIST. That way, you can skip all of the crap we’ve had to consume and go right to the good stuff.

And without further ado…

EOM Report

Downloadable pdf to take to the liquor store: EOM Report


1. Nugget Nectar, Tröegs Brewing Company, Imperial Amber Ale, 7.8%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

2. My Bloody Valentine, AleSmith Brewing Company, Red Ale, 6.66%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

3. HopBack, Tröegs Brewing Company, Amber Ale, Amber Ale, 6.0%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

4. Amber Ale, Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, Amber Ale, 5.25%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

5. Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale, Rogue Ales, (India) Red Ale, 6.0%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeer 75

Categories: Amber Ale, End of Month Report | Leave a comment

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