Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ballast Point–Pumpkin Down

This is Ballast Point’s seasonal pumpkin beer.  It’s little more than their everyday Scottish-style ale with some pumpkin and spices added.

Having a Scottish ale as a base, it pours a traditional (for the style) dark mahogany color and while dark, the beer is pretty clear.  The head forms from bottom to top in a cascading fashion, roughly a finger and a half thick.  The bubbles are a dingy yellow color, but lack retention.  However, they do leave a thin lace on the glass.

image

From the smell it doesn’t appear Ballast Point went overboard with the spices.  Pretty classy as some Brewers make their pumpkin beers almost undrinkable with too much nutmeg or cloves.  This beer has a faint nose of cinnamon, while that base of caramel and toffee from the Scottish ale make for a gentle scent of pumpkin pie.  Everything is restrained.

Pumpkin Down tastes like it smells.  All flavors are gentle, and some of those typical pumpkin pie spices that weren’t prevalent in the smell do finally evolve and present in the taste.  Scottish beers usually give off notes of rye and this beer is no different.  However, that flavor doesn’t show until the finish.  With only 5.8% ABV, there is no alcohol presence.  Also, the Earthy European hops mix well with the spices flavoring the beer.

There’s a good deal of sweetness in this beer that is mostly balanced with the spices and the gentle hops.  The finish is spicy and anything but smooth.  What the beer is missing is body.  It feels very thin, despite an abundance of flavor.  More malt would do much for this beer, giving it more of a foundation and a higher alcohol level.  But again, this is based on a Scottish ale and that’s sort of what you get.  I’d like to see an imperial version of this.

Ballast Point made a very drinkable beer and with only 5.8% ABV and just 22 IBU, you can get through quite a few of these as it’s a borderline session beer.  With such low alcohol and little body, this is not something I’d normally pick to drink on a Weekend night, but it’s very drinkable nonetheless.

Brasserie Dubuisson–Scaldis Noel

Another Belgian holiday beer here.  Dubuisson is the oldest brewery in Belgium, dating back to 1769 if you look at the top of the label.  Over here in the States it’s referred to as Scaldis, but back home in Wallonia, it’s called Bush, which I believe is what the name Dubuisson means.  This bottle is dated 7/26/2014 so it’s been aged plenty and probably is more well rounded than a fresh beer.

Full of loads and loads of caramel malt (to get to 12% ABV you have to use loads), it pours a mysterious, murky brown.  It looks amazingly rich, like a rough river that doesn’t give up its secrets.    The head is tan in color and as thick as you want.  Coming out of an 11.2 ounce European bottle, you can be aggressive with the pour without fear of a mess.  Retention is moderate, par for the course given the high strength of the beer.

image

Scaldis Noel smells of caramel malts and dark fruit, a standard Belgian strong ale treat.  Earthy hops and Belgian yeast provide a spicy holiday scent, while alcohol is always lurking.

Each sip matches the scent, caramel malts in the starring role, with spicy, dry hopped hops playing a supporting role.  I want to say there is brown sugar added, but it’s probably the malt or even some Belgian Candi Sugar, as those guys are prone to add in their stronger brews.  Regardless, it’s a nice addition and counters the high alcohol level and spiciness.

Sweetness is dominant, though the spicy yeast, hops, and alcohol do enough to bring balance to the beer.  It’s a very filling, full-bodied beer.  Those spices and alcohol bring an almost immediate heat to the palate, and the carbonated finish does nothing to mitigate the heat as it builds with each sip.

Regardless, the beer is very easy to drink and pleasant on many levels.  Very much a holiday/dessert beer, Scaldis Noel is one of the many beers I buy each winter, every year, because I know I can enjoy them year round.

St. Bernardus–Abt 12 Oak Aged

Yay me, another Trappist beer.  Abt 12 (I think Abt refers to the beer being a quadruple) is rated as one of the World’s great beers in every poll.  The Oak Aged version takes the original Abt 12 and ages it in fancy barrels for 6 months.  I have ho idea exactly what that aging will do, so let’s find out.

The Oak Aged variety pours like the regular.  Medium brown, not hazy but still somewhat dense looking, bubbles constantly rising from the bottom to feed the head.  The head is an off white color, about 2 fingers thick, with great retention.  A swirl does little for the minimal lacing.

image

The Oak aging seems to have added a splash of vanilla to the regular beer, something not uncommon from oak aging.  Other than that is caramel malt, the St. Bernardus house strain of yeast (still in use since the brewery started in 1946), as well as Earthy Belgian hops.  Dark fruits emerge as the beer warms.

This tastes far superior to the standard issue, world class Abt 12. The dark fruits–raisin, red apple, and dates–add a layer of flavor that isn’t present in the regular beer.  The vanilla notes are like icing on the fruit cake.  The yeast gives a stellar spiciness.

The mouthfeel is more complex in the aged version because of the extra layer of sweetness.  The regular beer is slightly more bitter and Earthly.  There is little to no bitterness in this aged version and the carbonation seems to be lowered, making the body feel heavier.  The fruitiness gives a tart finish and the alcohol (11% ABV) eventually provides some heat in the finish.

While the regular Abt 12 version is really good, I find it a bit overrated, as I prefer some of the other Trappist ales a bit better.  However, the beer aged 6 months changes that.  This is really exquisite with more sweetness, more complexity, and less Earthiness.  This is smoother and just a better beer, in my opinion.  This was worth every penny of the $29 price tag