Category Archives: Ale

Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale

rating_excellent85 points

Rogue beers certainly stand out in the package store — big, hulking bottles with screen-painted labels. But their Pumpkin Patch Ale stands out even among the stand-outs.

It comes in the same hefty bottle, but this one is fully painted an impressive bright orange. But it’s what that orange paint hides that really impressed us.

roguepumpkinpatchPumpkin Patch has a near-perfect appearance, with a slightly cloudy tobacco leather color, ample carbonation and good lacing.

Smell and taste are both laden with pumpkin, which makes sense, since Rogue grows its own pumpkins in Oregon for use in its beer.

The pumpkin aroma is balanced with notes of buttery caramel. Mouthfeel is sudsy, yet mouth-coating.

The taste of Pumpkin Patch is different than most other brews in this variety. While the cinnamon and allspice flavors typical to the style take a back seat, what isn’t lacking is the taste of pumpkin — sweet, buttery pumpkin — and the taste of beer.

Aftertaste is very smooth, with a sweetness and a bit of hops.  That smoothness, coupled with a mix of true beer taste and fresh sweet pumpkin, earned this beer huge points on drinkability.

If you’re looking for a true beer that allows you also to enjoy a pumpkin taste without all the spices that mask it, give Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch a try.

In that huge orange bottle, you shouldn’t have trouble locating it.

(Appearance 9.33, Smell 7.83, Taste 25.33, Aftertaste 15.83, Drinkability 26.33)

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Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

rating_verygood73 points

While the pumpkin beer market has exploded in recent years, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery started brewing its Punkin Ale way back in 1995.

That means that Punkin Ale is, technically speaking, old enough to drink itself.

dogfishpunkin
Look for a newly redesigned version of this label.

Be that as it may, we still felt it necessary — for the sake of our fans — to drink it ourselves. After all, we’re doing this for you.

And you’re welcome.

Punkin Ale has a dark orange-amber appearance consistent with many of its other offerings, like its flagship 60-Minute IPA…albeit darker. Aroma is light, but pumpkin and spice are detectable.

Taste is predominantly malt with light pumpkin and spice notes. This beer definitely puts the beer before the pumpkin. Hops show up as the flavor develops, and our panel generally enjoyed the flavor.

However, aftertaste is where this beer loses points. Our panelists noted a yeasty, somewhat bitter, estery aftertaste. Pumpkin pie spices linger in the aftertaste, however, which the panel found pleasant.

Drinkability was rated fairly well, with most panelists commending Dogfish Head for focusing on the beer first and pumpkin second; and for being less full-bodied than other Dogfish offerings.

However, the lackluster aftertaste and a mouth-drying effect caused our panel some concern that they’d tire quickly of Punkin Ale.

Bottom line…if you’re a fan of Dogfish Head brews and want to dabble in the pumpkin patch, you might like this. But if you really want intense pumpkin flavors, you might find yourself telling this 21-year-old brew to go drink itself.

(Appearance 7, Smell 7.67, Taste 22.83, Aftertaste 12.33, Drinkability 23)

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Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin

rating_verygood72 points

Long Trail’s Brush and Barrel series combines a seasonal, small batch brew with labeling provided by a local artist.

These beers can either be purchased in a single bottle or in a cylindrical tube with a print of the artwork from the label.

I’m sad to admit it, but the artwork is what caught my attention with this beer.  It really is the only reason why I bought the beer in the first place.  But it was serendipitous since it provided us with another beer to include in our pumpkin ratings.

longtrailimperialpumpkinThe majority of the panel scored the beer in the good range, but two panelists thought it was excellent.  So what separated the van Goghs from the “van Nos?”

All agreed that Imperial Pumpkin’s caramel coloring looked very good. Some panelists noted a nice head on the beer.  Smell was deemed sweet with notes of pumpkin, clove, caramel, and…beer?  Good to know this beer actually smells like a beer, which I guess in our pumpkin beer ratings, was not a given.  I’m looking in your direction, Shipyard.

The imperial aspect of the beer made its presence known upon taste.  Alcohol was present and strong.  For the panelists that rated this beer excellent, both found hints of bourbon in the flavor.  As for the rest of us, the strong alcohol flavor was found to be a little too much, and detracted from the other flavors in the beer.

The differing views carried over to the beer’s aftertaste.  Panelists either commented on the strong — but not lingering — medicinal flavor or the smoothness of the brew.  One panelist did note that he enjoyed the aftertaste more than the actual taste.

And…now we find ourselves at drinkability.  The two excellent ratings definitely saved this beer from being cast aside like some seasonal decoration that begins to wither and rot.  However, the sole comment from the panel was “One tasting glass is enough.”

Considering how the panelists who enjoyed Imperial Pumpkin didn’t bother to comment on drinkability, it’s clear we were all ready to move onto the next pumpkin offering.

Even though Long Trail’s Imperial Pumpkin wasn’t our highest rated beer of the evening, it certainly came with the best artwork.

Unfortunately for Long Trail, the last time I checked we’re not known as The Basement Art Ratings…but maybe?!

(Appearance 8.5, Smell 8.17, Taste 21.17, Aftertaste 13.5, Drinkability 20.33)

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Shipyard Pumpkinhead

rating_verygood71 points

At some point along your pumpkin beer travels, you’re going to grab a Shipyard Pumpkinhead. It’s inevitable.

You’ll find yourself standing in the aisle of a liquor store, overwhelmed with the array of pumpkin beers.

shipyardpumpkinYou’ll stand there, bewildered, with one hand on your chin and the other folded across your chest under it, quietly muttering, “I just don’t know, there are just so many pumpkin choices,” as a dude in a ratty baseball cap and a weathered T-shirt with the arms ripped off walks by with a suitcase of Bud Light and calls you a “lady boy.”

Let him enjoy his canned urine. This is a difficult decision for you.

But deep down, you know Mr. Ready For Anything™ has a point, so your eyes dart back and forth until you say, “Screw it,” and reach for the six pack adorned with the guy riding a horse with a creepy jack-o-lantern for a head. That’s the one that first caught your eye, anyway, wasn’t it? Congratulations, you just chose Shipyard Pumpkinhead.

Pumpkinhead is our social media manager’s favorite pumpkin beer. And no matter how many other, better pumpkin beers she’s enjoyed — and no matter how many times we’ve fired her — she and her penchant for Pumpkinhead endure.

She’s not off-base, though.

Pumpkinhead is unimpressive on pour. It looks like apple juice, with as much carbonation as…well, apple juice. Our panel struggled to produce a head on this beer.

But, it has a nice light scent of spicy cinnamon aroma with floral notes. Mouthfeel is a light combination of sudsy and fizzy.

Our panel found the taste light with more of a cinnamon apple cider taste than a strong pumpkin flavor. Pumpkin is detectable, but very light.

A couple of panelists noted the aftertaste as slightly metallic with a sweet, malty finish.

Because this beer is light, and the flavor is pleasing, drinkability was rated fairly well. It’s a very good beer, but it lacks the pumpkin flavor that makes the style popular. As one panelist noted, “if you’re looking for a pumpkin beer, though, this might not be it.”

(Appearance 6., Smell 6.33, Taste 21.83, Aftertaste 14, Drinkability 23.17)

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Tree House Bear

rating_worldclass90 points 

The Latin word for “bear” is “ursa.”  The Tree House word for World Class beer is “Bear.”

Before you assume we’ve completely lost our minds, that opening statement was inspired by a bit on Comedy Central’s now-defunct Jeselnik Offensive with comedian T.J. Miller playing a bear expert.

treehousebearWhat isn’t offensive and yet no less defunct is Tree House’s Bear brown ale. To our knowledge, Tree House no longer brews this fantastic beverage. We’re hoping this review changes that, because to date, it’s our highest rated beer overall.

Looking at Bear, you wouldn’t expect much. Unlike Tree House’s staples, which are canned in professionally screen printed tall boys, our 16-ouncer was in plain aluminum, affixed with a drab, light brown label adorned with a simple, snarling bear’s head.

But like the mighty brown bear, this beer has some claws! Oh my God. Beer claws. Pastries made with beer. Why is this not a thing?

Okay, I’ve strayed way off target. Back to Bear.

Though the can looked somewhat plain, the beer was anything but.

Bear pours a rich mahogany brown color. Its carbonation was light, but enough to produce a nice tan head our panelists loved.

Smell was judged near perfect — a malty aroma laden with strong notes of coffee and hazelnut. One panelist noted that the smell is so good, “you just know the beer is going to taste great.”

And Bear’s taste does not disappoint. Coffee dominates this malty brew, with notable flavors of hazelnut and vanilla. Our panel marveled over the layered flavor, coupled with a smooth, syrupy, coating mouthfeel.

Aftertaste was rated slightly lower than the initial flavor, but still very strong, with a light smokiness developing as the beer trails off. Our panel also detected a slight ashy note, and several panelists said the aftertaste could have been a little stronger — as it tends to fade quickly.

But the light finish made this beer a drinker that was both complex, yet refreshing. Our panelists rated drinkability very high, with several commenting that they could drink this beer frequently.

Frequently? Well, the unfortunate footnote to this story is that since we reviewed our 2015 can or Bear, we have yet to see it again roll off the canning line at Tree House Brewing’s Monson, Massachusetts, brewery.

So please, Tree House, consider reintroducing Bear, sharing with your fans a truly World Class beverage.

We miss it, and its absence is just far too much for us to…well, you know.

(Appearance 9, Smell 9.5, Taste 27.5, Aftertaste 16.5, Drinkability 27)

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Tree House Eureka

rating_verygood77 points

“EUREKA!” is what you might exclaim if you find yourself with a great beer. “Pretty good,” is what you might say if you find yourself with a Tree House Eureka.

Now, I’m not trying to undersell Eureka, because the panel did find it to be a Very Good beer.  Unfortunately for this beer, Tree House’s current belle-of-the-ball status in the beer world has slightly influenced my review.

treehouseeurekaI’m willing to bet that anything you’ve heard about Tree House  has been extremely positive.  Just do a quick search for Tree House Brewing reviews, and you’re sure to see high praise —  like how Tree House is seemingly “killing the beer game.”

All that hype can lead to disappointment if you, like me, tend to take a more cynical stance when you hear about “the best IPA in the country at the moment.”  (That statement not referring to Eureka, per se, but bold nonetheless.)

Don’t get me wrong.  Intentions here at The Basement Beer Tastings are not to severely judge highly-touted brews.  But there is a sense of guilty pleasure in finding fault with something deemed to be the “next big thing.”

Right now, Tree House seems to benefit from their limited-release, wait-in-a-long-line sales model.  With every new body added into that line, Tree House’s cult status grows.

Tree House plans to move into a new, larger facility that will surely accommodate higher quantity productions, and hopefully reduce the wait time for their brews.

I’ve digressed, so now onto Eureka.

With everything that we’d (I’d) heard, we were (I was) expecting most of the Tree House offerings to be in the Excellent and World Class range.

Yes, Eureka is a Very Good beer.  But there are a lot of very good beers out there, most of which don’t require you to wait in a Soviet-era bread line — or to fill out some antiquated ordering sheet to procure.  I mean really…who still uses a pen and paper to order something?

I’m going to stop here.  After proofing this with co-founder Jon Graney, we both decided I was being a little too harsh on Tree House (hence the addition of the parentheses).   They do indeed make Very Good beers, and I was treating them with the type of vitriol we usually reserve for the likes of Shock Top or any beer with Sculpin in the name.

So, if you’ve stuck with the post to this point (and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t), you’re probably wondering what makes Eureka a Very Good selection.

Well, I’ll start by telling you it’s not the appearance.   Panelists were split in their ratings with half finding the appearance to be Belgiany and the other half finding the appearance to be, well, Belgiany.  Tomato, tomato I guess.

(There’s probably a better print analogy I could have used there.)

More universally recognized was the agreeableness of Eureka’s aroma.  Citrusy hops were apparent to all, with some noting enticing grapefruit.  Aroma is the one area where Eureka truly presented itself as a great beer.

The citrus flavors were also of note in the taste, though taste was deemed to be a bit of a letdown by the majority of the panel.  Hops were present, but the taste, overall, was described as light and watery — good but not great.

The beer’s lightness did seem to have a positive impact on aftertaste.  The slightly hoppy aftertaste was deemed pleasant, albeit short-lived… yet again, good but not great.

Noticing a trend?  Clearly you should be able to guess what the panel had to say about drinkability.

Absolutely Eureka is an easy drinker.  Most of the panel thought it to be a fantastic summer beer.  It’s lightness was sure to be thirst-quenching on a hot day.  However, placing a caveat on when we would drink this beer wasn’t helping it earn points.  Drinkability: good but not great.

Yes, perhaps I’m being a tad more critical of Eureka because of all the word-of-mouth hype surrounding Tree House.  Fair?  Probably not, since Tree House is certainly making some very good beers.  But when you’re looking for a “Eureka!” and instead receive a “very good,” you can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

So, while Eureka may not live up to the hype, we’re pretty sure there’s a Tree House brew that’s completely deserving of all the hoopla.

And “bear” in mind, we’ve still got one more review to publish.

(Appearance 5.75, Smell 8.5, Taste 23, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 25)

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Tree House Green

rating_verygood79 points

“Green” is a pretty powerful word. It’s synonymous with making money, being young, or being in tune with the environment.

And while all three accurately describe Tree House Brewing, they took a much more literal approach when naming this hop-heavy IPA. According to its website, “green” described what brewers saw after boiling their initial batch — wort heavily laden with green hop particles.

treehousegreenAfter trying a few of Tree House’s beers, our panel was no longer “green” on rating the offerings of this Monson, Massachusetts, phenom. How would Green stack up with its other fine IPAs?

Green pours a vibrant yellow/orange color (no, not green). It is extremely cloudy and somewhat thick, releasing a bright apricot scent with notes of pine and slight pineapple. Hops are, of course, pronounced…but not overtly so.

Our panelists knew right away this beer was not lacking the ingredients for a heavyweight IPA.

Green has a smooth mouthfeel with some sudsiness and a bit of fizziness. Taste was judged well, with our panel noting the beer’s crispness. Flavors of piney hops, apricot and grapefruit are dominant.

The beer is packed with flavor, but considering how heavy the beer looked and smelled, our panel was pleasantly surprised at how crisp it was.

The panel rated aftertaste fairly well, but felt it was a bit more bitter than it needed to be, with a slightly metallic edge. It certainly doesn’t ruin the experience — this is a solid IPA — but a bit less “bite” at the end would have earned it a few more points.

It certainly didn’t detract from strong points for drinkability from our panel. As mentioned, the beer is a looker, smells great, and is jammed with flavor while maintaining a refreshing crispness.

In summation, I suppose we could close this review with a clever line about Green making other IPAs “green” with envy. Or how this beer proves that Tree House surely isn’t “green” when it comes to brewing craft beer. Or we could tell you that plunking down some “green” to purchase it would be worth your while.

But perhaps it’s best to take the same literal approach Tree House did when they named the beer:

Try Green. It’s a pretty powerful IPA.

(Appearance 6.5, Smell 8.75, Taste 23.75, Aftertaste 14.75, Drinkability 25)

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Tree House Julius

rating_excellent80 points

We started our tour of Tree House Brewing’s beers with Alter Ego, which the Monson, Massachusetts, brewer describes as an altered recipe of its “Julius” IPA.

So it stands to reason that we should continue our tour of Tree House offerings with a review of the original, juicy staple.

treehousejuliusTree House describes their flagship IPA as filled with a variety of tropical and citrus flavors. They go so far as to use the word “melange” on the can. Oooh, fancy!

It sounded fancy, juicy and flavorful…and our panel soon discovered that those weren’t idle claims on the side of the can.

Julius immediately asserts its uniqueness on pour. It’s thick, cloudy and deeply honey-colored — akin to apricot juice. It’s carbonation is best described as a subtle fizziness, generating a low, foamy head. It wasn’t particularly impressive looking in the glass, but certainly not off-putting. Definitely intriguing.

The strong points of Julius reveal themselves as soon as your nose approaches the glass. The beer has aromas of caramel malt, sweet with definite notes of citrus and hops.

Mouthfeel is full-bodied, falling somewhere between buttery and sudsy. There’s a fair amount of fizziness as its juicy flavor develops. Taste is citrusy and hoppy, balanced with caramel malt notes.

Complex flavor lingers well into the beer’s aftertaste, as flavors of peach and apricot develop. A slight bitterness develops as the flavor quickly drops off, but our panel wasn’t put off by it. In fact, our panelists unanimously praised the consistency of the brew through the entire experience.

Drinkability is where this beer gets some serious points. It was solid through-and-through, and, as one panelist noted, “I could drink this for a LONG time.” It’s a drinker with a great balance between hoppy and juicy.

When we visited Tree House to purchase this beer, we neglected to inquire about the origin of its Julius name. But whether it’s named for 1970s beverage purveyor Orange Julius — or NBA great Julius “Dr. J” Irving — this beer’s bright, citrusy flavor makes choosing it as your next IPA a slam dunk.

I thought that was the perfect way to end this review, but as I read it back, co-founder Mike Festi reminded me that it could also be named for Julius Caesar. So let’s try this one more time:

If you’re planning to purchase Julius as your next IPA, be careful — because if this delicious beer lives up to its namesake, your friends may stab you in the back just to get their hands on one.

“Et tu, Brew-te?”

(Appearance 6.75, Smell 8, Taste 23.5, Aftertaste 16.5, Drinkability 25)

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Tree House Alter Ego

rating_verygood72 points

We all know some famous alter egos. Superman had “Clark Kent.” David Bowie had “Ziggy Stardust.” Andy Kaufman had “Tony Clifton.” Anthony Weiner had “Carlos Danger.” And Jared From Subway has “Colorado Inmate Number A3875559.”

treehousealteregoAs you can see, not all alter egos necessarily represent your better half. We found this to be the case with Tree House Brewing’s Alter Ego.

Don’t get us wrong. It’s a solid brew that we rated “Very Good.” But compared to other Tree House products we sampled, we preferred Alter Ego’s…alternatives.

As the name suggests, Alter Ego is an altered recipe of Tree House’s similar IPA, Julius. And on pour, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish its golden honey-apricot color from its citrusy sister. Our panel liked the hazy appearance and lasting foamy head.

Smell is crisp floral hops with a lighter nose and less citrus overtones than other Tree House offerings. Still, our panelists rated it fairly well.

Alter Ego’s sudsy mouthfeel was welcomed by our panelists’ palates, but the taste that accompanied it was a bit less impressive. Taste is hop-heavy and well-balanced, but with much less citrus flavor than its sibling, Julius.

A bitter, somewhat metallic aftertaste didn’t “wow” our panel either. As a result, drinkability was…decent…but none of the panelists lamented on a particular desire to drink more than one.

That lack of “wow” is Alter Ego’s weak spot. While it’s much better than most IPAs out there, Tree House doesn’t brew “most” IPAs. They brew exceptional IPAs, and I guess we just weren’t expecting an exception.

(Appearance 8, Smell 7.5, Taste 21.25, Aftertaste 13.75, Drinkability 21.25)

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Dogfish Head Theobroma

rating_excellent83 points

Calling Dogfish Head Theobroma “unique” isn’t doing this brew justice. This brew is a head-turner, steeped in an ancient past.

According to Dogfish Head’s website, Theobroma is “based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras that revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink.”

dogfishtheobromaWe call that doing your homework.

Theobroma is a limited edition release from Dogfish Head’s “Ancient Ales” line, and is brewed with cocoa, honey, chilies and annatto. And if you think those ingredients are supporting characters, think again. Each has a starring role in this production.

For a chocolaty beer, you’d expect a dark color, but Theobroma surprised our panel, pouring a bright honey-amber, almost orange color with moderate cloudiness and a fair amount of suspended sediment. Carbonation was low, producing a minimal head.

But what it lacked in suds, it more than made up for in aroma. The panel was impressed by its sweet smell, dominated by sugary floral, chocolate notes. One panelist noted the smell was reminiscent of a Tootsie Roll candy, while others detected overtones of bourbon.

Next up was taste…and this is where I have to invoke personal privilege. The taste of this beer was amazing. I rated it 28 out of 30, and many others on the panel rated in the upper 20s.

However, one — and only one — of our panelists rated the taste under 20 points.  But we suspect that had less to do with the actual taste of the beer, and more with the fact that she (and we kid you not) dunked her nose in the glass and accidentally inhaled the beer when attempting to smell it.

After her coughing fit — and relentless torment from fellow panelists — died down, she couldn’t taste a thing…and rated the beer’s taste lower than anyone else on the panel.

Hey, it’s not the beer’s fault you don’t know how to drink, you rookie.

Anyway, the rest of us loved the complex flavor dominated by honey and chocolate — truly intense flavors that were further enhanced by a mouthfeel perfectly balanced between syrupy and sudsy. Panelists also picked up notes of coffee.

Theobroma continued to impress on aftertaste, earning high marks for a finish dominated by a slightly-spicy, peppery flavor imparted by the chilies. The finish was smooth, however, with a warming sensation in the esophagus and a light burn with overtones of bourbon.

This beer has a lot of complexity…from its sweet scent, to its cocoa taste, and its peppery finish. It’s also a very smooth drinker for a 9% ABV heavy hitter. So, as you might imagine, we rated drinkability extremely high.

We were quite impressed with not only Dogfish Head’s creativity and craftsmanship, but with the ancient Hondurans for pairing the flavors together in the first place.

And because Theobroma is so complex, this ancient ale beautifully reintroduces itself with each sip…provided you don’t suck it through your nose like some savage.

(Appearance 7.71, Smell 8.43, Taste 24.57, Aftertaste 18, Drinkability 24.57)

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