Category Archives: Brown Ale

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.

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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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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Black Hog Granola Brown Ale

rating_verygood77 points

If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, there was a funny scene where Stanley and Helen Roper were arguing about Stanley brewing beer in their apartment. He persuades her to try his home brew.

blackhoggranolabrownShe asks, “Stanley, what are these things floating around in your beer?”

“They’re hops, Helen,” Stanley barks back.

Helen replies, “Okay, then…what are these things hopping around in your beer?!”

Ah, classic Three’s Company. That skit came to mind when I first pick up a can of Black Hog’s Granola Brown Ale and read that it’s brewed with a mix of grains and oats they call “granola.”

“Oh, am I going to have to chew this beer like Helen Roper?” I asked myself.

Obviously I knew that probably wouldn’t be the case, but the bearded hiking hippy on the label had me wondering if our panel was about to endure the liquid equivalent of Nature Valley bars.

Our panel discovered that, contrary to its earthy-crunchy facade, Granola Brown is quite smooth and drinkable.

Black Hog Brewing Co. hails from Oxford, Connecticut — only about an hour from our tasting room. Its Granola Brown Ale has an ABV of 5.7% and is marketed in a distinct teal can with a hog on the can’s black tab.

Granola Brown pours somewhat thick, with a beautiful deep mahogany color. The panel gave it high marks for producing an ample foamy head that sticks around for a while, lacing the glass with its remnants.

Smell was also judged well, with our panelists noting a dominant aroma of coffee with overtones of chocolate and a light floral note.

The beer’s heavy appearance and aromatic nature led our panelists to believe it would be a heavy drinker, but we were pleasantly surprised to find it medium-bodied with a pronounced malt character.

An initial malty sweetness with flavors of coffee, smoke and a touch of hazelnut pleased the panel. One of our 11 panelists found the taste a bit too bitter, but the rest found it had the right balance of bitterness.

Granola Brown has moderate carbonation, and mouthfeel is slick-but-not-coating, with a slight fizziness on the tongue.

Aftertaste was judged well. Hops that aren’t present in the initial taste show up as the beer trails off. The coffee flavor remains in the aftertaste, becoming a bit more bitter and ashy on finish — a characteristic that split views among a few of the panelists.

Drinkability was rated fairly well. Most panelists enjoyed the beer enough to want another. But a few noted their comments on bitterness as detracting from drinking more than two in a given night.

But perhaps that’s not a bad thing in this case. Pair yourself with two Granola Brown Ales, and you know what they say…three’s company.

(Appearance 8.6, Smell 8.1, Taste 24, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 21.4)

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Long Trail Harvest

rating_verygood71 points

A lot of changes have been happening at Long Trail in the past year-and-a-half…many of which we’re not particularly fond:

They discontinued Blackbeary Wheat — a perennial favorite of Long Trail fans.

They killed off their lemon-peppery summer kölsch, Ramble, before it made its first birthday.

longtrailharvestAnd they replaced their delicious Belgian White with a watery, lackluster iteration they now call Mostly Cloudy.

So when we spotted their Harvest “barn ale” in a striking new label last year, we decided to put it on our radar for review before Long Trail had a chance to snuff its flame, too.

Harvest is a brown ale, but being that it pours with a strikingly similar appearance to another Vermont specialty, it may as well be called “maple syrup ale.”

The beer is beautiful. It pours with the color of Grade A dark amber maple syrup — and if you’re from New England, you just formed a perfect mental picture of it. Carbonation was average with a light, frothy head.

One panelist joked that it looked like “autumn leaves were steeped in it.” In New England, that’s a compliment.

The aroma of Harvest was also judged well, with most panelists picking up general notes of smoke and coffee, with overtones of maple and hazelnut.

The beer lost points with the panel on taste, however. Most felt that the taste was too watery, and didn’t match the richness of the appearance and smell. They were simply expecting something heavier, and with more pronounced flavor.

Coffee and smoke were the main taste descriptors from our panelists, with most remarking on the associated bitterness those two flavors bring.

Aftertaste was judged better. While the taste wasn’t as heavy or as satisfying as our panelists expected, the beer trailed off rather well, with flavors of smoke, vanilla and mocha left in its wake.

For a fall seasonal — and partially because it was a bit light — drinkability was judged fairly well. But one panelist referred to his notes on taste and said, “It’s light…but there’s not much point to drinking it.”

So Long Trail’s Harvest is a decent fall seasonal that looks fantastic, smells great, and is pretty easy to down…as long as you’re okay with trading off expectations of outstanding flavor.

Maybe we’ve just soured too much after losing those now-defunct Long Trail favorites. You know, soured…like the tartness of a fresh blackberry…oh for crying out loud, Long Trail, would you PLEASE bring back our Blackbeary Wheat?!

(Appearance 8.67, Smell 7.33, Taste 20.5, Aftertaste 14.83, Drinkability 20)

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