Category Archives: Wheat Ale

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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Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat

rating_basement16 points

Sometimes when we sit down to write these reviews for you, we stare at the screen and wonder just where to begin. How best do we sum up a beer-drinking experience in written words?  How can we capture all the nuances for our readers?

shocktopbourbonUsually the struggle faces us most on beers we love — beers that knocked our socks off, yet we need to temper our enthusiasm and approach our review more scientifically.

This is not one of those times. In fact, we’re not going to even try to temper our feelings on this one.

This beer is quite possibly the most disgusting beverage ever concocted. If you see this beer anywhere, not only should you not drink it, but you should get in your car and drive as far away from that location as possible for the safety of your taste buds.

This….stuff (I hesitate to refer to it as “beer”)…pours like salad dressing, with all sorts of crap floating in it. We’re assuming it’s yeast, though it may as well be sea monkeys or overcooked ramen noodles, because it immediately turned off our panelists, who panned its appearance.

And as it turned out, much to the chagrin of our panel, appearance was its high mark.

The smell was off-putting, with most panelists noting overtones of fake movie theater popcorn butter. But that wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the flavor. In fact, the taste was so hideous, we’re not even going to bother trying to explain it.

Instead, you can read the hilarious, unedited comments our panelists wrote on their scoresheets:

“This is the worst beverage I’ve ever tasted.”

“I’m glad there are zero traces of bourbon it in, because that would have been a huge waste of good bourbon.”

“Melted Chap Stick flavor…waxy, thick mouthfeel with no bourbon whatsoever…just terrible.”

“They should call this Honey Bourbon Casket Wheat, because it deserves to be in the ground.”

“The aftertaste is the only good part, because you know it’s over. I drank more only because I couldn’t believe my own taste buds.”

As you’ll see by the detailed scores below, not a single category received an aggregate score in double-digits, currently making Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat our lowest-rated beer ever.

Now…I know what you’re thinking, “Something rated this poorly, and with a review so brutally negative? Maybe I need to try this for myself.”

We can not caution you enough on what a huge mistake that would be, so please strongly consider the final words of one of our panelists…

“If someone hands this to me, I am throwing it to the floor.”

(Appearance 5, Smell 3, Taste 3.67, Aftertaste 2.83, Drinkability 1.17)

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Illusive Traveler

rating_verygood78 points

The Basement Beer Tastings panel ended its Irish beer themed tasting with Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Ale. No, they aren’t growing grapefruits in Ireland. The panel just decided to have some fun with this offering from Traveler Beer Co. of Vermont.

illusiveThe panel was stunned by the huge citrus aroma of this pale orange-brown shandy, giving it near perfect scores for smell, and likening its aroma to a scented candle or body wash.

Illusive also impressed on taste, with a refreshing, tart and juicy flavor with fizzy soda-like carbonation. A brew this light and refreshing, as you’d guess, gets huge points for drinkability. You could drink this wheat ale anytime — maybe not for breakfast as one panelist suggested — but you get the idea.

Illusive wasn’t without its drawbacks, however. The biggest criticism by the panel is that it was so light and juicy, it was missing any notable beer flavor. One panelist noted, “I like it, but where’s the beer?”

The aftertaste of the brew was generally light and acceptable, though some panelists found the grapefruit taste left a bit of bitterness behind. Overall, though, a solid offering as the warm weather approaches.

Product note:  Traveler recently changed the name of the beer from “shandy” to “grapefruit ale.” The change appears to be marketing only, as the product inside appears to remain unchanged.

(Appearance 6.5, Smell 9.67, Taste 24.67, Aftertaste 15.5, Drinkability 21.5)

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Tasting Notes – Winter Beers


The panel, for its January theme Basement Beer Tasting, tackled six winter seasonals. Caramel and smoke dominate taste among brews released for winter — with one notable exception.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla, Bob Bowden

Tasting Notes

rating_excellentCaptain Lawrence Frost Monster . . . 83 points
This imperial stout from Elmsford, NY, boasts a ton of malt and a whopping 12% ABV. The panel thought it was a spectacular brew, with a gorgeous appearance and a sweet, smooth, smoky taste. But the consensus was also this was a one-and-done “showcase” beer  — a beer you could use to impress friends; not a beer you could drink all night. The label itself is worth a trip to the package store.
Appearance 9.75, Smell 7.75, Taste 26, Aftertaste 18.25, Drinkability 20.75

Brooklyn Winter Ale . . . 79 points
Another New York offering, this time a Scottish ale. This underrated beer impressed the panel with a light, toasty caramel taste and outstanding drinkability. Its aroma was light, being malty and not hoppy. But the panelists agreed this was a winter beer that could be enjoyed, one after another.
Appearance 8.75, Smell 5, Taste 24, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 25

Traveler Jolly Shandy . . . 76 points
The Traveler Beer Co. is headquartered in Vermont, but contract brews through a famous company in Boston. This identity crisis extends also to its Jolly Shandy. The panel loved this wheat ale, but agreed that this should be offered as a summer beer — not in the dead of winter. The juicy, fizzy ale is a refreshing blend of orange and pomegranate, and with a low 4.4% ABV, it’s a drinker.
Appearance 7, Smell 6.75, Taste 23.25, Aftertaste 15.75, Drinkability 23

Berkshire Brewing Co. Cabin Fever Ale . . . 73 points
This English pale ale was rich with caramel and smoky taste. But the panel was divided on whether they would want to drink it all night long. Some found the aftertaste bitter, while others judged it as light and rich with caramel. But overall, Cabin Fever was judged to be a smooth and enjoyable winter seasonal.
Appearance 8.5, Smell 5.5, Taste 22.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 21

Anchor Winter Wheat . . . 68 points
Wheat beers are traditionally light, so when the panel poured this black brew into a glass, appearance marks shot through the roof. But the overwhelming sweet taste of malt and wheat took over. The panel noted bread-like toasty, chocolaty and slightly smoky taste. Anchor Brewing released this as a new beer in 2014, and while it certainly wasn’t bad, it needs taming.
Appearance 7.75, Smell 6, Taste 19.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 20.25

Harpoon UFO Gingerland . . . 61 points
The panelists approached this unfiltered wheat beer with intrigue, but quickly found that it was a rare swing-and-a-miss from Harpoon Brewery. While it definitely had strong gingerbread overtones, the panel felt that it needed a sweetener to balance the ginger bite. It certainly wasn’t offensive, but it’s a beer you’ll get sick of before you even finish the bottle. This was another new offering for 2014, so perhaps Harpoon can tame it for next year…or shelf it.
Appearance 6.5, Smell 7.25, Taste 15.75, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 18

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