Category Archives: Shandy

Jack-O Traveler

rating_verygood78 points

If you’re a fan of candy-like pumpkin flavors, but not particularly a fan of beer, then holy crap do we have the beverage for you!

Meet Jack-O Traveler, a pumpkin shandy exploding with pumpkin, cinnamon and sugary caramel.

travelerjackoJack-O pours a cloudy reddish amber color, which our panel rated fairly well. It resembles a glass of juice more than a glass of beer, but considering shandies contain a fair amount of juice, that’s to be expected.

The aroma of the brew is spectacular, with pungent aromas of pumpkin, caramel, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.

We put this one to the test of an 11-person panel, since shandies are perceived as a love-them-or-hate-them niche.

travelerjacko2But our panel overall responded very favorably to the juicy, sweet taste of Jack-O. Pumpkin pie spice — cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice — dominate the flavor.  Mouthfeel was somewhat juicy with a fizziness that most panelists enjoyed, though a couple noted the beer seemed somewhat watery.

The pumpkin flavor and sweetness lingers into the aftertaste, however the taste of beer does not — after all, this is a shandy. The aftertaste is pleasant, but we wish it had more of a wheat beer finish.

A couple of panelists noted that pumpkin pie spice flavor was a bit too sweet and that would probably temper their ability to have more than one or two.

So if you’re not a fan of shandies, you probably aren’t going to be swayed by this brew. However, if you do enjoy the flavors of fall in a glass, then you’ll want to try this one out…because when it comes to pumpkin shandies, no one holds a lantern to Jack-O.

(Appearance 8.3, Smell 8.6, Taste 23., Aftertaste 15.4, Drinkability 22.4)

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Curious Traveler

rating_excellent81 points

The Basement Beer Tastings has had The Traveler Beer Company on our radar for quite some time now.  And no, it’s not just because we’re suckers for an old-timey mustache.

We rated their Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy offering a Very Good at our Winter Beers themed tasting.  Their Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Shandy also received a Very Good rating at our Irish Beers tasting (despite not fitting the theme, two panelists felt they couldn’t wait to rate it) .   And in a few months time, we’ll be rating their Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy which we’re pretty sure will rank high on the Master List.

curioustravelerDespite our experience with the company’s brews, none of the panel had tried Curious Traveler Lemon Shandy.   So, suffice it to say, we were a tad excited to rate Traveler’s flagship brew.

Curious Traveler’s appearance was deemed very nice.  Panelists described it as having a “Belgian look” with “yellowish/orange” coloring.   A decent, foamy white head was also appreciated.

Smell was exactly what one should expect, lemons.  This aroma wasn’t overpowering, though.  One panelist even found it to be reminiscent of Pledge cleaning products; and yes, that panelist meant that comparison as a positive.

The sweet lemon smell had the panel anxious to discover what the carry over would be to the taste.  Many were anticipating that the lemony sweetness might just be a bit too strong.

In all actuality, comments from the panel found the lemon and beer to be a well balanced combination.  More so than in other Traveler shandies we’ve tasted, the fruit was found to be a lighter accent to the beer.  The lemon taste was still deemed to be sweet, but some panelists felt it was missing the “wow” factor that’s present in other Traveler offerings.

Lemon remained on the aftertaste, trailing off slightly.  “Refreshing” was frequently used to describe the lingering impressions of Curious Traveler.

Based on the panelists ease in reaching the end of their tasting glasses, the beer received strong drinkability ratings.  One panelist thought they may become tired of the lemony sweetness, even though they had initially liked it.

With an overall rating of Excellent, it’s clear to see why Curious Traveler was a brew universally enjoyed by the panel.  Based on our experience with their tasty offerings, if it’s not already, The Traveler Beer Company is definitely one you should be adding to your radar.

(Appearance 7.8, Smell 8.4, Taste 23.8, Aftertaste 16.4, Drinkability 24.4)

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Harpoon UFO Big Squeeze

rating_excellent80 points

Who hasn’t sat at their breakfast table, greeting the day with a glass of fresh grapefruit juice, and thought, “You know what would make this juice even better? Beer.”

Okay, none of us have.

But lucky for us, the folks at Harpoon not only thought of it, but successfully married the two and sold us on the notion that somehow these dissimilar liquids belong in the same bottle.

ufobigsqueezeTruth be told, a few of our panelists discovered Harpoon UFO Big Squeeze last year, in 2014, during its inaugural run. And we fell in love with this juicy summer drinker right away.

Two of our panelists, on a tour of Harpoon in late 2014, talked with the Windsor, Vermont, brewers about it, and told them, “We drank way too much of that this summer.”

Their reply? “You think YOU did? You should have seen us!”

We assume they were talking strictly from a quality control perspective, of course.

Despite our prior knowledge of this shandy — and the fuzzy memories of rounds of golf we evidently attempted to play while consuming it — we decided to put it to the full panel and give it a thorough and objective review.

On pour, Big Squeeze appears an attractive cloudy pinkish-orange akin to ruby red grapefruit juice, well carbonated but lacking a notable head. Some of our panelists likened it more to a bellini than a beer.

The panel found the smell inviting and clean, with a distinct yet light grapefruit scent.

Taste was also judged very high, with all the panelists noting the huge juice profile — tart, sweet and refreshing with a “fizziness” in the mouthfeel from the lively carbonation.

Aftertaste was also judged fairly well, as the beer trails off with a thirst-quenching tartness. The drawback here, for some of our panelists though, was that Big Squeeze lacked any notable “beer” taste in the aftertaste. It simply tasted more like juice than beer.

Drinkability, as you’d imagine for a 4.5% ABV summer beverage, was fairly high, especially noting the prevalence of citrus. However drinkability scores were tempered slightly by our panelists, some of whom said the lack of notable beer taste might keep them from having more than one.

If there’s a downside to this brew, it’s this:  if you’re a fan of big, hoppy, malty or yeasty beers, you’re probably not going to seek this out. After all, it’s a juicy shandy with a low alcohol content meant to quench a specific thirst on the hot days of summer.

But if you’re looking for a light refresher with big juice character the next time you hit the links for a round of golf, this might be just the beer for you.

It was for us last summer…or so we’re told.

(Appearance 8.4, Smell 8., Taste 26., Aftertaste 14.6, Drinkability 23.4)

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Samuel Adams Porch Rocker

rating_excellent80 points

Noted patriot Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was known to be a brewer of malted beverages.

So we can only imagine that as a small child, Sam Adams’ lemonade stand may well have served Porch Rocker lemon shandy.

samadamsporchrockerOkay, that may be a little far fetched. But it’s no farther fetched than literally repainting the revolutionary patriot as not only a master brewer, but one that looks remarkably like Paul Revere…not Sam Adams.

So there’s obviously some creative license being taken here,  but when you’re mixing lemonade with your beer, perhaps that’s allowable.

But where did this patriotic, historically nostalgic American beer company come up with the idea for mixing juice with their lager? Not surprisingly, they got it from the…Germans?!?!

Shandies — also known as radlers — are a refreshing mix of juice and beer attributed to early 1900s German origin.

Sam Adams Porch Rocker is the Boston Beer Company’s take on a German radler, and The Basement Beer Tastings panel found it a solid interpretation.

Porch Rocker has an unremarkable appearance with no head and a clear deep golden color reminiscent of apple juice. But its lively carbonation gives off a notable scent of lemon.

The panel rated taste high, overwhelmingly enjoying the tartness of lemon with a hint of smooth vanilla. It’s less sweet than many shandies, which our panelists prefered.

Aftertaste was judged a bit lower, with most panelists noting the taste flattens out and drops away a little too quickly.

If you’re a fan of bready, malty beers — or bold, hoppy pale ales — you may not enjoy the taste.  For this beer is aimed at being a light, thirst-quenching summer drinker.

As a result, the panel gave it high drinkability scores. As one panelist noted, “Very easy to drink and leave a trail of empties in your wake.”

Porch Rocker isn’t a beer to save for those cold winter nights, but it’s definitely one Sam Adams himself would be happy to see you down on a midsummer’s night, or working up a sweat on a midnight ride. Oh, wait. That’s Paul Revere.

(Appearance 6.67, Smell 7.5, Taste 25.33, Aftertaste 14.5, Drinkability 25.5)

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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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