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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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Harpoon Czernobog

85 points

rating_excellentLast summer, I had a palate-altering experience when I tasted Harpoon’s Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Czernobog.  I was so impressed by this beer that I penned an open letter to Harpoon imploring them to make this gem a wide-scale release and not just a one-time brewery exclusive.

harpoonczernobogAlas, that request has not been fulfilled by Harpoon.  An utter shame, in my opinion, as the world needs to experience Barrel Aged Czernobog.  I’m not going to suggest this delicious beer could bring about world peace, but maybe….

To somewhat tide us over until the brain trust at Harpoon comes to their senses, the panel decided to taste the non-barrel-aged version of Czernobog — a Russian Imperial Stout that did achieve greatness, but won’t bring about world peace like a maple bourbon barrel aged varietal might.

Appearance was nearly a unanimous 10.  One panelist downgraded the beer a point for…well, God only knows what reason.  Considering his comments, “Nice solid black color, good head stays for awhile, nice lacing,” this panelist praised appearance more than any of the others that rated it a 10.  Sometimes I don’t even think Rick knows what’s going on in his own mind.

Smell was also highly rated with only one member of the panel differing greatly from the rest.  I’m pretty sure you can figure out who that was.  Chocolate was most commonly noted, as well as smoke and cherry.  The Negative Nigel thought the smell wasn’t strong enough to receive high marks.

The mouthfeel of Czernobog was both creamy and syrupy.  The syrupy characteristic left many panelists noted a coating in their mouths after drinking.  That could be why mouthfeel averaged out to be great, but not phenomenal.

Taste also received some very high scores.  Cherry was most predominant, but the panel also noticed scotch and smoke.  The scotch flavor is what led two panelists to lower their taste ratings because they felt the beer was a bit medicinal.  In hindsight, though, that could have been the cherry since the scotch was greatly enjoyed on the aftertaste.  One panelist felt that the aftertaste didn’t linger long enough.

Overall, each panelist could easily see themselves enjoying a glass of Czernobog — whether it be in front of a roaring fire or lounging in a comfy chair.  The only problem was for those on the panel who had enjoyed the barrel-aged version. Czernobog was excellent, but it was no substitute for it’s world class sister incarnation.

The dream still lives on that the  decision makers at Harpoon will realize the error in their ways and release Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Czernobog for the masses.  Until that day comes, though, we’ll just have to make do with an “Excellent” rated  imperial stout…and live like a bunch of savages.

(Appearance 9.8, Smell 9.2, Mouthfeel 4, Taste 21, Aftertaste 16.2, Drinkability 24.8)
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Foolproof Revery

rating_excellent86 points

Just north of Providence, on the banks of the Blackstone River, sits Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And unless you follow the Boston Red Sox’ farm system — or fancy textile manufacturing history in the Industrial Revolution — you may have never heard of this small city in the smallest state in the U.S.

foolproofreveryBut Foolproof Brewing Company may put Pawtucket back on the map as part of the craft brewing revolution, because our panelists discovered a stunning Russian imperial stout with their name on it: Foolproof Revery.

What first struck our panelists was the design of their 12-ounce can, a black-and-white design in translucent shrink-wrapped plastic over gleaming silver aluminum. This makes for a subtle black-and-silver backdrop of library books around the entire can.

The appearance continued to “wow” our panel on pour — deep black with the slightest reddish tint and a thin, tight head. This beer rated near-perfect for appearance.

Smell also garnered nearly flawless scores. Revery smells sweet and malty, with huge scents of dark chocolate and light notes of coffee and a hint of smoke.

Mouthfeel is slightly syrupy with a bit of fizziness, but very smooth. Revery impressed our panelists with its caramelized malty character highlighted by flavors of molasses, and light notes of chocolate with a slightly smoky finish. There’s also a light, pleasing estery character to the beer.

Smoke lingers into the aftertaste, with a slight bitterness and a light sourness. While our panel agreed the sourness was the beer’s least-impressive characteristic, it didn’t sway the panelists from rating this an overall outstanding beer.

Revery received high marks from our panelists on drinkability, as the beer was a long sipper, perfect for sitting around a campfire or to warm the soul on a cold winter’s night. But it’s also full-bodied, filling, and packed with an impressive 9% ABV. So after one or two, you may feel like it’s time for bed.

So while Foolproof puts Pawtucket back on the map, navigate to a store that sells Revery, because as far as Russian imperial stouts go, this Rhode Island native is nearly….foolproof.

(Appearance 9.6, Smell 9.8, Mouthfeel 3.8, Taste 21.6, Aftertaste 16.2, Drinkability 24.8)

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Opa Opa Coconut & Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

exclusive


rating_basement45 points

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

That was the typical reaction after the panel tasted Opa Opa’s ridiculously long titled “Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged).”

Okay, I may be exaggerating our reaction slightly to draw the readers in…much in the same way Opa Opa seemingly exaggerated with its promise of coconut, hazelnut, bourbon…and, well, stout.

In all opaopacoconuthazelnuthonesty, we should have clued in to the palate disaster waiting for us from the extremely small font used on the label to note the bourbon barrel aging of the beer.

If I were a brewer, anything I barrel-aged would most certainly be proclaimed loudly and proudly on the packaging.  Designating such small font doesn’t give justice to the time intensive process of barrel aging.

However,  after tasting this beer, we understood why such a nondescript font size was utilized.  Not one panelist noted the word bourbon on their tasting sheet.  So absent was bourbon from this brew that the word wasn’t even used to note the nonexistence of its flavor.

If we had to guess, the barrel aging process probably involved placing the pre-bottled beer next to a bourbon barrel and hoping the essence would soak in due to proximity…similar to the way The Basement Beer Tastings hopes to soak in readers due to our search engine proximity to more highly touted beer review websites.  Alas in both cases, it’s not happening.

Since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag about the beer’s taste, I might as well continue with the savory descriptors the panelists used in describing CHIS’s flavor.  (Yup, I’m referring to this as CHIS because having to write “Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout” multiple times is just going to infuriate me.)

Sour, bitter and chemical burn were the highlights of the panelists’ views on taste.  Even the mouthfeel was rather lackluster, with most finding CHIS to be fizzy, light, and watery.

As bad as that seems, it doesn’t compare to the fact that the most common word used to describe the smell was “paint.”  More specifically, latex paint.  On the other hand, at least no one described the smell as lead paint.

Aftertaste was the one area where a scant trace of CHIS’s namesake appeared.  Some panelists were able to detect very light coconut, though it wasn’t enough to redeem the brew or change the harsh opinions that were being formed.  As such, drinkability did not turn out favorably.

Now, observant reader, you may have noticed that appearance has yet to be discussed.  That’s because I’ve decided to save the best for last.  Literally.

The best part of this beer was the appearance, with the panel noting its dark color, reddish hues and carbonation.  And while it didn’t stack up to the appearance of most of the other evening’s selections, we can’t say that CHIS is all bad.

Actually, as our current lowest rated imperial stout, I’m going to say exactly that.  Opa Opa Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) is all bad.

Perhaps in addition to the small font size, Opa Opa might consider adding an asterisk to their labeling.  At least that way consumers will be properly warned about the contents within.

(Appearance 8.2, Smell 4.2, Mouthfeel 2, Taste 11.4, Aftertaste 9, Drinkability 10.6)

Continue reading Opa Opa Coconut & Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

Imperial Stout Night

What type of beer do you equate with summer?  If it’s a dark, full-bodied, high ABV brew usually served at a temperature between 55 and 60 degrees, then you’re probably one of our panelists.  I’m looking in your direction, Bob Bowden.

imperialstoutnightSurprise!  We’re kicking off summer with a  slate of reviews for Imperial Stouts — some Russian, some barrel-aged, and all packing enough alcoholic punch to remind us that there’s a reason the tasting glasses hold only four ounces.

Madness?  Indeed.  But we’re thinking these reviews might help transport our readers to a cooler season…to a time when sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with a smooth-sipping, heavy brew was the highlight of the day.

Also, being the ever-observant reader that you are, you’ll notice our tastings ratings now take into consideration “mouthfeel.”

Mouthfeel — literally the sensation of how the beer feels in your mouth — is judged on a five-point scale, lowering the taste score from 30 points to 25. We stand by our ratings completed prior to this change, because we had been informally taking mouthfeel into account in our Taste scores.

I’m clearly missing an opportunity to say something sophomoric about mouthfeel…but hey, some comments need to be reserved for the tasting room.

So, find a nice air conditioned space, turn on the Fireplace Channel, and cozy up with our imperial stout reviews.  Just remember not to turn that air conditioner too low…you don’t want to cool down that cellar-temperature imperial stout.

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)

Continue reading Tree House Eureka

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)

Continue reading Tree House Green

Thoughtful reviews for the modern beer drinker.