Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin Jack India Pumpkin Ale – Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 6.5% ABV

Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin Jack India Pumpkin Ale Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 6.5% ABV (C$7.50 at Sundance Wine Market, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Appearance: clear deep amber, one fat finger of rocky ivory head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (3/5) Aroma: citrus, pine, pale and caramel malts, faint vegetal pumpkin and spices, nutty, grassy and earthy. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderately strong bitter. (7/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry building bitter finish. (4/5)

Much more of an IPA than a pumpkin beer – lots of citrus and piney hops, with only faint vegetal pumpkin and spices in the background. I probably like this more than a lot of pumpkin beers for that very reason, but if the point is a pumpkin beer, it’s kind of missing that boat. I’m going to split the difference there, and grade this as a fairly unremarkable IPA. (And seriously? Am I rating the same beer as everybody else on ratebeer? People are going on about the pumpkin and spices, but for me they’re way, way back in the cheap seats. And pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, and all that jazz generally don’t fade as fast as hops do, so I’m confused. Oh, well – normal state of being for me, I guess.) (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Fernie Brewing Company Pumpkin Head – Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 5% ABV

Fernie Brewing Company Pumpkin Head Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 5% ABV (C$6.79 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, best before 1-Mar-2016)

Appearance: clear brown, one finger of fine light tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (3/5) Aroma: vegetal pumpkin, spices, caramel malt, nutty, grassy and earthy. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter, very mild tart. (7/10) Medium body tending to watery, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly spicy finish. (3/5)

Smells reasonably good – vegetal pumpkin leading, backed up by the standard pumpkin spices. It actually tastes a little better than it smells – less pumpkin-y, more brown ale. (It actually tastes not completely dissimilar to their Hot Saw Brown, to my mind.) And no, I don’t mean that the less a pumpkin beer tastes like a pumpkin beer, the better. I just mean I like the tastes a little more than the smell. Ultimately, though, it comes across as a little weak and watery (like so many brown ales do, in my experience) – could do with a little more flavour and a little more body to carry it. Pretty easy-drinking, though. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Waterloo Brewing Co. Roggenbier – Smoked Beer at 5.3% ABV

Waterloo Brewing Co. Roggenbier Smoked Beer at 5.3% ABV (C$3.46 at NLC Stavanger, 473 ml, no packaging date or best before)

Appearance: clear amber-brown, one finger of loose light tan head diminishing gradually to a medium cap, patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: smoke, caramel, dark fruit, wood and earth. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-low bitter. (7/10) Medium-light body, lively to moderate carbonation, lingering smoky bitter finish. (3/5)

Actually, surprisingly easy drinking. The applewood smoke is quite restrained, and there are interesting notes of caramel and fruit. I wasn’t expecting much, but this is actually OK. (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Clown Shoes Beer The Peace Money Can’t Buy – Abt / Quadrupel at 11.5% ABV

Clown Shoes Beer The Peace Money Can’t Buy Abt / Quadrupel at 11.5% ABV (C$13.62 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, bottle date 18-Dec-2014)

Appearance: clear amber-brown, one finger of light tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, no lacing. (4/5) Aroma: bourbon, dark fruit, stone fruit, vinous, vinegar, cloves. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, mild bitter, mild tart. (7/10) Medium body, lively to moderate carbonation, drying lightly tart finish. (3/5)

Not entirely sure what I was expecting here, but this wasn’t it. Though, perhaps in retrospect, it should have been: the fact that it’s a quadrupel indicates the dark fruit and sweetness are to be expected, and the label tells you it’s bourbon barrel-aged. I guess the combination of the lighter-than-expected body and the livelier-than-expected carbonation make this feel like a much lighter beer, while the intense bourbon edge is more in keeping with the high ABV, so it’s a bit of a study in contradictions. Not an unqualified success – it still feels hot to me at nearly a year old, and the flavours still tend a bit to the harsh – but interesting. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Tree Brewing Co. Captivator – Doppelbock at 8% ABV

Tree Brewing Co. Captivator Doppelbock at 8% ABV (C$6.99 at South Trail Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Appearance: clear amber, short light tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: molasses, dark fruit, caramel/toffee, mild nutty, light chocolate. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, mild bitter, mild tart. (7/10) Medium body, lively to moderate carbonation, drying lightly astringent warming finish. (3/5)

A cool enough October day to justify something a little darker – there was, after all, frost on the windshield for hockey practice at six this morning! Not a bad version of the style, although both the head and the body are somewhat less than indicated in the guidelines. Pretty similar to Celebrator, actually, if slightly lighter – so I’m guessing the name similarity isn’t accidental… However, it manages to pull off a higher ABV despite the lighter flavour, so kudos for that. It doesn’t really improve by warming, though, so unless warm watery molasses is your thing, don’t take too much time with this one. (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale – Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 5% ABV

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 5% ABV (C$6.11 at NLC Stavanger, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before)

Appearance: clear medium amber, short light tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: pumpkin, spices, maple sweet. (6/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, mild bitter, mild peppery spice. (5/10) Medium body tending a little to the watery, lively to moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly spicy finish. (3/5)

Generally, pumpkin beers are to beer as Pumpkin Spice Latté is to coffee – which is to say, if it’s your particular secret shame, perhaps you enjoy it more than is seemly, but otherwise you quite rightly treat it as the abortion it is. Given that this is in fact my attitude, one might wonder at the fact that this is the first of no fewer than six pumpkin beers currently residing in my cellar. Rest assured, however, that there is a very simple explanation: you see, I’m an idiot. With that bookkeeping out of the way, I can report that this is a fairly “pumpkin-y” example of the style (that is, the flavours include not just spices, but actual pumpkin), not too sweet, and moderately good-looking though lacking any kind of head or lacing – and further to the down side, it could stand to be spicier, with more body. Ultimately pretty boring, though not actually offensive. (11/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

YellowBelly Brewery Deep South – American IPA at 6% ABV

YellowBelly Brewery Deep South American IPA at 6% ABV (C$9.34 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 1 l, best before 27-Nov-2015)

Appearance: clear pale amber with two fingers of fluffy ivory head, excellent retention and lacing. (5/5) Aroma: tropical fruit, citrus, resiny pine, pale malt, light catty. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter finish. (3/5)

Overall a very nice A/IPA: lots of bright fruit and resiny flavour on the nose, and a nice balance of bitter and supporting malt on the tongue. The finish is slightly less clean than I would like, with a bit of cattiness coming out as the bitterness lingers. All things considered, though, this is a relatively minor sin, and not atypical for a Mosaic bittered brew. I’m not familiar with the other (Pacific Gem) hops, but wasn’t surprised in reading up on them that they’re considered similar to the standard starts-with-C culprits. There’s actually almost a vinous quality as well, that made me wonder if there was any Nelson Sauvin, but that seems not to be the case. I would definitely recommend it, except the brewery no longer has it on tap and I rather suspect I now own one of the very few bottles left in existence… and I ain’t sharing. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Epic Brewing Brainless on Raspberries (Release #38) – Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 9.8% ABV

Epic Brewing Brainless on Raspberries (Release #38) Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 9.8% ABV (C$19.00 at Sherbrooke Liquor, 650 ml, bottle date 7-May-2015)

Appearance: clear ruby red, one finger of fine white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: tart raspberries, pale malt, vinous, light floral. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate tart, mild bitter. (7/10) Light body, lively carbonation, crisp tart finish. (3/5)

Not without its charms, but very much raspberry dominant. There’s a little musty vinous on the nose and towards the end, but for the most part, this is all about raspberry tartness. Which isn’t a criticism, by any means, but it’s definitely a much simpler experience than e.g. a Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. On the other hand, it gives precisely zero indications that it’s almost 10%ABV, so you could give it to the kids and claim it’s raspberry soda, if you wanted a night of peace and quiet… (Disclaimer: I’m not advocating drugging your children. I haven’t gotten to that point. Yet.) (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Epic Brewing Brainless on Peaches (Release #64) – Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 10.1% ABV

Epic Brewing Brainless on Peaches (Release #64) Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 10.1% ABV (C$19.00 at Sherbrooke Liquor, 650 ml, bottle date 8-Jun-2015)

Appearance: clear medium gold, one finger of rocky white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: peaches, white grape, oak, Belgian yeast, earth. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter, moderate tart. (7/10) Medium-light body, lively carbonation, drying tart finish. (3/5)

The peaches are not as emphatic as one might expect. In fact, I’m finding just as much vinous grape and oak character as peach, presumably due to the chardonnay barrel aging. That’s not to say the peach is completely absent, and it seems to grow somewhat as it warms, but it’s certainly more on the subtle side, than overt. That said, it seems like pretty much everything in here gets a bit more complex and interesting as it warms, so be sure not to drink this too cold. The combination of peach fruit flavour and the vinous oak almost makes this taste like a saison, as opposed to a standard BSPA. And it’s much, much better than their cherry. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier – Dortmunder / Export Lager at 4.3% ABV

Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier Dortmunder / Export Lager at 4.3% ABV (C$4.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 500 ml, best before 31-Dec-2015)

Appearance: clear straw, one finger of loose white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: smoke, grainy malt. (6/10) Taste: moderate-low sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Medium-light body, moderate-low carbonation, lingering smoky bitter finish. (3/5)

The smoke is initially somewhat overwhelming, but as the bottle progresses, it becomes less so. Overall, it’s relatively light and easy drinking. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com