Spanish (Iced) Coffee: Mixology Monday LXX

I had this great idea for an inverted cocktail after reading the Mixology Monday announcement.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite the way I’d hoped, but I didn’t have to walk away empty handed.

Putney Farm, the gracious host of this month’s mxmologodecided to challenge everyone with inverting a classic cocktail or at least something to that effect.  Here’s what they said:

A while ago, while researching Julia Child’s recipes, we noticed that she was well-known for enjoying “upside-down” or “inverted” Martinis. This is a version of the classic cocktail that swaps the ratios of gin and vermouth, turning the Martini into something of a “long drink”… We wondered if we could apply the same “inverted” approach to Mixology Monday and, at first, didn’t think it would work. But then we asked ourselves, what does “inverted” really mean? Well, here is the definition, “To turn inside out or upside down; to reverse the position, order, or condition of.” Hmm…it appears that the definition is pretty broad. It seems that “inverted” really just means something “flipped on its head”. And that can mean almost anything, and leaves plenty of room for creativity… You can invert the ratios of spirits, liqueurs or bitters in a cocktail, but we suggest you go beyond that and “invert” whatever you want. Spirits, name, ingredients, proof, color, geography, garnish and glassware are all fair game.  An apéritif made with Navy-Strength booze? Give it a try. A beer-based cocktail that tastes like champagne? Sure. A clear Manhattan? Worth a shot (and good luck with that). The only thing we expect is the unexpected. Have fun.

The Booze

The Booze

I pondered it for a minute and then had the idea of inverting the Spanish Coffee recipe from Huber’s Café in Portland, OR.  I ran across this recipe on the Imbibe website while researching coffee cocktails.  I had been working on cold brewed coffee / tea in cocktails project recently (more on that in a future post.)  Remembering the Spanish Coffee, I decided I would swap out the hot brewed coffee with the cold brewed.  Since the cold brew is concentrated, I figured I could invert the amounts of coffee and rum.  Three ounces of rum is a fair bit and at 151 proof seemed dangerous.  Well, that wouldn’t really stop me, but I had a couple types of rum available in my arsenal, but not 151 so figured I would balance the increased volume with a lower proof spirit aka use what I had.  That and lighting it on fire should allow for a pleasant, but not overly boozy cocktail.  The fireworks, in blue blazer style, would serve several purposes – it would burn off excess alcohol, heat the cold brewed coffee, and be theatrical!  

Putting a Flame to Rum

Putting a Flame to Rum

I started the week before by brewing up some coffee liqueur.  This time, I started by cold brewing a nice medium roasted Guatemalan coffee.  Then, I made a simple syrup with Turbinado sugar.  Once the sugar was all dissolved in the water, I let it simmer for a bit before adding in the coffee concentrate.  Over lowish heat, I reduced the coffee and sugar syrup together by a third to a half careful not to boil or even vigorously simmer the liquid.  Just kept it steaming. Took about an hour.  When it had reached a consistency that I liked, I turned off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.  I then filtered it into a bottle through a fine mesh strainer, added the rum and half of a vanilla bean split lengthwise.  Gave it a little shake and refrigerated it for a week.  This liqueur turned out much better than the last time I made my own.  I do, however, have a few tweaks for next time, but this is not a coffee liqueur post, so, on with the cocktail!

It was all ready to go.  I cold brewed again, this time a natural processed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe bursting with dark berry and chocolate notes.  I had it in a mug with the coffee liqueur.  In the other mug was the 2.5 ounces of Pyrat rum.  The idea was to light the rum on fire and pour it into the coffee/liqueur mixture which would start to burn the rum in the liqueur.  Pour it all back into the other mug and then pour back and forth in a stream of blue flame a couple more times to mix and heat the drink.  Finally, pouring it all into a sugar rimmed glass swirling the burning liquid to lightly caramelize the sugar and then, douse with the curacao.

All Ready to Go

All Ready to Go

Didn’t happen.  Couldn’t get the 80 proof rum to ignite.  Go figure.  Okay well maybe if I added a half ounce of 100 proof Captain Morgan.  Nope.  Still no fire. Okay, okay… What if it was just the 100 proof?  Nothing.  Match after long match.  No fire.  A tiny blue flare up that disappeared before you even realized it happened, sure, but no stream of blueish flaming booze.  Not sure why, at this point.

Well, if it doesn’t want to light on fire, fine.  Spanish coffee is typically served hot so, I’ll invert that and serve it iced.  Take that, amazingly non-flammable alcohol.

Shaken not Flamin'

Shaken not Flamin’

Shaken together with ice those ingredients provided a delicious, frothy cocktail.  One which I would have no issue consuming…I just better not have much planned for the rest of the day.  It was a boozy concoction.   Almost went with that, but there was this nagging.  I knew it could be better.  What if I inverted the inversion?  Bring it back to the original ingredient quantities?  I gave it a go.  It was the weekend so why not.

Spanish (Iced) Coffee

1 ounce Rum (I used Pyrat)

1/2 ounce Curacao

2 ounces Coffee Liqueur

3 ounces Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate (Nat. Ethiopian Yirgacheffee Gelana Abaya)

Fresh grated Nutmeg for garnish

Sugar Rim

Sugar Rim

Shake, with some vigor, the above ingredients together with ice.  Strain into a small snifter glass, run the rim with a bit of lemon and sugar it.

This was better.  This was good.  Less boozy and the coffee came through more.  The shaking helped to create this foaming action that cascaded just like a Guinness.  Much better suited to a breakfast cocktail.

Cascading

Cascading

Garnish with freshly grated Nutmeg.

Garnishing with Nutmeg

Garnishing with Nutmeg

So that’s my Spanish Coffee inverted to become a Spanish Iced Coffee.  Not too shabby.

Spanish Iced Coffee

Spanish Iced Coffee


Pain à l’Ancienne (It’s Bread #5)

Bread #5

Bread #5

My journey into bread baking is far from over.  However, I have come across a recipe and method that has yielded exactly what I have been aiming for up to this point.

Big bubbly crumb – check

Chewy moist interior – check

Crisp and crackly crust – check

Nuanced and deep flavor – check

I shall continue to refine this recipe to my equipment and taste preference.  I will also delve back into the land of wild yeast and sourdough starters.

For now, though, my latest and greatest comes from the venerable Peter Reinhart via his book The Baker’s Apprentice.  It is also, as I’ve come to find out, featured in numerous other posts with slight variations across the blogosphere.  This is a great book providing me with some new and interesting information to take my bread onto the next level.  If you like to bake bread or want to bake bread, I would recommend this book to you.

So here it is:

Pain à l’Ancienne

Flour, Salt, Yeast

Flour, Salt, Yeast

27 oz  Bread Flour (I mistakingly used an Organic All-Purpose flour from the bulk bin at Whole Foods instead.  I really like the flavor of the finished bread so I’ve kept using that flour in place of or for at least half of the called for bread flour.)

.6 oz Kosher Salt

.2 oz Instant Yeast

19-24 oz  Cold Water (I usually use 20 ounces)

The evening before you plan to bake:

Weigh out the water in a quart measuring cup, then add some ice.  8 cubes?

In a medium bowl combine flour, salt, and yeast.  Then, add 20 ounces of water.  Stir it around to combine.  When you’ve got a dough ball of sorts (it is a wet dough), continue to stir/fold for another few minutes.  I think of it as kneading with a spoon.  You’re looking for the dough to more or less easily pull away from the sides of the bowl when you’re stirring it.  It will stick to the bottom.  If the dough is not coming away from the sides add a bit more flour and work it in so that it is a little less sticky.  In the unlikely event that  your dough forms a non-sticky ball that holds its shape really well, add more water, a couple tablespoons at a time.

Spray another medium/large bowl with a cooking spray or rub with a little olive oil.  Transfer the dough to this bowl and spray the top of it or if using oil, you can attempt to roll it around or just not worry about it.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Ready to Refrigerate Over Night

Ready to Refrigerate Over Night

The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator.  It might have puffed slightly.  Let it rest at room temperature for 2-4 hours to take out the chill and allow the dough to swell to about double it’s pre-refrigerated volume.

Ready to proceed to the next step?  Then, position your bread stone and a pan for a steam bath in your oven.  Preheat it to at least 500F, if your oven goes higher then feel free to preheat as hot as 550F.  My oven goes to 525, so that’s where I charge it.

Dough on a Floured Surface

Dough on a Floured Surface

For the shaping, gently turn the dough out onto a well floured surface.  Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and lightly roll it around to coat it thoroughly while trying to degas the dough as little as you can.  Stretch and lightly shape into a rectangle 8 inches x 6 inches.  Using a pastry cutter dipped in cold water, press down into the dough to cut it in half width-wise.  Let the it rest for 5 minutes.

Line the back of a sheet pan with parchment paper sprinkled with semolina flour.

Cutting the Dough

Cutting the Dough

Cover one half loosely with plastic wrap.  With the other half, lightly press it into a rough rectangle of relatively even thickness, cut length-wise into 3 strips with the same pressing down of the wet pastry cutter technique.  Gently transfer the strips onto the parchment stretching/pulling them to about the length of the pan.  If they shrivel back up right away, let them rest for another 5 minutes and pull them out again.  Score the tops of these if the dough cooperates with you.

Stretched and On Parchment

Stretched and On Parchment

After the oven has preheated for at least 45 minutes, slide the parchment off of the sheet pan onto the bread stone.  Add a cup of hot water to the steam bath pan and close up the oven.  3o seconds later spray the walls of the oven with water from a spray bottle.  Do that another two times at 30 second intervals and then lower the heat to 475F.

While those are baking, prepare the other 3 strips using the remaining half of dough.

Check in 8-9 minutes of baking to see if the loaves are browning evenly.  You may want to give them a 180 degree turn.

Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 205F.  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.  Turn the oven back up to 500-550F, let it heat for at least 20 minutes before proceeding with baking the remaining loaves.

Mini Baguettes plus Ciabatta

Mini Baguettes plus Ciabatta

Crumb

Crumb


Shrimp and Goat Cheese Tart

Shrimp and Goat Cheese Tart

Shrimp and Goat Cheese Tart

Our little tart here was inspired by Five and Spice’s beet and fig tart (which we have also made, and it is fantastic as well).  While eating the aforementioned figgy tart, I had this mini revelation:  I love savory tarts!  I also made this unofficial pledge to make and eat more of them.  The crust is the foundation upon which all else is built and Emily (at the above mentioned Five and Spice) rocked out an excellent crust recipe.   From there, you have seemingly infinite topping possibilities.  Granted, one cannot help but mention the odd similarity between the tarts proposed here and my other favorite food – pizza.  Be that as it may, I’ll not be drowning any tart in mozzarella and the two crusts are decidedly different.

These are the Ingredients...minus a thing or two

These are the Ingredients…minus a thing or two

The first savory tart to come of my unofficial pledge was a shrimp and goat cheese tart.  My wife came up with this one, and it was wonderful.  I’ve recreated it below so that we might once again joyously devour it.  When my wife decided to make this tart, we were out of goat cheese.  Unfortunately, the selection of quality cheeses at the nearest grocery store leaves something to be desired, so, we ended up getting a goat cheese that as it turned out was not crumble-able.  This ended up working out rather well since we were able to spread a nice layer onto the crust which had the benefit of allowing the cheese to be more evenly dispersed.  We were also able to avoid the occasional mouth-full of chalky goat cheese from a crumble left a bit too large.  This might not bother everyone, but it was a slight issue I had with the beet and fig edition.  So for this time around, I’m using that cheese again.  Feel free to crumble, if you like.

The quality of the shrimp played a big role, I’m sure.  10/15 count wild caught, flash frozen Gulf Shrimp.  These are very delicious.  A pre-cooked cocktail shrimp is not going to do this justice.  Just sayin’.

Pulse the Butter into the Flour

Pulse the Butter into the Flour

Alright, here’s how you work the crust.

1-1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt

6 T  Butter, Cold (the quality of your butter does matter, particularly with baked goods)

1 T  Distilled White Vinegar

3-4 T  Ice Cold Water

In a food processor, pulse together the flour and the salt.  Remove the butter from the refrigerator and cut into pieces (8-12) and add them to the food processor.  Process until there are no more chunks of butter and the flour reaches a coarse texture similar to corn meal.  With the machine still going, add in the vinegar and then, 1 tablespoon at a time, add the water until the dough comes together and forms a ball.

The Dough Ball has Formed

The Dough Ball has Formed

Remove from the machine and reform it into a ball then press it down to form a thick disc.  Wrap that in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

And that Wraps up the Dough...Ha Ha

And that Wraps up the Dough…Ha Ha

On with the tart:

While the dough is chillin’, we prep the rest, starting with shelling and deveining the shrimp.  Give them a chop, 3-4 bit sizes pieces per shrimp (give or take, our shrimp were very large).

Bacon and Garlic

Bacon and Garlic

9  Shrimp, 10/15 count is what we used

4  Thick Cut slices of Bacon, cut into cubes or small strips

4- 5  Cloves Garlic, roughly minced

2-3 tsp.  Fresh minced Rosemary

2.5 oz  Goat Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Saute the bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon keeping that fatty goodness in the pan.  Turn the heat down slightly, wait a minute, then add the garlic.  Stir it around constantly for 30 seconds to a minute, careful not to let it burn.  Next add the shrimp and rosemary.  Cook for another 30 seconds or so.  We want the shrimp to start taking on a bit of color, but not to fully cook.  Turn off heat and set aside while you proceed with the crust’s next step.

Roll it out

Roll it out

Remove the crust from the frigo.  Roll it out on a lightly floured surface in a rough circular shape to about a 1/4 inch thickness.  You can certainly rustic this up a bit more and decorate it on a baker’s peel and bake it on a pizza stone.  Or use a tart pan like we did.  (Feel free to prick the crust all over with fork, pre-bake for 10 minutes or so, just before it starts to color and then continue.  I didn’t do this this time, but I probably will next time. )

Spread the goat cheese on the dough.  Now, fold over the edges, or roll them if you prefer.

Sprinkle the bacon on top of the cheese and then the shrimp mixture.  Pop it into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (less time if you have pre-baked the crust) until the crust is a nice golden brown.

Ready to Bake

Ready to Bake

Salad Fixin's

Salad Fixin’s

For the salad:

A couple handfuls of Greens: Arugula, Spinach, Mache, Watercress, or a Spring Greens Mix, etc.

Juice of half a Lemon

2-3 Tablespoons  Olive Oil

Pinch of Salt and Pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until somewhat emulsified.

When the tart is done baking, let it cool for a few minutes.  Drizzle a little olive oil on top followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If your balsamic is not a nice and syrupy vinegar, then reduce it down a bit in a small sauce pan.

That's the Balsamic We Used

That’s the Balsamic We Used

Toss the greens in the lemon vinaigrette and arrange on the tart.  It is easier to arrange the greens once you’ve plated the tart.  You could also serve the salad on the side just note that the lemony flavor of the greens adds a brightness to the tart that really ties the whole thing together.

Enjoy!

Encore!

Encore!


Glögg: Mixology Monday LXIX

Each year for the holidays, we select a different country and explore their traditions and perhaps, most importantly their cuisine.  This past season we spent some time with Sweden and made a full on Smorgasbord.  It was hit or miss, but a lot of fun none-the-less.  I actually have started considering a rematch.  Since I now have the framework of tradition under my belt (figuratively and literally), I’ve brainstormed some tweaks and revisions here and there that could really make the various dishes shine.  But that’s another blog altogether.

The Line Up

However, one of the best elements of the dinner was the glögg!  It really hit the spot and went down pretty easy…maybe a bit too easily.  The warm depth of baking spices blended wonderfully with the raisiny and nutty density of the port wine.  The rum and bourbon took the warming quality to the next level.  As the spice aromas filled the house and the light boozy burn warmed us from the inside, we decided that glögg was the perfect foil to the cold snowy night outside our door and would definitely be a tradition that we carry over from year to year.

So when Jordan Devereaux of Chemistry of the Cocktail, this month’s host of Mixology Monday, announced that his theme would be fortified wine, I knew exactly what I would be making.  It was the perfect excuse to make this again.  Here is Jordan”s description of this month’s theme,

Fortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off. Coincidentally, this also made it possible to age those wines for very long periods, increasing their richness and depth.

These wines held an important place in the ur-cocktails of punch and have continued on in cocktails proper, the personal punches of the past several hundred years. Though less common nowadays, sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks.

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I’d like to see what you all can do with these versatile wines. They can play many different roles – from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let’s see what you can put together.

Click here to read the MxMo round up.

Granted glögg is one of those things were you can find seemingly infinite variations.  Everyone of them claiming to be the most authentic recipe that so and so’s Swedish/Norweigen/Danish/Finnish/etc. grandmother/grandfather made and passed down as had been done for generations.  I make no such claim.  I found a couple of recipes that looked decent and co-mingled them to come up with this version.  So here is our recipe: …At least I think this is what I did last time… :-)

All in the Pot

All in the Pot

Glögg (gleug)

1 (750 ml)  bottle Port, Ruby or Tawny (I used the tawny last time and I think I prefer that)

6 oz  Bourbon or Rye

6 oz  Rum

2-3  Cardamom Pods, cracked

1  Cinnamon Stick, cracked in half (or about 2 tsp. Cinnamon Chips)

3-4  Whole Cloves

3 points of a Star Anise

1 small sliver of Ginger

Peel of half a large Orange

1-1/2 oz  Raisins, plus some for garnish

1/2 oz  Almonds, blanched and slivered, plus some for garnish

2 Tablespoons  Turbinado Sugar

Combine everything in a medium saucepan except for the sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the temperature so that only a few bubbles surface at a time.  Let it slow simmer, or just under simmer, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fire!

Fire!

Then light the pot on fire with a match and let it burn for about 30 seconds.  Pour the sugar into the flames.  Woohoo!  Now cover the pot with a lid to put out the fire.  Give it a few good stirs to dissolve the sugar and then return to lid to the pot and let it rest for an hour.

Straining

Straining

Strain out the solids and your ready to go.  Serve warm and garnish, if you like, with some raisins and almonds in the bottom of the glass.  Optionally, you can also add an orange peel garnish.

I think it actually gets better if you allow the glögg to cool completely and then reheat to serve.  It gives the flavors more time to mellow and blend together.

Glögg

Glögg

Enjoy the pleasant burn and keep warm.  Skål!


Colorado Chow

We just picked up our last CSA share from Grant Family Farms [note: this post was started in Nov].  This was our third year as members, and probably the easiest as far as using all of those tasty farm fresh veggies.  Our shares were a little more diverse this year, and I think we’ve just got better at thinking up unique ways of using it all (so as not to get stuck in the ‘sauteed greens’ rut).  However, there are a few veggies that still find us scratching our heads and wondering “How the heck are we going to use all of that?!?”.  Enter, kohlrabi.

kohlrabi and friends

We’re definitely not the first CSA’rs to express kohlrabi distress.  As we scoured the web in search of recipes, we ran into many bloggers talking the same talk.  We’ve tried kohlrabi a lot of ways – roasted, mashed, slawed, etc.  They’re all pretty good, but then we had kohlrabi that really knocked our socks off …Colorado Chow.

While attending an impromptu family/friend get together, I (wifey’s writing the blog today!) was happy to see Anne in attendance.  Not only is Anne a great conversationalist, but she has a wealth of knowledge about cooking and gardening (she owns her own landscaping company, and has beautiful gardens herself).  Well, somehow the conversation turned to chow chow.  Chow chow is a pickled relish (popular in the South, we hear).  It’s usually made with cabbage and a medley of other veggies.  Anne updated the recipe to include habaneros (!) and replaced cabbage with her garden’s abundant kohlrabi.  She also changed the name to reflect the regional shift.  We tried the chow she gave us on brats…..spectacular!  I immediately asked for the recipe.

This was our first go at canning, and I’m happy to say it was successful.  We altered Anne’s recipe a little, including more habanero (!) among other things.  We still have around 20 kohlrabi, I think some more Colorado Chow is in order!

veggie mixture

veggie mixture

Colorado Chow

8 Cups Shredded Kohlrabi

2 Cups Chopped Sweet Onion

1.5 Cups Chopped Red Bell Pepper (we used 1/2 Orange Bell 1/2 Red Bell)

2 Cups Shredded Carrots

7 Large Cloves of Garlic

1/2 Cup Cilantro

5 Habaneros Chopped (we didn’t seed them)

3.5 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar (We used 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar and 1.5 Cups White Vinegar)

2.5 Cups Sugar

1.5 Cups Water

1 Tbsp Mustard Powder

1 Tbsp Celery Seed

3 Tbsp Salt

Combine vinegar, sugar, water, mustard powder, celery seed, and salt in a large pot.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins.  Add remaining ingredients to pot.  Bring to a boil again, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 mins.  Pack in clean 8 oz jars (we used a a few bigger jars as well) and leave 1/2 inch head space before screwing on lids.  Water bath can for 20 mins (for 5000 ft altitude).  Remove jars from bath and allow to cool completely before handling again.  You’ll have to re-process any jars that don’t seal (lids will start making popping sounds when cooling as they form a vacuum.  Lids should seal ‘down’ and not pop back up in center when you push on them).  For more information about canning and preserving, check out Preserving Summer’s Bounty.

049

Colorado Chow in Jars


Happy New Years, People!

Happy New Years!

Happy New Years!

Wishing you all, whoever you are, wherever you are, a most wonderful New Year!  I hope your 2013 is everything you hope it will be!

Tonight we’re jamming out to KEXP‘s end of the year count down and  toasting to the success of future changes and to our continued good fortune.  May many more glasses see their end…

Bollinger Champagne

Bollinger Champagne

Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut Champagne is the sparkling of choice ce soir.

It starts our with bright green apple with some fugi and honey crisp apples mashed into a cider.  It shows more sweetness mid palate with some vanilla and custard notes before drying out with a lemony zip.  The finish, however, lingers with pleasant and soft apricot, almond flavors.  Definitely recommend!   Especially, if you get it on sale like I did…

Cheers!

Cheers!

Cheers!


Pumpkin Beer: A Round Up

I meant to publish this post a month ago, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and finish it up.  However, since, pumpkin pie can be  just as at home on the Christmas dinner table as it is on the Thanksgiving one, I think I can still post this without it being awkward.

Anyhow, I’ve come to the conclusion that pumpkin pie and pumpkin beer are similar in ways beyond just the obvious.

Most people, I think, like the idea of pumpkin pie more than they actually like eating it.  After all, what is a Holiday dinner without one gleaming it’s glossy brown visage amongst the panorama of festive fare.  I like pumpkin pie, but not every pumpkin pie is created equal.  Some are over-baked, use a ready-made filling, have to much “red hot” cinnamon flavor, but really, most pumpkin pie is just kind of blah.  I have had some wonderful pumpkin pies, sweet but not too sweet, spicy  pumpkiny with great custard-like texture and amazing handmade crust holding in all that heirloom-pumpkin goodness.  Unfortunately, that is the exception.

A similar argument can be made for the drinkable version.  I look forward to the yearly release of pumpkin beers as they harold in the autumnal shift.  (But releasing some of them in August, as occurred this year, was a bit premature.)  Here’s the rub, I hesitate to actually buy them. I want to, but I don’t.  Too often they often wind up in a land of potpourri where fake flavor oils run rampant like in a misguided fruit beer.  Because of that, I take the safe route and just purchase something else like the Tumbler (one of my favorite beers) or Celebration by Sierra Nevada.

Like that great pumpkin pie, a great pumpkin beer is also possible.  Dogfish Head’s Punkin is a clear example and an automatic buy for me, when I can find it.  This year I thought to myself, what about all these other pumpkin beers…I decided to gather up a bunch of them, taste them all side by side, and find out what pumpkin beers I would be happy sitting back and drinking in the season.

069

We invited some friends to join in.  Here were the results (rated on a scale of 10).

#10  Pumpkinhead by Shipyard Brewing with averaged rating of 2

075

It was largely seen as an example of what we all did not like in a pumpkin beer.  Flavors reminiscent of “big red gum.” Potpourri and cinnamon aromas like “one of those Christmas stores that’s open year round.”  It was agreed that the flavoring mostly likely came from an extract rather than from raw ingredients.  On the plus side it had great clarity and a clean finish.

#9  Pumpkin Ale by Saranac averaged a score of 3

073

Aromas of caramel malts and vanilla.  Sweet flavors of sarsaparilla, vanilla, and caramel with a slight bitterness on the finish.  It wasn’t very pumpkiny or spiced.  Overheard comments such as “finishes like flat cola” and “would be good with ice cream.”

#8  Pumpkin Lager by Lakefront with a score of 3.75

072

The aroma on this one was heavy on the clove and cinnamon with a flavor that was decidedly of honeyed cinnamon sticks.  I liked this beer a bit more than everyone else did and thought it had a nice clean, malty finish and that the cinnamon flavor was a more pleasant flavor than the “red hot” cinnamon profile.

#7  Pumpkin Ale by Upslope  scored a 4.25

077

Sweet spice aromas.  The taste lightly touched all the basics caramel sweetness, some spice, and a little pumpkin.  However, the commonly heard comment was “not really much going on.”  A couple members of the tasting panel were tasting a “tin-y” quality (the beer was canned) and one mentioned an unpleasant bitterness at the finish.

#6  Pumpkin Ale by Buffalo Bill’s Brewery with an averaged score of 4.5

070

This was the easily the lightest beer of the tasting with a refreshing almost “summery” quality.  Light pumpkin aroma, but not much on the palate.   Malty flavors with a light undercurrent of pumpkin spices leading to a crisp, lemony finish.  “Kind of like a cider.”  “Good carbonation.”  Overall, we thought that this was a decent beer, but as for conjuring up the spirit of the season it came up short.  This is a good candidate for an Indian Summer beer.

#5  Frog Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale by Hoppin’ Frog was next with a leap up to a score of 6

079

Aromas of honey, spice and pumpkin.  “I smell pineapple and orange,” said one panelist.  The flavor was nicely balanced with notes of ginger, allspice, cinnamon, pumpkin, and bitter orange peel.  Some heat from the alcohol was met with a mixed review.  All in all, it was very drinkable, but we all agreed that a bit more carbonation and more malty flavor depth wouldn’t have hurt.

#4  Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale by Steven’s Point Brewery received a score of 6.25

Whole Hog

Very pleasant malty caramel aromas with a touch of spice.  On the palate it tasted like gingerbread with spice, caramel, and molasses flavors.  I got a little pumpkin on the finish, but I might have been the only one.  Other comments included, “definitely tastes like a [gingerbread] loaf,” “like a molasses spice beer,” and “it tastes like they used high quality ingredients.”  Most everyone enjoyed the beer, but there was some dispute over whether or not it technically fit in the pumpkin beer category.

#3  Fat Jack Double Pumpkin by Samuel Adams with a score of 7.38

Fat Jack

This was a interesting interpretation with the addition of smoked malts while that might be less appealing to some, we all found it to be quite enjoyable.  Smoky caramel malt aromas which carried onto the palate along with rich, sweet spice and pumpkin flavors.  The finish was dry with a hint of smoked cheddar.  All agreed that it would be a good choice to serve alongside the venerable pumpkin pie.  Bonus: The label art was pretty cool.

#2  Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin by Uinta scored a 7.5

Oak Jacked

This was a barrel aged imperial pumpkin ale and a rather big boozy affair clocking in a 10.3% ABV.  Aromas and flavors borrowed a lot from the oak: “tastes like pineapple upside cake.”  Pineapple and brown sugar aromas with additional flavors of coconut and caramel.  The requisite spice and pumpkin was either real light or very well integrated depending on who you asked.  In the end, though everyone was able to find enough pumpkin pie flavors to make it a legit pumpkin beer and it was quite tasty.

#1  The Night Owl by Elysian Brewing ranked our favorite pumpkin beer with a score of 8.75

The Night Owl

Fruity aromas with some pumpkin and cinnamon.  Light fresh pumpkin flavors with some fruity hop notes and maybe a bit of banana coming from the yeast.  The spice flavors were well integrated with a little zippy ginger quality balancing some of the sweeter fruit flavors.  I thought the finish was a bit bitter, but the pumpkin and spice lingered on nicely.  It was a solid beer and one of several pumpkin efforts that Elysian brews up every year.

A couple parting observations.  Majority of the pumpkin beers did not have sparkling clarity, likely due to the inclusion of real pumpkin, and ranged from light orange to a redish brown in color.  Carbonation levels with the exception of Buffalo Bill’s, which was rather lively, were all very moderate and the heads of foam dissipated very quickly, if they were present at all.

Pumpkin Beers

So there it is.  Now next year when the pumpkin beers start rolling out I know what I’ll be buying, confident that I will be very happy with my purchase.  Unfortunately, by this point, the abundance of pumpkin beers that were have pretty much evaporated and been replaced with the malty richness of the winter warmers.  Maybe another sampler is in order…


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