Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put on your red shoes...

...and Dance the blues.

Too much of a good thing?  Nonsense.  Indulge me, please.  Lately it seems like every month I've got some new Boulevard Smokestack bottle to track down and frankly, I love it.  With more on the way I find myself absolutely giddy over what's to come.  BBQ?  Yes!  Imperial Stout?  Oh God yes.  This week we land on the new Harvest Dance Wheat Wine Style Ale.  Admittedly I'm very new to the style and...well, if I'm being totally honest I have to divulge at this point that I've never, ever even heard of a wheat wine style ale, let alone tried one.  However, being a rather HUGE  fan of American barley wines I naturally found myself very excited over the news that Boulevard was releasing a wheat-based version.  My excitement at least doubled when I happened to walk into Gomer's this afternoon to find case on top of case of it.

After spending the necessary (and totally arbitrary) one and a half hours inside my refrigerator I decided the bottle was plenty cool and it was time to journey into completely undiscovered country, which I believe any beer geek will agree after several years in the hobby is a fantastic and increasingly rare experience.  I'm delirious by the time I remove the cork...honestly, I've turned to using a corkscrew.  I tilt the bottle and...oh my...this has to be the thickest, frothiest head I think I've seen yet.  As the picture will contend, there was about as much foam as there was beer in the glass, following an exceedingly gentle pour.  After some reading I'm finding that this is a common experience with this particular brew and certainly made for one beautiful beer.

I probably go on a little too much about the appearance of beers but I really must say the color of this one is superb.  A striking reddish amber capped by a slowly receding off-white head makes for one truly enticing beer.  The head recedes to a thin crown that lasts throughout the session with medium lacing leftover.  The smell is very tart, with lots of fruit and yeast along with a very strong citrus smell that kind of reminds me of the Two Jokers from earlier this year.  Mouthfeel is thin and bubbly, with a smoothness that is possibly due to the strong head retention and certainly adds to the drinkability of the beer.  The taste is somewhat tart, with a lot of sour fruit and a citrus hop flavor accompanied by an ever-present alcoholic dryness...this one makes no secret of its 9.1% abv.  The whole thing is followed up with a very strong oak finish, which came on a bit heavy but certainly added a lot to the character of the brew.

This is a very drinkable beer, despite the high alcohol content.  While I'm generally not one to suggest splitting a bottle, I admit there are some brews that might justify such an otherwise heinous action.  This is not one of them, however, although I can't imagine finding myself wanting more after the bottle runs dry.  Maybe it was just my palette but I found this beer oddly refreshing, and with a name change wouldn't have thought it out of place as a mid-summer release, but perhaps that's due my lack of experience with the style.  All said and done, I really enjoyed the Harvest Dance, and hope to see it again this time next year.  Meanwhile I plan on finding myself another bottle to lay down for a few months to see if that strong oak finish is rounded out just a bit.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's The Great Pumking

Few things can divide a crowd quite the way pumpkin ales can.  Purists will contend that pumpkin ales should be strictly pumpkin-flavored, while others seem to prefer a nice autumnal, pumpkin spice flavor.  Personally, I'm more of a "pumpkin pie" kind of guy, which may be why I enjoyed Southern Tier's Pumking as much as I did.  This one is essentially pumpkin pie in a bottle...with whipped cream on top.

First things first: cool label.  Unfortunately the beer itself doesn't go above and beyond to bring home any style points but simply looking at it won't get me drunk so I'll let it slide.  The color was a nice clear burnt orange but the small bubbly head receded to nothing within minutes with minimal lacing.  The smell, however, was heavenly: sweet and earthy with the spices weighing in significantly heavier than the pumpkin itself.  Mouthfeel was thin and smooth with medium carbonation, fairly typical for the style from my experience.  The taste was candy-sweet and creamy with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg complimenting a very mild pumpkin flavor.  The whole thing is wrapped up by a notable hop presence and mildly astringent finish thanks to the 9% abv.  I personally found it difficult to sip, instead having to fight temptation to go in for the kill and chug the remainder of the glass each time I tasted it.  This is an extremely drinkable brew...

To conclude, if you find yourself on the conservative, squashy pumpkin pulp side of the Great Pumpkin Ale Debate, you'll likely find very little to enjoy here.  To my palette the pumpkin seemed like an afterthought to a variety of seasonal spices.  On the other hand, if you've ever wanted to catch a buzz off a pumpkin pie, this is the beer for you.  Enjoy!