Review: Pumpkin Porter, Alaskan Brewing Co.

Pumpkin Porter
Alaskan Brewing Co. — Juneau, AK

  • Style:  Porter
  • Bitterness:  25 IBU
  • ABV:  7.0%
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Magnum, Goldings
  • Special Ingredients:  Pumpkin, brown sugar
    • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle  

    Description:  A native plant of North America, pumpkins were first used in beer in colonial America as a substitute for hard-to-find malt, and none other than the father of our country George Washington had a highly touted recipe. This imperial porter pumpkin beer combines the robust, full-bodied style of a porter with a, frankly, crazy amount of pumpkin. — Alaskan Brewing Co.

    Random thoughts:  2014 marks Pumpkin Porter's first appearance in 12 oz. bottles. It was originally released as part of Alaskan's limited edition Pilot Series. I'm drinking it as part of my 2014 Pumpkin Beer Roundup.

    The tasting:  Near black in color, with an off-white head that dissipates fairly quickly. Aroma is full of spice. The usual suspects—cinnamon, allspice clove, and a touch of cinnamon are all present. Taste starts with roasted malt and a touch of smoke. In the middle, coffee and the spice blend emerge. While prominent, the spice is not overwhelming and nicely balances the malt. Alcohol is not noticeable and and hop bitterness is low. Pumpkin Porter is light to medium bodied, softly carbonated, and finishes with coffee, spice and mild earthy hops.

    4 star.  Really Good.  I want this again!  You might have noticed that I never mentioned pumpkin in my tasting notes. I've always found pumpkin to be rather flavorless in beer. Regardless, I think the pumpkin spice medley works well with the roasty and smoky flavors of this beer. Give this one a try. I think it'll be a nice complement to your cool fall evenings.

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    McMenamins Black Widow Porter

    Last week, I received an early Halloween treat on my doorstep. Black Widow Porter, McMenamins’ fall seasonal was unleashed on October 15.  Here are a few details about the release:

    Originally created at the McMenamins Thompson brewery (Salem, Oregon) on October 15, 1991 and brewed once a year for just Thompson's taps, Black Widow's web now spans the entire company and is available on tap and in 22-oz. bottles at all McMenamins from October 15 through Halloween. Each deep-black goblet is full of the robust notes afforded by generous amounts of black and roasted malts and further spirited with ethereal wisps of licorice. Nourish your inner ghoul with a brew steeped in tradition and mystery. A good howl at the Cheshire moon couldn't hurt, either.

    • Malts: Bairds Pale Malt, Great Western Munich, Great Western Flaked Barley, Great Western Wheat, Bairds 135/165L Crys­tal, Bairds Roast Material, Bairds Black Malt
    • Hops: Horizon (Bittering & Flavor)
    • Special Ingredient: Licorice Root
    • ABV: 7.35%
    • IBU: 41
    • SRM: 38

    You can find Black Widow though Halloween at all McMenamins locations. 

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    Beer Run: Pumpkin Beer Roundup '14

    Love 'em or hate 'em, pumpkin beers are here. A few weeks ago, I conducted an informal poll on my Facebook page and asked my readers to share their thoughts on pumpkin beers. Apparently, the majority dislike the style. While I'm not a huge fan myself, I still find myself tasting and writing out them each year. Ironically, pumpkin has little flavor in beer. These beers are all about the spice, in my humble opinion.  

    If you're looking to try a traditional pumpkin ale, I suggest you consider Elysian Night Owl, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, or one of my absolute favoritesSchlafly Pumpkin Ale. This year, I'm highlighting four gourd brews that each feature a unique twist:

    • The Dapper Skeleton (Ale with Chiles), Burnside Brewing Co., Portland, OR  
    • He Said (Belgian-Style Triple), 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA
    • He Said (Baltic-Style Porter), 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA
    • Pumpkin Porter, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK

    I'll post detailed reviews for each of these in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, what do you think about pumpkin beers?

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    Stone Brewing Co. Announces New Brewery in Richmond, Virginia

    Back in July, Stone Brewing Co. announced plans to open a brewery in Berlin. Less than three months later, they're at it again. This time, they're opening shop in Richmond, Virginia. I'm happy that our friends on the east coast will now have the pleasure of enjoying some local west coast beer! Congratulations to Stone and the city of Richmond, Virginia! 

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    Stone Brewing Co. Names Richmond, Virginia, as Future Home for New Brewery and Destination Restaurant

    ESCONDIDO, CA (Oct. 9, 2014) – Today, San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co. announced it has signed a formal letter of intent with the City of Richmond, Virginia, signifying the company’s interest in building its East Coast facility in the city’s Greater Fulton Community. Subject to local approvals, Stone plans to invest $74 million to construct a production brewery, packaging hall, destination restaurant, retail store and its administrative offices. Construction of the facilities will occur in phases. The brewery is anticipated to be operational in late 2015 or early 2016, with Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens opening a year or two after that. Ultimately, the company will employ more than 288 people.

    “The search for our location east of the Mississippi River was no easy endeavor,” said Stone President and Co-founder Steve Wagner. “We received and reviewed hundreds of proposals, visited more than 40 sites, and received quite a bit of attention from communities and craft beer fans. The three finalist cities each provided diverse offerings, however, we decided to begin next-step negotiations with Richmond because of their ability to meet our extensive site requirements, subject to the city’s approval. We also feel that Richmond’s vibrant energy and impressive craft beer culture, along with the uniqueness of the property, will allow us to create a truly memorable Stone experience for our fans. We are honored by the amount of time and effort all the communities that submitted proposals put forth, and we want to specifically thank Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones for welcoming us.”

    Adds Stone CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch, “A facility on the East Coast will allow us to meet demand for our beer, ensure we are providing our fans with the freshest beer possible and also serve as a distribution hub for states located east of the Mississippi. We look forward to becoming an integral part of the lively craft beer community in Richmond, the state of Virginia and the entire eastern U.S.”

    Stone anticipates building a 200,000 square-foot production brewery and distribution facility on 14 acres of land. Equipped with a 250-barrel brewhouse, the brewery will produce year-round and special-release beers to be bottled, kegged and distributed, as well as enjoyed on-site. The company also plans to renovate a two-story, 30,000 square-foot building, transforming it into a destination restaurant spanning four acres and highlighting locally grown organic food, complementing the harmonious nature and seasonality of the location’s surroundings. The restaurant will feature beautifully landscaped gardens where visitors will be able to enjoy craft beer, dine and relax in an inviting atmosphere.

    “Today’s announcement marks the fruition of months of partnership and aggressive efforts to show Stone Brewing Co. that Virginia is the best state for its new craft beer production and hospitality facility,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “The company received submissions from more than 20 states, and the Commonwealth of Virginia was selected. This competitive, high-profile project really puts Virginia on the map and cements our standing as a serious player in the craft beer industry. In addition to Stone’s significant investment and more than 288 new jobs, the far-reaching economic benefits of this operation are innumerable. The City of Richmond offers the infrastructure, available site and building, and natural resources that will allow the company to thrive and grow, and we are confident that Stone will benefit from the Commonwealth’s excellent business environment for years to come. Today is an achievement of great magnitude, and we are excited to welcome Stone Brewing Co. to Virginia.”

    “We are thrilled about Stone's decision to choose Richmond as its East Coast production and distribution facility location,” said Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “After competing with 20 other states, we are so pleased that Stone has discovered those attributes that make Richmond a great place to do business. The fact that they have chosen a site in the Greater Fulton Community underscores their understanding of the rich history and natural assets that we have to offer. As they bring their unique craft beer and visionary business model here, I look forward to the many opportunities that lay ahead with Stone.”

    This is the second expansion announcement Stone has made this year. In July, the company unveiled it will become the first American craft brewer to independently own and operate a brewery in Europe with the opening of Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin

    Scenes from Hopworks' Handmade Bike & Beer Festival

    On September 27, I attended Hopworks' Handmade Bike & Beer Festival. It had all the elements of Biketobeerfest from years past, but with the addition of a custom-made bike expo. If you know Hopworks, then you know this combination is a match made in heaven. 

    While the beer was great (as it is at most beer festivals around here), I enjoyed the vibe and atmosphere the most. It's family-friendly and my kids were entertained for hours by the bouncy house, Huffy Toss, Frisbee stations, and break-dancers. This gave me time to relax and enjoy some beer (and a cider)! Check out the short video below to get a taste of the event. 

    Overall, it was a great afternoon! Dad and kids both had fun! If you're looking for a family-friendly beer fest, I suggest you keep Hopworks' Handmade Bike & Beer Festival on your radar for next fall!

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    Oregon Wins 22 Medals at '14 Great American Beer Festival

    The 28th annual Great American Beer Festival just wrapped up in Denver. A total of 268 medals were awarded for 90 categories of beer. Oregon breweries pulled in 22 medals (or 8.2% of total). That's an impressive haul!  Below is list of the medal-winning Oregon beers.  

    10 Barrel Brewing Co, Bend
    P2P, Bronze, American-Style Stout
    Amber Waves, Bronze, American-Style Wheat Beer
    Cucumber Crush, Gold, Field Beer

    13 Virtues Brewing Co., Portland
    Weizenbock, Silver, German-Style Wheat Ale

    Arch Rock Brewing Co., Gold Beach
    Gold Beach Lager, Gold, Kellerbier or Zwickelbier

    Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker City
    Turmoil, Bronze, American-Style Black Ale
    Disorder, Silver, American-Style Stout
    Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA, Gold, Fresh or Wet Hop Ale
    Hand-Truck Pale Ale, Gold, International-Style Pale Ale

    Bend Brewing Co., Bend
    Salmonberry Sour, Gold, Indigenous/Regional Beer

    Breakside Brewery, Milwaukee
    Breakside IPA, Gold, American-Style India Pale Ale
    Wanderlust IPA, Silver, American-Style Strong Pale Ale

    Buoy Beer Co., Astoria
    Buoy Dunkel, Silver, English-Style Dunkel

    Caldera Brewing Co., Ashland
    Caldera Ashland Amber, Silver, Classic English-Style Pale Ale

    The Commons Brewery, Portland
    Myrtle, Silver, American-Style Sour Beer

    Deschutes Brewery, Bend
    Sage Fight IPA, Bronze, Indigenous/Regional Beer

    Groundbreaker Brewing (formally known as Harvester), Portland
    Dark Ale, Gold, Gluten-Free Beer

    Logsdon Organic Farm Brewery
    Peche ‘n Brett, Silver, American-Style Brett Beer

    Old Town Brewing Co.
    I’d Like to Buy the World a Kölsch, Silver, German-Style Kölsch

    Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City
    Poire du Pelican, Bronze, Belgian-Style Fruit Beer
    Surfer’s Summer Ale, Bronze, English-Style Pale Ale

    Widmer Brothers Brewing, Portland
    Hefeweizen, Silver, American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast

    Congrats to all the hard working brewers! We appreciate and enjoy your work! Click here for a complete list of all award winners. Cheers! 

    The Commons' Myrtle Silver medal. Courtesy of Sean Burke.

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    Small Batch Beers at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse

    Brady Romtvedt next to his 7 Barrel Brewhouse
    Brady Romtvedt loves his job.  For the last six years, he has shared brewing duties with Chris Oslin at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse & Imbrie Hall in Hillsboro.

    McMenamins has a unique brewing model. It doesn’t have a main brewery that produces beer from a central location for distribution to its 65 brewpubs, historic hotels, and theater pubs across Oregon and Washington. Instead, it brews beer locally across a network of 24 breweries. Each of the local breweries produce McMenamins’ core lineup of 4 beers: Hammerhead, Terminator Stout, Ruby, and a rotating seasonal.

    Outside of the core lineup, brewers are given free rein to innovate and experiment.  In the case of Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, Brady and Chris brew the beer needed to supply 12 tap handles. Four taps are dedicated to core brews, and eight handles feature local creations. It’s the ability to experiment that Brady loves.

    During fresh hop season, McMenamins releases Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale as a core seasonal.  This year, Thundercone showcased Brewers Gold as the fresh hop.  In addition to Thundercone, Brady recently made two of his own small batch fresh hop beers for the first time:

    • 15 Fresh IPA:  7.2% ABV, ~75 IBUs. 15 pounds of fresh (or wet) Centennial hops went into each barrel. Typically, crystal malts are used in IPAs to add color and sweetness (to balance the bitterness). In this beer, Brady avoided crystal malts, which allowed the citrus and lemon hop flavors to shine. It still finished with a light sweetness.
    • Barrel Hopped IPA:  6.4% ABV, ~100 IBUs. 10 pounds of wet Centennial hops were added to a 2nd use Hogs Head whiskey barrel. Squeeze Play IPA was racked onto the hops and aged for two weeks. The mild whiskey flavor nicely complemented the hops. The oak from the barrel added a pleasant softness to the mouth feel.

    Both of these beers were served exclusively at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. If you hurry, you still might be able to get a taste! 

    On the final Wednesday of each month, the Roadhouse holds a special beer tasting that showcases new small batch beers.  Spooky Ales is the theme of the upcoming October 29th event.  Scheduled to be served are:

    • The Widow Jäger: This black, roasty beer is made with licorice root and aged on Jägermeister-soaked oak spirals.   
    • Ghost Lager:  This beer was infused six ghost peppers and a dozen habaneros. Yikes!  
    • Pole-Axe Strong Ale:  Not spooky, but a fan favorite from Chris Oslin’s days at the Thompson brewery in Salem. 

    For more details about Spooky Ales, click here.  These beers will be offered at happy hour pricing all night on October 29. In the meantime, be sure to check out the small batch brews at your local McMenamins. 

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    The Dapper Skeleton: Burnside's Pumpkin Beer with a Kick

    I can't 
    believe it's already October! That means I can finally allow myself to taste, touch, or even look at pumpkin beers. It's a good thing because Burnside Brewing Co. just announced the release of The Dapper Skeleton. This limited release beer features three pepper varieties, cocoa nibs, cherrywood smoked malt, a secret spice blend, and of courseeveryone's favorite autumnal gourd.

    I don't recall ever tasting a pumpkin beer made with peppers. Burnside's Sweet Heat is one of my favorite pepper-infused ales, so I have high hopes for The Dapper Skeleton. I'll be including it my upcoming annual Pumpkin Beer Roundup. Thanks to the the brewery for the sample. For more details, check out Burnside's beer release info below. Are you ready for pumpkin beers?

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    The Dapper Skeleton 

    Portland, OR - Burnside Brewing Co. has just introduced a new fall seasonal in bottles - The Dapper Skeleton - a traditionally un-traditional take on the popular pumpkin beer trend. Available now on draft and in 22oz bottles only in Oregon, The Dapper Skeleton is a spicy pepper infused pumpkin ale from the GABF gold medal winner of pepper beers. 

    Known for taking un-traditional approaches with classic styles like Burnside's Lime Kolsch as well as for his ingenious pepper beers like Sweet Heat (GABF Gold winning Apricot and Scotch Bonnet Pepper Wheat), Brewmaster/Co-Owner Jason Mcadam added a trio of chili's, cocoa nibs, a secret blend of spices and a touch of Cherrywood Smoked Malt. The Dapper Skeleton will leave pumpkin beer fans clamoring for more and skeptics rethinking the style.

    The Dapper Skeleton is available NOW in 22oz bottles and 50L kegs through Maletis Beverage.

    Hopworks' Handmade Bike & Beer Festival

    Biketobeerfest is back!  Well, sort of...  Hopworks is once again hosting everyone's favorite beer fest / Huffy hurling extravaganza! This year, it's being combined with the Oregon Handmade Bicycle show. I'm always on the lookout for kid-friendly beer events, and this is one the kiddies (and adults) will enjoy. All the details are listed in the brewery's news release below.

    I last attended Biketobeerfest in 2011 and made a short video. Check it out! 

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    Handmade Bike & Beer Festival Opens September 27th and 28th

    Portland, OR - The Handmade Bike & Beer Festival is one of the most exciting festivals in the city of Portland. It is a weekend-long event that draws attention to the renowned bike builders that live in our region, and the craft beer industry that has made Portland the best beer city in the country. This family-friendly festival runs from September 27-28th in our covered, festival event space.

    At Hopworks Urban Brewery, our passion for world-class beer and for the visibility of bicycles in our city fueled the creation of the Handmade Bike & Beer Festival. The fest is a mash-up of two of Portland’s favorite fall events – HUB’s Biketobeerfest and the Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association’s (OBCA) Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show.

    The festival features 30 custom bike builders and vendors who follow the long tradition of crafting beautiful bikes by hand, craft beer from some of the most exciting breweries in our region, and live local music acts. Activities include the classic “Huffy Huck” bike-throwing competition, New Birth Break Dancers, Flatlanders BMX stunt crew perform and the Tricycle Obstacle Course, a race course that features adult-sized trikes. Visitors will be treated to excellent local food from Taco Pedaler, Ruby Jewel, and the HUB kitchen.

    Dance to the tunes of The Israelites, the legendary ska band. We’ll also have some really fun Pacific Northwest bands including There Is No Mountain, Bear Water Band, and Shake Up Bluegrass (previously Left Coast Country).

    The Handmade BIke & Beer Festival is taking place Hopworks Urban Brewery, located at 2944 SE Powell Blvd. and runs at various times on September 27th and 28th.

    Times of Festival
    September 27, 2014
    Bikes: 10am – 6pm
    Bands and Beers: 12pm-9pm
    September 28, 2014
    Bikes and Beers: 12pm-5pm

    Weekend Schedule

    10:00am - Bike Show Begins
    12:00pm - Beer Festival Begins
    2:00pm - Huffy Huck Round 1
    3:00pm - New Birth Break Dancers
    4:00pm - Band - Shake Up Bluegrass
    5:00pm - Flatlanders - BMX stunt crew
    6:00pm - Band - There Is No Mountain
    6:00pm - Huffy Huck Round 2
    7:00pm - New Birth Breakdancers
    8:00pm - Band - The Israelites

    12:00pm - Bike Show and Beer Festival Begins
    3:00pm - Band - Bear Water Band

    $10 - Entry to the festival
    $25 - Entry + glass and 15 drink/food tickets
    $40 - Entry + glass and 20 tickets + t-shirt

    Kids 15 and under are free
    A 4 oz. beer taste is 1 – 2 tickets, a pint is 4 tickets and food items run between 1 – 8 tickets.

    Bike Builders and Vendors:
    Ahearne Cycles, Bicycle Fitting Service, Bike Friday, Breadwinner Cycles, Inc., Caylor Frames, Circa Cycles, Helavna Cycles, Iglehart Cycles, Littleford Bicycles, Pioneer Bicycles, Machine Cycles, Metrofiets LLC, North St. Bags, PRiNK Technologies, Point West Credit Union, Rain Bikes, Risse Racing Technology, Inc, Rolf Prima, Strawberry Bicycle, Sunstar, Swift Industries, Ti Cycles, Thursday Bicycles, United Bike Institute, Winter Bicycles and more

    Beer Festival
    Brewers include Ex-Novo Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Gigantic Brewing, Grain Station Brew Works, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Pfriem Family Brewers, Widmer Brothers Brewing and others. Low/Gluten Free Options include: Reverend Nat’s Hard CIder, Cider Riot!

    First National Taphouse Opens in SW Portland

    Score one for the west side! First National Taphouse is launching a new location in SW Portland, near Portland State University. I've never visited their Eugene taphouse, but look forward to checking out the new location soon. For more details, check out the news release below.

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    First National Taphouse Arrives in Portland
    Irish-Inspired Pub Opens Second Location 110 Miles North of Original

    PORTLAND, Ore. (September 11, 2014)  — Born in Eugene, Oregon, First National Taphouse opens its second location in the Portland State University college district at 1962 SW 5th Ave. Originally located in the building that housed Eugene, Oregon’s first bank, First National Taphouse was founded with a deep reverence for Oregon’s trailblazers, from loggers and farmers to bank robbers and outlaws. Named after the First National Bank, the one-year-old brand pays homage to history utilizing repurposed décor. Everything, from the mahogany double French doors and the liquor neon sign that date back to the 1920s, to the beaten wood floor and the vintage sports gear, contributes to create a sense of timelessness. While honoring past generations, First National Taphouse also pioneers the exploration of a new west of beers. With a menu of elevated heritage-based food designed to pair with beer, First National Taphouse welcomes novices and experts to walk through its doors for an educational and satisfying experience.

    “We pledge to be stewards of everyone’s beer experience,” says co-owner Steve Master. “We want to be a trusted advisor who will connect locals and travelers with a beer they’ll love, while providing the very best food to go with it.” Tasked with creating an exquisite pub menu with surprising twists, executive chef David Bloomfield looked to the Old World to find the historic roots of gastropub cooking. The seasonal menu he created for First National Taphouse in Portland reflects Irish influences while staying true to the Northwest bounty. It showcases time-honored yet adventurous dishes, such as Irish whiskey pepper steak with potato pancake, honey parsnips, chicken wings confit, glazed with carrots habanero or Columbia river steelhead with pale ale melted leeks, fingerling potatoes & stone ground mustard beurre blanc. 

    “The opportunity to create the beer inventory at First National Taphouse’s Portland location and manage it from the ground up has been thrilling,” explains general manager Jennifer D’Annunzio, who credits her many trips to remote locales around the globe for her ability to discover and pair a wide range of delicious beers, ciders and wines with food. D’Annunzio’s carefully selected beers and wines from across the Pacific Northwest make up the bulk of the 30 beer and eight wine taps along with more than 400 bottles from breweries around the world. “We strive to offer our guests a holistic and educational experience, one where they’ll learn about rare beers and food pairings, or where they can savor pints of their daily favorite local beers,” emphasizes the manager.

    At once a taphouse, full-service restaurant, bottle shop and full bar with a focus on whiskey and classic cocktails, First National Taphouse strives to become a place where old friends choose to meet and anyone can feel at home.

    About First National Taphouse:
    First National Taphouse is a devoted protector of treasured food and beer experience. Located on the corner of SW 5th and College Way, the pub has 30 beers on tap, more than 400 bottled beers, eight wines on tap and a full liquor selection. First National Taphouse is located at 1962 SW 5th Avenue, Portland, OR 97201. For more information, please call (971) 703-5479 or visit the website at or the facebook page. 

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    Photo courtesy of First National Taphouse