Monday, November 10, 2014

Coalition Brewing Holds Pumpkin Beer Festival

Bucking the trend of releasing "seasonal" beers far earlier than the season they're actually to coincide with, this past Saturday Coalition Brewing held Liquid Pumpkin Patch. The just-the-right-size festival featured eight house-brewed pumpkin beers that ranged from variations on their Loving Cup Maple Porter to beers using smoked pumpkin to a first ever gluten free offering.

I arrived not long after the festival began and was pleased to see the place already hopping. It certainly didn't hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous day and Coalition had done a great job of promotion, encouraging people to arrive early as there was only a limited amount of each of the beers available. I made my way into the tasting room and selected Smokin' Gourd as my first sample, then headed back out into the November sunshine, along the way running into a friend.

He had been there right when they opened and shared his impressions of what he'd already tried, helping me make my decision about what would be next. Throughout the next couple of hours, adding another friend to our small group, I tasted my way through all eight. I'll go through my impressions and provide the brewery descriptions of each beer below but I know some of you just want me to cut to the chase. You want to know what my favorite was and I'll indulge you; it was Stingy Jack, a pumpkin barley wine.

Congrats to Elan and Mike on making eight very distinctive, imaginative beers. I hope this is a trend that will continue, one in which the energies they once had to devote to the pub are allowed to be put into fun one-offs like this.

Smokin' Gourd - Smoked Pumpkin Ale 5.5% 20 IBUs
A beer that has over 10 pounds of smoked pumpkins that were smoked by our neighbors at The Blue Goose. A very smoky and spicy balanced beer that brings smoke and spice in one sip.
I definitely got the smoke but it wasn't overpowering and was well complimented by the spices used.

Gourder Crosser - New Mexican Pumpkin Ale 7.2% 28 IBUs
A pumpkin ale with some New Mexican roots...pumpkin spices, cumin, chipotle chili and roasted hatch chilies that were smoked by our neighbor The Blue Goose, give this beer its unique kick.
I got the spice from the chilies but it wasn't of the heartburn-inducing variety. Rather it provided a pleasant heat that meshed well with the other components of this balanced beer.

P.I.M.P. - Pumpkin In Maple Porter 7% 32 IBUs
Our "Loving Cup" Maple Porter just packed on 12 pounds of roasted pumpkin and additional spices to really "pimp" this porter out.
Drinking this, I really wanted a slice of pumpkin pie. Restrained on sweetness, this would pair well with the traditional Thanksgiving dessert.

Lil' BO P.I.M.P. - Bourbon Oaked P.I.M.P. 7.2% 32 IBUs
What's a P.I.M.P. without some bourbon and oak to really enjoy an outing at the pumpkin patch? Buffalo Trace and American oak teamed up in this beer to take it to the next level and even get your tail wagging.
The aroma was out of this world and the spices really popped in this version. It was my favorite of the first four. UPDATE: Coalition announced Monday evening that this was the crowd favorite and will be their production pumpkin beer in 2015.

All Gourd, No Gluten - Gluten Free Iperial Pumpkin Ale 8% 10 IBUs
A sorghum-based pumpkin ale with pumpkin, spices and a lot of pop. Can you tell that it is gluten free?
The aroma, no doubt from the sorghum, was almost sour, with the flavor changing as it warmed from more heavily sorghum-forward with that fading back as it warmed further.

Thai Yi Yi - Thai Pumpkin Curry Ale 7.4% 14 IBUs
This beer was made in collaboration with PaaDee and Langbaan as a take on a traditional Thai curry dish. Made with lemongrass, Thai green chili, kaffir lime leaf, Thai ginger, holy basil and fresh gourds!
My friend had built this one up as a favorite in the bunch and I was not disappointed. There was a lot going on, with the lemongrass, lime leaf and basil popping out for me, in the best way possible. A very refreshing beer, I'd love to see this make a reappearance in the summer.

12:01 - Sour Pumpkin Ale 8.4% 17.6 IBUs
This sour ale was a minute late coming home after midnight and ended up turning into a pumpkin. It was kettle soured for 40 hours with Lactobacillus which delivers acidity to intermingle pumpkin sweetness.
Although I enjoyed this beer, I'm a huge sour fan and would have liked the sour notes to be even more pronounced. That being said, it was my second favorite with only one beer left to try.

Stingy Jack - Pumpkin Barley Wine 9.3% 60 IBUs
A heavy barley wine balanced with the sweetness of pumpkin and spice, this beer pays homage to the Irish tale of Stingy Jack himself.
Wow! One sip in and this was my favorite by far. The aroma was that of pumpkin pie just pulled out of the oven and somehow Coalition managed to get the entire flavor of pumpkin pie, the filling and the crust, into this beer. If you can find any, you'd better order it. I predict this will be the people's choice winner (to be announced this week).

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