The Session #17: Drinking anti-seasonally

The SessionIt’s the first Friday of the month, and that means among the beer blogosphere it’s time for The Session! Beer bloggers everywhere get together (in a virtual sense) and write about a given theme which is selected by that month’s host. Said host will then round up all the various Session writings and link and summarize them in one place.

(I haven’t yet downloaded the new Session logos that you’ll see elsewhere today.)

This month’s hosting duties fall on Rob DeNunzio of the amusingly-named Pfiff! blog: Drinking anti-seasonally.

Up here in the Northern hemisphere, we’re fast approaching the summer solstice, when the sun opts to beat down on us for as long as possible, and the marketing eye of brewing’s Sauron becomes firmly targeted on light, easily quaffable, lawnmower beers, which we’re all supposedly to dumbly chug down after demonstrably wiping our brows with the brim of the sweat-beaded can (cuz it’s hot!) while wearing our mothball-scented aloha shirts and comically over-sized, personalized suede bbq mitts.

The subject for July’s Session could be summed up thusly: Drinking anti-seasonally. Think of this as the unorthodox cousin of such topics as "beer and food" and "beer and music". Beer and weather, perhaps? More like beer despite the weather, I guess. Cracking open a Guinness on the beach, finishing a day of yardwork with a Speedway Stout, or whatever else you do that raises an eyebrow (again, beer-related, please), do us all a favor and take a few moments to share your non-conformist tale (again, you kangaroos and lemurs down there, your take on this could be even more peculiar, so do chime in, please).

I thought about this one for awhile. I mean, it’s not exactly hard to come up with an "anti summer beer", but making it too easy would feel like cheating somehow.

I first considered taking this opportunity to review the Black Butte XX from Deschutes Brewery; after all, at 10.5% alcohol and a thick, dark, chocolate-nibbed, coffee-infused beer, this is right up there with being as anti-seasonally summer as you can get.

Night Owl Pumpkin AleBut I figured, the heavy, strong, dark beers are the obvious choice for going anti-summer, and those are likely the ones many people will write about. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—but I expect to read a lot of reviews of stouts (Imperial and otherwise), barleywines, strong barrel-aged IPAs, and so on. Instead, I settled on another beer (and style) that fits the theme perfectly: Elysian Brewing‘s Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.

Regular readers know that I am all about the pumpkin beers: I brew a pretty good one, I’ve tasted a fair number, and I definitely know a good one when I taste it. And pumpkin seemed like a great "anti summer" style to tackle: these are almost only brewed in the fall and early winter (when pumpkins are available) and—depending on the beer, of course—tend towards heavier, spiced brews.

Elysian’s version is the real deal. They brew it with 150 pounds of pumpkin in each batch, which (according to their info) goes into the mash, the boil, and the fermenter. Not only that, they use real spices (nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice) during conditioning. And not only that, but they do something else I’ve not seen anyone else do, including myself: add roasted pumpkin seeds. The end result is a fantastic pumpkin ale with 6.5% alcohol by volume.

(To add to Elysian’s pumpkin cred, they also host an annual Pumpkin Beer Festival wherein they provide several of their own different pumpkin beers, including a "pumpkin conditioned" one—secondary fermentation inside a giant pumpkin.)

Night Owl Pumpkin Ale labelI also really like the label on this beer. Simple, but eye-catching.

Appearance: Hazy amber-brown with a minimal head. Reminds me of my homebrewed version.

Smell: Nice pumpkin ale aroma—sweet malts and caramelized sugars, that sweet-earthy pumpkin aroma, and subtle spices.

Taste: Now that is a delicious beer… right off the bat there’s caramelized sugar and roasted pumpkin—sweet and just a tad cloying. Spices follow without being overwhelming, tangy cinnamon and allspice, veering into almost peppery territory. Very tasty, very "pie" without overdoing it.

Mouthfeel: A bit thicker than medium-bodied and nicely chewy and crisp at the same time. Great aftertaste.

Overall: This might well be my new favorite pumpkin beer—it’s really, really good.

On BeerAdvocate, it scores a grade of B+. On RateBeer, it scores 3.45 out of 5, and is in their 81st percentile.

Happy Session, and Happy Fourth of July everybody!