Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Sam Adams' flavorful fall lineupJIM BEAUREGARD August 22. 2012 1:40AM
Sam Adams Octoberfest: seasonal brew, 5.3% alcohol by volume. Oktoberfest, known as 'Wiesen' in Germany (meaning 'the field'), is an almost three-week festival, first held in the year 1810. The original fest was in Munich, and they now host about 6 million people at the end of September and beginning of October. There is no one typical beer style for the festival, and different types have appeared through the years. This version is a darker beer, coming along now with the cool weather on the horizon. Off white head, amber beer with a little hint of orange. The nose is malt, and the label mentions the use of five roasted malts in the brewing. Served cold, it's dry on the palate, mildly bitter, with some hops in the background, integrated alcohol, medium body, medium texture, and flavors of caramel, grain hints, cereal, but leaning toward the sweet on the finish.
Sam Adams 'Fat Jack' Double Pumpkin Ale:'Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices', 8.5% abv. When they say 'double' pumpkin, they're not kidding, with 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel. It was the New England colonists who first put pumpkins into their brew (more on them in an upcoming column). To the pumpkin Sam adds cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Huge tan head, frothy, lasting, the pumpkin and spice are right there, up front on the nose, with the cinnamon being most noticeable. Medium-plus body, slight sweetness, bitterness in the background, medium alcohol, flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, and allspice as above, all of them lasting to the finish and lingering afterward. Interesting and fresh. Recommended pairing include duck, lamb, roasted pork, especial pork made with spice rubs. And carrot cake for dessert.
Last but not least from Sam & Company, the winner of the fifth annual Samuel Adams Patriot Home Brew Contest is 'Matt's Robust Smoked Porter,' crafted by Vermont home brewer Matthew Welz. It will be available at Gillette Stadium from the start of football season (it's not there yet: I looked on Saturday night while I was there with Bruce Springsteen and 12,000 of his closest friends).
Brewed with five malts, it has a light brown head, frothy, with some creaminess under the surface, dark-brown to black beer. Toast, coffee and chocolate aromas greet the nose. The palate is full-bodied, balanced, with rich intense flavors of dark coffee/espresso, roast, dark chocolate, some burnt notes along the way. Flavor lingers long after it goes down.
Pair with nachos, hotdogs, burgers, fries, and other delicate stadium-style fare.
Switching gears now, we go to a 'Saison,' from the French word for season. The term, and the Saison beer, originated in the French-speaking region of Belgium known as Wallonia. Those who drank it and gave it its name were 'Seasoners' (saisoniers), migrant farm workers who were happy to have a refreshing brew made right on the farm. While Saisons are more consistent now in their flavor profile, the originals were probably as varied as wine from season to season, being dependent on the year's harvest and crop rotations. The style today tends to dry, high carbonation fruity beer in the 5 to 8 percent abv range.
Saranac High Peak Lemon Ginger Saison (8.5% abv) comes to us from the Matt Brewing Company of Boston. It has a huge frothy head, off-white in color, light amber beer with some slight gold hints, a hops nose, and a flavor palate of hops, and yes, lemon ginger, mild to moderate bitterness. Medium bodied, refreshing.
As I just mentioned Belgium let's close with Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale from the Brewery Du Bocq, Turnhout Belgium.
It's a Belgian tripel, a strong ale first brewed in Belgium. Tripel is a reference to the amount of malt and sugar prior to the beer's fermentation.
It is thought that during the Middle Ages, the monks marked their barrels to denote the strength of the beer; X for weak, XX for medium and XXX for strong beer, hence 'Tripel' X's. 7.5% abv, golden cloudy beer under a creamy white head, typical of Belgian beers. It has a light and refreshing hops nose, medium body, hints of sweetness, well-integrated alcohol, medium-plus flavor intensity, and flavors of hops citrus, lemon, lime hints, spices. A worthy entry in an old tradition.
Contact local wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com