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Smashed Pumpkin Ale

3 December, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s not often that quaffing ale reminds me of anything more than other ales. Now that I’ve said that I have to add that this is an excellent and peculiar beer, not at all what I was expecting. Somehow the thought of a pumpkin beer gave me the same slightly shuddering concerns that I had before sampling Wells Banana Bread ale, and with the same outcomes – delight and surprise.

I had the pleasure of sampling this at the Graduate bar in Davis, a favourite haunt of mine as they always have a wide variety of draught brews and generally, a knowledgeable and keen staff. This was recommended as a very different autumnal beer, but I was warned to go easy with it, and with an ABV of 9% and a powerful taste kick, I can see why.

It was served in a 12-ounce glass and showed a good orange body topped with a thick and stable head. I admit to some trepidation as I took my first sip, but was immediately delighted by a good fruity and spicy nose, redolent of nutmeg, cinnamon and (presumably) pumpkin. As if that were not surprise enough, once I actually tasted it I was taken back to posh Sunday lunches at my parents’ home, for here of all things was a beer that reminded me of sherry.

Yes, it’s a warming and wonderful drink, intensely flavourful, but leaving me in something of a dilemma. For the sherry taste told my unconscious to sip, whilst the hedonistic brain told me to quaff; quaff and get another one.

Categories: Beers Tags: ,

Shipyard Imperial Porter

21 August, 2009 2 comments

Being a fairly recent addition to the US, I’m occasionally asked what I miss most about Britain, and tonight I can answer that in two words. The Pub. I had occasion to go for a beer with a colleague (my dear wife being at her monthly book group meeting), and so we visited The Graduate bar in Davis.

Now I don’t dislike American bars, so don’t take this as too harsh a criticism, but I do miss English pubs. The Graduate is situated near the University of California campus in Davis, so it tends to cater to the student body. It’s a sports bar, full of television screens, it serves burgers and individual pizzas, but it also has Western dance nights. In short, it’s an American bar. And it’s noisy.

I often reminisce about the quiet English pubs of my youth – little round tables, local newspapers, local folk gathered together for a pint and a chat. Maybe a dartboard, and occasionally, a jukebox. They were quiet, possibly refined, but always a social space, somewhere you could go to meet old friends or make new ones. But it would be quiet, at least in my ideal world.

So what has this to do with Shipyard Imperial Porter? Well, one thing this bar does have is a wide range of draught beers. That’s beer, on tap. There are the standard American favourites – you know, Miller or Bud or any of those, there are some brews from local breweries, and there are what we used to call “guest beers”. I suspect this brew to be one such, as I’d not spotted it before, and ever keen to experience new brews, I tried a pint, and was not disappointed.

Now I apologise for a couple of things. Firstly, there’s no photo of this one – not only did I not have a camera with me, but I’d neglected even my ‘phone. Secondly, I can’t describe the colour, as it was too dark to see. That said, I can confirm that this is one to try if you like the type, as I do.

I have to say that the first sip was something of a surprise, as in amongst the toasty malts was a pumpernickel bread flavour, mixed with molasses and a little bitterness and spice. There’s not a lot to the nose, though to my taste, a little lacking. There was a hint of chocolate, but nothing to write home about. As I worked my way down it, the taste developed a little more, but never quite to the point where I got excited about anything.

After a while, I started to get a little hint of smokiness, not unlike burnt toast. Not unpleasant, and never overpowering, but just there, acting as the backdrop to the malt. There’s a little hop flavour, but it’s not a bitter brew by any means. It is neither noticeably sweet nor “medicinal”, as some strong beers can be (it’s 7% alcohol, in case you’re wondering), but is refreshing and for me tonight, quite uplifting.

The only real disappointment to me was the feel and the finish – the texture was on the thin side, again not what I was expecting from a porter. That said, it’s a pleasant enough pint, the flavours balance quite well, and I would have gone back for a second pint had I not been so tired after a trying week. Given the alcohol content and the fact that I had to cycle home (and having become a drinking lightweight), the second pint might have relaxed me too much.

Score for this one is probably a B+ as it’s an easy and refreshing beer. I’d consider it a worthwhile meal beer – it certainly went down well with my burger and chili cheese fries – sadly, though, I’d better look elsewhere for home drinking as I can’t imagine that there’s anywhere local I could get it in bottles. I know the Davis Food Co-op doesn’t carry it, but it wouldn’t stop me looking.

Yes, in general I miss my English pubs. I miss some pubs in particular. I miss the quiet ticking of ancient clocks, the pleasant hum of background conversation. I miss the old boys who “take the dog for a walk” and are always good for a natter. I miss quietly reading the paper at Sunday lunchtimes. When I first came over here just over four years ago, I thought I’d miss good beers, but good beers are thankfully abundant, and for that I remain ever grateful.

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