Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Pacific Coast Holiday Ale Tasting

By William Brand
Monday, December 11th, 2006 at 7:22 pm in Uncategorized.


OK It’s truth-telling or should I say, time for “truthiness”. Not. Anyway the truth is, I’m no fan of the pumpkin, not in pie and especially not in beer. The nutmeg-like spice of the pumpkin usually sets my teeth on edge.

So, when I checked in at Pacific Coast Brewing Co. in Oakland late Saturday (Dec. 9, 2006) to find out how their 17th annual Tasting of Holiday Beers went, I regarded the first beer sample set in front of me with great caution.

Oh dear. It was a pumpkin ale. Wouldn’t you know. But one taste drowned my cynicism. Paul’s Dirty Scarecrow Imperial Pumpkin Ale***+ was excellent. Yes, a spicy nose, but the taste was full and malty, with the spice balancing the malt and masking the alcohol.

This is one strong beer: 12 percent alcohol by volume. The alcohol comes through with a slight warming at the end of the finish. The best news is that as I write this, there’s still some left.

Dirty Scarecrow, brewed by Paul Wichelmann, the night bartender at Pacific Coast, is available only on tap at the pub. I never thought I’d recommend a pumpkin ale, but this is one worth making a journey to Pacific Coast to try a glass, at 12 percent, make that a small glass.

The Saturday afternoon tasting of 14 holiday beers was sold-out and Pacific Coast co-founders Don Gortemiller and Steve Wolff said Saturday they won’t have tabulated the people’s choice award from their tasting until later this week. I’m sure Dirty Scarecrow will be among the winners. All 14 beers remain on tap this week until they’re gone.

The hit of the tasting, people said, was North Coast Old Stock Ale 2004*****. This is a tremendous, strong dark ale with a nose like fine sherry and a rich, rounded, almost port-like taste.

The 2006 Old Stock*** was much sweeter, young, delicious to drink today, but just wait a couple of years.

Others I tasted included Full Sail Vesuvius**** 8.5 percent, Belgian-style golden ale, has an herbal, almost medicinal nose. Taste was fairly tart with a background sweetness fading into a mildly hoppy finish. Damn nice beer.

Gouden Carolus Triple**++, Brouwerij Het Anker, Mechelen, Belgium. had a lovely, grapefruit nose with honeyed background notes. It hasthat rich, fruitiness characteristic of high temperature fermentations common in Belgium with a slightly bitter finish. 9 percent, pretty much the opposite of the Full Sail.

N’ice Chouffe***+, Brasserie d’Achouffe, Achouffe Belgium.
A dark brown color with a big, creamy head leaving lacework down the glass and a spicy nose, tastes of caramel malt and perhaps brewer’s sugar, with the spice nicely balancing the sweetness. This one can be found, bottle-conditioned, around the Bay Area and is definitely worth a search.

Moonlight Santa’s Tipple**
*, Moonlight Brewing, Windsor, CA. Brewer Brian Hunt can always be counted on for solid, drinkable beer and Santa’s Tipple’s no exception. A deep brown color with a fresh hop nose, the 6.3 percent holiday beer is just right.Taste is sweet, but the hops come through with some serious bitterness to balance that sweetness. Lovely beer.

The rest of the list included Anchor Our Special Ale****, Big Sky Powerder Hound**, Sierra Nevada Celebration***, Lagunitas Brown Shugga*** and He’Brew Monumental Jewbelation***.

When Don Gortemiller tabulates the results,I’ll post them here. Saludos for now.

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