Category Archives: Brew Review


Samuel Adams has a reputation for producing solid seasonal brews. That reputation stands with the Samuel Adams Winter Lager.

This is a chestnut-colored beer with minimal head and a strongly malted scent. The rich and sweet overtones are complemented by orange peel, ginger and cinnamon — a combination that gives it a tart, dry finish.

Fans of bock beer should really enjoy this one. Not every beer will be the biggest and boldest of its genre, so forgive and embrace this one as a softer representation. And the 5.6-percent ABV hits that sweet spot between the casually enjoyable and the overly festive.

Sam’s Winter Lager may not be the best of the bunch you’ll sample this holiday. But don’t let that diminish all the things it does well.




With this seasonally appropriate selection, we end November here in the fashion we began.

The Leinenkugel Pumpkin Patch Shandy certainly passes the eye and nose test. It pours a hazy tangerine with a moderate frosting, and the scent is a pungent blend of allspice and clove. 

Some might moan about the lightweight body and lack of punch, but if they do, they’re missing the point. This brew’s crisp and refreshing, and in no need of crippling over-analysis. It’s mellow, simple and easy to drink — a nice representation of the genre, particularly for the crowd most accustomed to light domestics.

With availability dwindling as we enter December, you may unfortunately have trouble finding this one before shelves are completely restocked with wintertime seasonals. 

And speaking of wintertime seasonals, share the name of your favorite to or the Twitter handle below. The suggestion box is always hungry.




Calling an audible and taking a week off the pumpkin beer. In honor of Pennsylvania bear season, we’re going with the bruin-themed Black Forest — an endangered species, ironically, because Saranac discontinued it.

But this beer has made a comeback in a seasonal 12-pack mixed sampler. It’s a German-style Schwarzbier, true to its name in color and laced with only a fine top filming. The rich, creamy malt here is tempered with a healthy dose of floral hops and, unlike many dark beers, there’s no burnt bitterness.

Black Forest brings a sweet balance between caramel and spice. Overall, it’s is a beer that’s both robust and easy to drink.

Saranac, if it hasn’t already, ought to bring this back into the regular tap rotation.




For New Belgium with this beer, it wasn’t enough to be the pumpkin pie dessert at Thanksgiving: It was about tossing half the feast into the batch.

Pumpkick is headless and is a dull copper in color, not unlike a dirty old penny. The scent is sour and remiscent of beer aged over lees, the residual yeast in wine fermentation.

That’s where the smorgasboard of ingredients come in.

Cranberry and lemongrass is added to traditional pumpkin additives such as nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The result is both malty and tart.

Pumpkin purists may not be happy, but if you’re the type to pile all your fixings into a single soupy mountain, you may like this one.




This one’s additional proof that pumpkin beer isn’t always liquid pumpkin pie.

Samuel Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkin is satisfying, smooth and thankfully devoid of artificial sweetness. It pours a dark auburn with moderate froth. The scent is cinnamon, and the flavor a subtle, nuanced blend of caramel and clove.

This one isn’t overly remarkable, but neither does it get in its own way. It takes a mellow middle ground between sugar and spice.

Have a favorite pumpkin beer to recommend? You know where to find me.




November begins with pumpkin beer No. 1, brought to us by the fine folks at Brooklyn Brewery.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale is amber-colored with light lacing and big, slow-moving bubbles. The scent is faint — almost nonexistent — and the flavor brings a little nutmeg and a lot of allspice.

This one isn’t an all-out pumpkin ale in the sense you may believe. You won’t taste too much of the Cucurbita here, and those seeking a sweet seasonal should look elsewhere.

But if you’re looking for something a bit smokier than your usual pie-inspired Thanksgiving fare, give this one a go.




Last Leinenkugel you’ll see here for a while — promise.

The increasingly ubiquitous Wisconsin beer-maker’s Oktoberfest blend is fairly stock-standard. You have the walnut coloring and thin head. Flavor-wise, it’s a conservative mix of carmel and lightly toasted bread.

You could be an optimist and call it solid, or a pessimist and call it uninspired.

So completes October’s sampling of oktoberfest beers. It wasn’t an all-star lineup this time around, but hey — you don’t know that until you try ‘em. 

November will be the predictable month of pumpkin. Good suggestions? Send them to or the Twitter handle below.




October will be the month of (surprise) Oktoberfest blends. And we begin with a German original: Paulaner Munchen Oktoberfest Wiesn.

This is surprisingly bright, with minimal head and an almost honey-raisin aftertaste. It goes down very easily, and the 6-percent ABV is completely under the radar.

You can’t complain much about this one. Still, it’s not entirely satisfying when compared to an increasingly deep global Oktoberfest catalog.

There are better Paulaner beers, and certainly better Oktoberfests. This one is fairly distinctive — but, if you like smokier roasts, this isn’t the droid you’re looking for.




Anyone remember Smarties?

These were the tiny sugar discs that came in long twist-tie wrappers you probably ate as a kid. Maybe you were one of those kids who crushed them up and dropped them in your Sprite or 7-Up for an extra kick.

If you did, Red’s Blueberry Ale will take you down memory lane.

This is a beer so sweet your teeth will ache at the smell of it. Yes, there’s a trace of blueberry, but outside of that this simply tastes like a light beer that ate a Splenda packet.

There’s unfortunately not much else to say about this one. Red’s Apple Ale was decent: This variation, however, is practically a disaster.




This the second consecutive week of strange brews for review — and a first for bottled Bloody Marys.

Frank’s RedHot Bloody Mary combines two great things: Frank’s hot sauce and alcohol. It’s salty, in a good way, and has that classic Frank’s bite. Overall, it was pretty enjoyable.

On the downside, the body’s thin, the smell’s a bit funky and the heat’s mild — but that heat part is understandable. Too much spice and half your customers are going to cry. It’s not like you can’t add more hot sauce if necessary. 

Like the Cayman Jack Margarita, this is no gourmet treat. But for on-the-go convenience, you can’t complain too much about this one.




Going into left field for the next few weeks with some unconventional drinks, starting with this last-gasp summer beverage.

Really didn’t expect much from this one. And maybe setting the bar low for a bottled mixed drink led to a more positive overall impression of this, because it was definitely better than anticipated.

The Cayman Jack Margarita is the alcoholic version of gas station sushi. Maybe it’s not gourmet, but if you’re on the run, it’s certainly passable. Wet your glass, spin the top in the salt and load up. 

No, this drink doesn’t beat a fresh margarita. But it has an agave scent, a sweet-citrus finish and, best of all, an unbeatable convenience factor.