Maker: Jolly Pumpkin, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Style: Oak-aged Pumpkin-spiced ale
Appearance: Burnt orange with a frothy head.
Nose: Bright, citrus, pumpkin.
On the palate: Medium-bodied. Fresh Pumpkin puree, some bitterness, light sweetness. Not over-spiced or over-oaked. Actually neither make much of an appearance at all.
Finish: Light, pumpkin-y and slightly sour. Fades quickly.
Parting Words: This is a pleasantly pumpkin-y ale. The cacao and other spices are so far submerged, they might as well be absent. Still, this isn’t a a bad thing. This is one pumpkin ale that actually tastes like a pumpkin actually tastes. Recommended.
Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Age: 12 y/o (distilled 1999, bottled 2011)
Style: High-rye bourbon
Proof: 98 (49% ABV)
Appearance: Dark copper with longy clingy legs.
Nose: Black walnut, oak, varnish, dried figs, mincemeat pie, old bottles of Old Forester Bottled-in-Bond
On the palate: Thin and surprisingly light on the palate. A litte spice, sweetness and burn. Doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the nose.
Finish: The assertive, “dusty” Old Forester notes from the nose come roaring back in the finish. Big burn, then big tannic oak, then a hint of cotton candy. The burn and tannins linger for a very long time, begin to transform into peppermint, and then vanish. Wow.
Parting words: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is always interesting, whatever else it may be year to year. Ironically 2011’s is unusual in its Old Forester-ness. The previous two years were notable for being the least Old Forestery in a while. This one brings to mind old bottles of Old Forester Bottled-in-Bond or a milder version of the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Seasoned Oak. The 2011 edition is the best since 2008 and is recommended.
Maker: Arcadia Ales, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA
Style: American Pale Ale
Appearance: Hazy orange, big frothy head that dissipates fairlyquickly.
Nose: Oranges, raspberry, hops, fresh cut hay.
On the palate: Full-bodied, malt, breakfast cereal, moderately bitter, spicy and hoppy.
Finish: sweet then big and bitter and exuberant.
Parting Words: The Pete Sampras of American Pales. Along with Milkin It Productions’ sophisticated Axl Pale Ale, this is my favorite American Pale. Highly recommended.
Maker: Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky (Sazerac)
Age: 8 y/o
Proof: 93.7 (46.85% ABV)
Appearance: middle-aged copper with big, thick legs that cling tenaciously to the glass.
Nose: Cotton candy, strawberry ice cream, a bit of wood and vanilla.
On the palate: Sweet, then some burn, fairly full bodied. More cotton candy, vanilla, strawberry and tart cherry pie, bubble gum.
Finish: Burn with a hint of candy. Very little wood, though.
Parting words: I dunno…this is a toughy. My opinion of 1792 changes quite a bit depending on the time of day and what else I’ve been drinking. Before supper or as the first whiskey of the evening, it is very tasty. After something more boldly flavored like Four Roses Single Barrel or Evan Williams Single Barrel (both close to the same age) 1792 falls flat. It makes a smooth Manhattan but I like mine with a little more spice and wood. To sum up, it ain’t bad, but it ain’t great either. I have to come down somewhere though, so I’m giving 1792 a mild recommendation.
Maker: Short’s, Bellaire, Michigan, USA
Style: Amber Ale (Marzen)
Appearance: Auburn with a clingy, foamy head.
Nose: Sweet, malty, slightly fruity
On the palate: medium-bodied, with a lot of sweetness and spicy hops on initial entry. Lots of malt, hoops, sweetness, whole wheat toast and a whiff of smoke. Not particularly complex but well-balanced and goes well with my lunch of saltines and summer sausage.
Finish: Long, hoppy and bitter, but not unpleasantly so.
Parting Words: This is a very well-executed edition of the classic malty Bavarian Oktoberfest-type beer. It’s more aggressive than most beers of the same style, but that’s not a bad thing. Recommended.
Maker: Left Foot Charley Winery, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Style: Spiced cider (infused with cassia sticks)
Appearance: Old gold. Persistently effervescent.
Nose: Crisp apples and a hint of spice.
On the palate: Full-bodied and sweet on initial entry. As the cider lingers in the mouth a bit, the cassia/cinnamon comes through. It’s not fiery or overbearing, it’s just a pleasant twist on what is already a delicious American-style hard cider. It’s like a liquid version of my mother’s apple crisp.
Finish: Sweet and slightly spicy. The sweetness lingers for quite a long time. Pure, crisp bliss from beginning to end.
Parting words: Cinnamon Girl works fine as either a dessert cider or a table cider, especially with Mexican cuisine. It works best as a sunny fall afternoon cider or a party cider for sharing. No matter how you drink it, if you love sweeter ciders, you’ll love Cinnamon Girl. Highly Recommended. Unfortunately it is only available at Left Foot Charley winery in Traverse City, Michigan. Call ahead to make sure they have it on tap.