[We are back to celebrate the great beer month of October, a period of 31 days fondly indexed inside my malt-addled brain as the Beer Advent -- an anthology of festivities ranging from the beer-Carnivál known as Oktoberfest, to the SXSW-like, Beer-di-Gras of GABF -- then mercifully ending with the fraudiest-of-children's-holidays distorted to be a massive carousal of adult excess and dumbfuckery. Typically, that involves feasting on trial-sized Kit Kats and reveling in bombers of chocolate stout while passing out the shittiest of leftovers from my bowl.
[AA] will commemorate The Great Beer
Month by discussing Pumpkin Ales -- a polarizing style in the world of
craft, undone by the carelessness of particulates handled in bulk by the
Big Brewers and their chicanery.
So, welcome to [AA]'s multi-part series called Pumps in a Bump: Ignis Fatuus Drinkus]
PUMPS IN A BUMP: PART I.
Mrs. [AA] had the best overall observation when I cracked this open on a remarkably exquisite Austin Friday night: Oh, Cigar City ... aren't they the ones that make all that candle beer.
This is amusing in that Cigar City does indeed make products more similarly associated with the Yankee Candle Company aisle of Bed Bath and Beyond instead of at the racks at the bottle shop. With flavors like Apple IPA, Guava Farmhouse Ale, Sugar Plum Brown Ale, Blueberry Miffin Brown Ale, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale, Cucumber Saison, Chitlin Alfredo Lambic*, and Menudo Kölsch* -- to name just a few from their absurdly large inventory, it is easy to get confused if one is supposed to drink the shit out of it, or put it in a Scentsy widget.
But as you will probably deduce from my imminent enthusiasm forthcoming in this article, Cigar City is really quite adept at brewing these spasmotic-flavored beers -- which are not at all meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek, but very literally according to what is scribed on the label. There is nothing nuanced about Cigar City beers, and because so, browsing their catalog with my palate is like watching Jennifer Beal do that scene in Flashdance with my five-year-old eyes. Its all up in your face.
But I ask this, who amongst us hasn't overdosed their fro-yo with gummy worms, candy corn, caramel syrup, and Tang in stupid enthusiasm for variety and maximal sugar saturation? In that regard, I can definitely sympathize with Cigar City's ambition for interesting ingredients when faced with a buffet of options.
And with that, I can also say that most of Cigar City's beers that I've experienced have leapt beyond the novelty of their ingredients and displayed both technique and discipline withing their glass dormitory.
This question was, would Good Gourd keep that streak alive?
As I alluded to in the first part of the series, I do regard pumpkin
ales as a mis-utilized style, as brewers tend to offer more of a pumpkin-pie beer rather than a pumpkin-fruit beer.
Many of these beers tend to be muddled with ingredients that I find too
piquant to retain my interest over an extended period of time -- cloves, brown
sugar, cinnamon, ginger -- the fucking Scattergories of Thanksgiving, all whipped together in a pot-still with a dispassionate
base beer. I didn't order what all those Starbucks-Latte-fellating bitches on Facebook start clamoring about come Labor Day weekend, did I?
Good Gourd started out a lot like a traditional autumnal holiday Pumpkin Ale: saccharine, sticky, syrupy. Despite that, I did find myself pretty interested in its density of spicy-sweetness (but that's mainly because I'm of Mexican descent and anything that tastes like the diabetic venom of Churros and Big Red makes my heart thump like a 1948 Chevy Fleetline).
Good Gourd, however, did in fact display some great, well-distributed notes. Honestly, it tasted less like a Pumpkin Ale and more of a Candied Yam Brown Beer. There was fantastic depth -- though slightly thinner than expected for an imperial ale -- a breadiness that developed into walnutty fattiness. As it warmed, it got sweeter and more complex: cinnamon, spiced sugar, molasses, maple, brown sugar, marrons glacé. It was hard to be annoyed with the saturation-bomb of ingredients when all of them were working so hard to please me.
Sure, Good Gourd was baked starchy tubers in a bottle, but it was artisanal work -- as if roasted in the kilns of Sucre in New Orleans or Magnolia in New York -- not the ovens of HEB. Overall, it was like wining an audition for the Pittsburgh Art Council, then giving it the lead in the Conservatory based on its stripper dance moves.
Acquired: Gardner Barnes, thanks bud!
Musical Pairing: Travis | The Invisible Band (2001)
*So rare, they don't exist