Friday, September 26, 2014

21st Amendment and Elysian score a double knockout

Put up your dukes, let's get down to it
A pumpkin beer face-off

Much of the beer I receive does not find its way into these pages. Suffice to say that when something moves me to feature a beer, it often comes from a point of a) having time to do so; b) feeling it's worthwhile for a broader audience to know about; and c) flipping a coin.

Okay, that last one is a simple joke but points out that I've been rather random in my approach to talking about specific beers. Whenever I do, though, those of you that know me know that my reviews are absolutely never influenced even slightly by their complimentary or reduced price nature.

But that's only some fine print as I am here with a fun package from the good people at 21st Amendment in San Francisco and Elysian Brewing in Seattle. The 21A has been close to me over the years because of my many trips to the Bay Area and my encounters with their beer, their place, and their people. Even enjoying the beer on board numerous Virgin America flights around the country. And they're readying for a massive world tap takeover. Elysian? I wish I found myself in Seattle more often and I settle for their beer "abroad" when I spot it.

Quite coincidentally, during my beach vacation in August, I polished off the last two of each He Said collaboration beer that I still had remaining from 2013. Now, the 2014 has descended upon us and my verdict is in: These may be the best pumpkin beers on the market for those that don't want to be assaulted with over-the-top so-called pumpkin pie spice flavors and aromas.

The package I received included a set of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots, which seemed to point to the fun 'n' games that Shaun O'Sullivan (21A), Dick Cantwell (Elysian), and their respective brewing staffs have when they get together for planning and executing a brew day. As the story goes, they each wanted to collaborate on a pumpkin beer; O'Sullivan wanted to do a light-colored beer in a dark can and Cantwell wanted to do a dark-colored beer in a light can. Put up your dukes gentlemen.

The version of He Said coming from San Francisco is a Belgian-style Tripel and the Seattle-based version from Elysian is a Baltic Porter. Both weigh in at 8.2% ABV and couldn't be more different — in color, flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel.

Somewhere in each beer is a dose of pumpkin puree and pumpkin juice and a uniquely simple dash of spices that does not overwhelm either beer. In other words, through and at the end of the twelve ounces, you leave knowing that you drank a Belgian Tripel and a Baltic Porter. The tripel does a better job at primarily showcasing one of its spices — ginger — and the porter gives off a bit more of the roasted and sweet pumpkin meat flavor in addition to the caraway seed. If you've been a past naysayer of pumpkin beers, give these a try and let me know if you agree that the deft balancing of flavors works to these beers' favors.

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