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I strongly dislike the beer style for this week's Beer Style of the Week. I thought I should preface this entry with that disclaimer before I get too far into it. Hopefully my bias against this "style" of beer doesn't sway your opinion too much. Every year in late August or early September, craft breweries start selling pumpkin beer. I equate pumpkin beer to green beer on St. Patrick's Day (what a waste). Why the hell would you take a wonderful beer and turn it into a drinkable alcoholic pumpkin pie? Makes no sense. I know it is trendy and seasonal, but that doesn't mean that craft breweries need to make them, or as a consumer that we should spend our hard earned beer dollars on them. That being said, I will still present you with the characteristics and style guidelines for pumpkin beers and then try to give you some additional info about them. Drink them at your own choosing. Remember, pumpkins are vegetables, not fruit. First up, the guidelines:


Here are the stylistic guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) 2008 Style Guidelines publication.

21. SPICE/HERB/VEGETABLE BEER

21A. Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer

Aroma: The character of the particular spices, herbs and/or vegetables (SHV) should be noticeable in the aroma; however, note that some SHV (e.g., ginger, cinnamon) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., some vegetables)- allow for a range of SHV character and intensity from subtle to aggressive. The individual character of the SHV(s) may not always be identifiable when used in combination. The SHV character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and overpowering. As with all specialty beers, a proper SHV beer should be a harmonious balance of the featured SHV(s) with the underlying beer style. Aroma hops, yeast byproducts and malt components of the underlying beer may not be as noticeable when SHV are present. These components (especially hops) may also be intentionally subdued to allow the SHV character to come through in the final presentation. If the base beer is an ale then a non-specific fruitiness and/or other fermentation by-products such as diacetyl may be present as appropriate for warmer fermentations. If the base beer is a lager, then overall less fermentation byproducts would be appropriate. Some malt aroma is preferable, especially in dark styles. Hop aroma may be absent or balanced with SHV, depending on the style. The SHV(s) should add an extra complexity to the beer, but not be so prominent as to unbalance the resulting presentation.

Appearance: Appearance should be appropriate to the base beer being presented and will vary depending on the base beer. For lighter-colored beers with spices, herbs or vegetables that exhibit distinctive colors, the colors may be noticeable in the beer and possibly the head. May
have some haze or be clear. Head formation may be adversely affected by some ingredients, such as chocolate.

Flavor: As with aroma, the distinctive flavor character associated with the particular SHV(s) should be noticeable, and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive. The individual character of the SHV(s) may not always be identifiable when used in combination. The balance of SHV with the underlying beer is vital, and the SHV character should not be so artificial and/or overpowering as to overwhelm the beer. Hop bitterness, flavor, malt flavors, alcohol content, and fermentation by-products, such as esters or diacetyl, should be appropriate to the base beer and be harmonious and balanced with the distinctive SHV flavors present. Note that these components (especially hops) may be intentionally subdued to allow the SHV character to come through in the final presentation. Some SHV(s) are inherently bitter and may result in
a beer more bitter than the declared base style.

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel may vary depending on the base beer selected and as appropriate to that base beer. Body and carbonation levels should be appropriate to the base beer style being presented. Some SHV(s) may add additional body and/or slickness, although fermentable additions may thin out the beer. Some SHV(s) may add a bit of astringency, although a "raw" spice character is undesirable.

Overall Impression: A harmonious marriage of spices, herbs and/or vegetables and beer. The key attributes of the underlying style will be different with the addition of spices, herbs and/or vegetables; do not expect the base beer to taste the same as the unadulterated version. Judge the beer based on the pleasantness and balance of the resulting combination.

Comments: Overall balance is the key to presenting a well-made spice, herb or vegetable (SHV) beer. The SHV(s) should complement the original style and not overwhelm it. The brewer should recognize that some combinations of base beer styles and SHV(s) work well together while others do not make for harmonious combinations. THE ENTRANT MUST SPECIFY THE
UNDERLYING BEER STYLE AS WELL AS THE TYPE OF SPICES, HERBS, OR VEGETABLES USED. IF THIS BEER IS BASED ON A CLASSIC STYLE (E.G.,
BLONDE ALE) THEN THE SPECIFIC STYLE MUST BE SPECIFIED. CLASSIC STYLES DO NOT HAVE TO BE CITED (E.G., "PORTER" OR "WHEAT ALE" IS ACCEPTABLE). THE TYPE OF SPICES, HERBS, OR VEGETABLES MUST ALWAYS BE SPECIFIED. If the base beer is a classic style, the original style should come through in aroma and flavor. The individual character of SHV(s) may not always be identifiable when used in combination. This category may also be used for chile pepper, coffee-, chocolate-, or nut-based beers (including combinations of these items). Note that many spice-based Belgian specialties may be entered in Category 16E. Beers that only
have additional fermentables (honey, maple syrup, molasses, sugars, treacle, etc.) should be entered in the Specialty Beer category.


Vital Statistics: OG, FG, IBUs, SRM and ABV will vary depending on the underlying base beer.

Commercial Examples: Southampton Pumpkin Ale, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Ale (for a more complete list visit http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/72)


Here are the stylistic guidelines from the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

5. Field Beer or Pumpkin Beer

B. Subcategory: Pumpkin Beer

Pumpkin beers are any beers using pumpkins (Cucurbito pepo) as an adjunct in either mash, kettle, primary or secondary fermentation, providing obvious (ranging from subtle to intense), yet harmonious, qualities. Pumpkin qualities should not be overpowered by hop character. Entries in this subcategory may or may not be spiced or flavored with other ingredients; spiced entries that do not exhibit pumpkin character would be more appropriately entered as herb and spice beer. To allow for accurate judging the brewer must provide information about their entry; this information could include a classic style of base beer, and/or any other ingredients or processes used. Beer entries not accompanied by this information will be at a disadvantage during judging.

Original Gravity (Plato): 1.030-1.110 (7.5-26 Plato)  Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (Plato): 1.006-1.030 (1.5-7.5 Plato)  Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 2-9.5% (2.5-12%)  Bitterness (IBU): 5-70  Color SRM (EBC): 5-50 (10-100 EBC)

Now some of my tidbits of information, opinion, and recent tastings. I am not a fan of this style of beer. I prefer my pumpkin in pie form. I have had a few of these over the years, from small, local craft breweries to large mega-breweries. Hell, I even made one batch back in 2003 on
a whim. I still have half dozen bomber bottles of the batch I made. These beers range from low alcohol to high alcohol, low spice to high spice, from no pumpkin flavor to full-on bury-your-face in that jack-o-lantern flavor. Consistency of the final product in brewing with pumpkin is tricky. Yearly pumpkin crop changes in sugar content, depth of flavor, and color all affect the final product. The sugar needs to be converted before it is fermentable (if you want the pumpkin to do more than just add a bit of flavor). I've even seen a small craft brewery brew a batch of light cream ale and then pour it into a 500-pound pumpkin and allow fermentation to occur inside the pumpkin. The result was messy, smelly, and kept getting higher in alcohol as the pumpkin continued to break down (read decompose) aver 3 weeks. If you love pumpkin beers, I bet you are just enjoying yourself this time of year. As for me, I'll wait 3 weeks until Oktoberfest starts. Until then, I'll keep drinking other beer.

On to NFL news:

With the NFL preseason almost over (thankfully) and the final roster cut-downs occurring this weekend (Friday and Saturday), I am finishing up my previews. This week, I am headed out east. This time, the NFC East and the AFC East.

The NFC East is the toughest division to pick. All four teams are fairly equal. All four could win the division, all four could tie, and all four could fall flat on their faces and implode.

 

The Dallas Cowboys finished third at 8-8 last year. This team remained fairly intact during the offseason. Jerry Jones continues to think he has football knowledge which ultimately takes 3 games away from the win column. Shifting from the 3-4 defense from the last several years to the 4-3 defense of Monte Kiffin will take some adjusting. Can Tony Romo play up to his new,
reworked high-paying contract? Nope. I see him having another mediocre season where he wins as many close games as he screws up with his erratic play. Dez Bryant is talented but to close to the edge. Another poor showing from the Cowboys will ensure the end of Jason Garrett as head coach.

 

The New York Giants have almost as many holes as a spaghetti strainer. A tumultuous offseason with bickering, infighting, and new contracts have put this team way behind where they need to be going into a new season. Holes on the defensive front (and only NFL re-tread Cullen Jenkins to fill it) ultimately force the Giants into a rebuilding year.


Can new Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Nick Kelly, bring his Oregon Ducks' offense to the NFL? Every other college coach that has tried to make the leap from NCAA to NFL with an "innovative" offense has done great (sarcasm). Old man Vick at quarterback and the loss of Jeremy Maclin make this offense very mild. None of the moves on defense stand out on paper. Another wasted season for the Iglets?



The fate of the Washington Redskins hangs on the shoulders (actually the knee) of RGIII. If the knee holds up and he returns to how he played late last year, this team goes far. If his knee can't handle it or if he pushes too hard, they fall apart. Defenses will be aiming for him no matter what. The defenses in the NFC East are notorious for taking out opposing quarterbacks. We shall see if he can survive.


NFC East prediction

Washington Redskins 10-6 (division winner)

Dallas Cowboys          9-7 (out of playoffs)

New York Giants        8-8

Philadelphia Eagles     5-11
(glad I don't live in Philly, otherwise I would get beat up or pelted with dead batteries and stones for making that prediction)


The AFC East was looking like a two team race between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. Now it looks like and "also ran" race.


 

The Buffalo Bills are going into the season with a nobody at quarterback. Sounds a lot like the last decade and a half of football in almost Canada. Injuries at quarterback and rookie play when healthy will keep this team in the bottom (or nearly there) all season. While the skill players
have had flashes of brilliance off and on over the last couple years, the quarterback play and overspending on high-priced flash-in-the-pan players will keep this team on the outside looking in.


 

The Miami Dolphins were showing a lot of promise. Then a knee gets blown out and the potential wins drop. I'm not saying tight end Justin Keller was going to get them to the playoffs, but head coach Philbin's offense needs dynamic tight end play to open up other aspect of the offense.
They will be above 0.500 in the win-loss column, but still may be on the outside when the playoffs start.


The New England Patriots are old. They are in their dotage. Tom Brady doesn't have the same fire in his belly as he did in all of those Super Bowl years. He has to train and get comfortable with new wide receivers. His coach appears to have lost his mojo (too bad he can't lose that
damn cut-off hoodie), and the off-season distractions are still massive. Plus, everyone's favorite preacher is on the team. (I hate Tim Tebow and his proselytizing. Your "personal savior, Jesus Christ" doesn't care what you do on the field, idiot!) Unfortunately, the division is still the Patriots to lose.


Rex Ryan is the first coach fired this season. Yes. This season. As in during the season. The man is so bone-headed and football-stupid, he makes Al Davis and Jerry Jones look like geniuses. Putting a potential starting quarterback in during the fourth quarter of a preseason game? Smooth move, ExLax! Not that Sanchez is good or anything, but he was your starter for all intents and purposes. I think New Yorkers are going to be a surly, cranky bunch when both of their teams are sitting at home when the Super Bowl is played in their stadium in 2014. (Besides, sharing a stadium between 2 teams is just dumb!!!)


AFC East Prediction

New England Patriots 11-5

Miami Dolphins           9-7 (wild card, maybe)

Buffalo Bills                6-10

New York Jets             4-12


Enjoy the holiday weekend! Enjoy a couple of beers! And enjoy some college football. Only a week left until regular season football! I'm brewing a new batch this weekend. Its a hybrid IPA. All British malts with all American hops. Going to end up being a hop bomb. Glad I don't have to drink it. Making it for a friend.

Just my opinion...

 
August 30, 2013  07:38 PM ET

I've never had this style.. but I know others who have and have heard favorable reviews.. so I guess to each his own.. may have to make a beer run to the nearest brew hub to try it out this weekend..
NFC East is wide open and anybody can win it.. even the Eagles.. AFC East is the Pats for the taking

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