Seasonal Beer Profiles

Profiled by Tom Becham

Pumpkin pie is appreciated for Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holiday as well, so these beers are passably seasonal for the rest of the year.
Pumpkin has a long history in ale making in the United States.  The colonists used pumpkin as an adjunct, using the sugars as an aid to fermentation.  And truly, since most Brits regard pumpkin as an item to be fed to cattle, it could really only have started in the New World.
The first of the three I tried was Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale.  Dogfish Head describes this as a spiced pumpkin beer with a brown ale base.
My impressions?  It poured a nice rosy orange. On the nose, it smells like they dumped the whole friggin’ spice rack in this one.  The usual pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice – are very strong on the nose.  Only when the beer warms does the brown ale’s toffee-like malt aroma come forward.  The head is small and short-lived, but a lovely tan color.  Taste-wise, the spice again overwhelms the pumpkin at first.  The pumpkin comes out to play only upon warming, and is never more than faint, and almost overwhelmed by the slight minty hop.  On the plus-side, the 7% ABV is never obvious.  I’d recommend this only if you like spice – and a lot of it – in your pumpkin ale.  I love Dogfish Head for their intrepid spirit of experimentation.  But sometimes – as with this beer – they swing and miss.
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Powerful “Witch” Community Squashes Offesive Beer Label

Please note: Wiccans are not necessarily “witches”- PGA

Written by Adrian Chen for

Wiccans flexed their muscles earlier this month by railing against the media’s treatment of Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft revelations. Now, they’ve succeeded in getting the makers of Witch’s Wit ale to change their logo from a witch burning at the stake.

After famous witch lady Vicki Noble saw the label in the store, she shot off an email to her witch friends. The New York Times reprinted a choice bit of the email:

“Can you imagine them showing a black person being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven?” she wrote. “Such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore (thank the Goddess) and this one should not be, either.”

After being bombarded with emails, the brewery’s founder agreed to change the label. The once-ostracized witch community grows stronger every day! Won’t be long until we see campaign ads declaring: “I’m not a witch, but some of my best friends are.”

Vicki Noble Responds

When Professor Goodales told me what he had planned for the 31st I asked if I could contact Vicki Noble and get her response to the commentary and “news” stories that appear on this site. I can’t imagine a more perfect response…

In case anyone is wondering why I would even care about this, it’s actually right up my alley. For decades I have been researching women’s history and the roles women have played in human cultural evolution. Brewing medicinal ales is one of the earliest and most widespread functions of the shaman-priestesses from all around the world. You have to think about ale or beer in a completely different way, in order to understand the sacredness it has represented for indigenous people everywhere. It has to do with ritual and primordial religion, drawing down the wild yeasts into a sacred cauldron and allowing them to do their alchemical work. Sometimes the local fermented beverage provides the only real nutrition people get during certain seasons; it’s full of vitamin B and other nutritious substances, all of which is enhanced and amplified by the fermentation process. It was always women who brewed the magical beverages, from Egypt to Sumer, from the Greek Maenads to the India Yoginis, and finally right down to the “witches” of medieval Europe. It was the Catholic Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation that put an end to women’s centrality in the brewing of the magical medicinal beers. The abbeys took over the brewing and changed the contents of beer from psychotropic to narcoleptic; the powers-that-be decreed that hops would be the only herb allowed in the beverages (because they don’t activate a sexual charge, but instead put you to sleep). And now, in the last decade, breweries in the United States and other places are bringing back the ancient recipes and processes for “microbrews” and fancy nutritious ales. Lost Abbey is one of those breweries, and they take a particularly ironic approach to the presentation of their various ales. I think someone just stepped over the line with Witch’s Wit and didn’t even realize it.

If you want to read more about the wondrous history of sacred fermentation, read Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. The chapter on bees and bee products is one of my favorites.

The Goddess is Alive and Magic is Afoot! This is, after all, her most riotous season as we approach All Hallows Eve and enter the dark (winter) time of the year. Salud!

-Vicki Noble

Outrage Over Witch’s Wit Beer Label Better Focused on Real Persecution

Written by Chris Bradley for

There has been a lot of hoopla this week over the image on a bottle of beer portraying a witch being burned at the stake. The label is on the Witch’s Wit beer produced by The Lost Abbey brewery.   It’s a label that has been in place since 2008 and comes complete with a story depicting witches being persecuted for being evil.

This story apparently starts with a prominent member of the Pagan community coming across the label, then sharing her outrage over it with the online community.  A community that promptly took up the cause and brought an email letter campaign against the brewery.  Unfortunately, many of these emails contained insults, intolerance and hate themselves.  At The Lost Abbey Brewery website, they quote one such letter: “ “Screw you, you fat ass beer slugging alcoholic Christian Ass Hole.”  Surely this is not the way to get anyone to listen to us?

To tell the truth, I obviously dislike the horrible portrayal depicted in the art work. It’s completely not appropriate in this day and age.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

Written by Ken Carman

Topic this edition: Witch Beer Really Isn’t Witch?

I usually love creative names. But I think Lost Abbey was wise when they decided to repackage Witch’s Wit…

When Professor Goodales contacted me and told me what he was planning for Halloween, I couldn’t resist. He knew as a Unitarian I might have the panache’ to contact those who complained about this label and offer, in advance, the site’s misgivings about using this story as portrayed by the media.

I must start by mentioning that I don’t believe any actual ill-intent exists towards Wicca or Wiccans on the part of the brewery. With the pun, multiple meaning, name “Witch’s Wit,” it has all indicators of being a joke: a bad one, admittedly. Should we therefore have a German style beer named “Lampshade Lager?” How about “Whipped Slave Bock?”
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The Technical Edge

From John Palmer’s How to Brew

Water for Extract Brewing

If the water smells bad, many odors (including chlorine) can be removed by boiling. Some city water supplies use a chemical called chloramine instead of chlorine to kill bacteria. Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling and will give a medicinal taste to beer. Chloramine can be removed by running the water through an activated-charcoal filter, or by adding a campden tablet (potassium metabisulfite). Charcoal filters are a good way to remove most odors and bad tastes due to dissolved gases and organic substances. These filters are relatively inexpensive and can be attached inline to the faucet or spigot. Campden tablets are used in winemaking and should be available at your homebrew supply shop. One tablet will treat 20 gallons, so use only a quarter or half of the tablet to help it dissolve. Another alternative is to use bottled water from the grocery store.

If the water has a metallic taste or leaves hard deposits on the plumbing, then aeration, boiling, and letting it cool overnight will precipitate the excess minerals. Pour the water off into another pot to leave the minerals behind. Water softening systems can also be used to remove bad-tasting minerals like iron, copper, and manganese as well as the scale-causing minerals, calcium and magnesium. Salt-based water softeners use ion exchange to replace these heavier metals with sodium. Softened water works fine for extract brewing but should be used with caution for all-grain brewing. Depending on the type of beer, the mashing process requires a particular balance of minerals in the water that the softening process will remove.

A good bet for your first batch of beer is the bottled water sold in most supermarkets as drinking water. Use the 2.5 gallon containers. Use one container for boiling the extract and set the other aside for addition to the fermenter later.

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