Beer Profile: Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale

Profiled by Ken Carman

This review is a review of not only the beer, but my health. Let’s just say with gallstones I have had an adverse reaction to beer… still trying to figure it out. So far, so good.

Aroma: moderate pumpkin spices, behind that we have light pale malt-like sense and perhaps some caramel malt: a lighter touch to the last. Mostly allspice? Fruity pumpkin pie aroma.

Appearance: small pillow foam-like head that fades moderately. More in glass? Pours a bigger head. A hazy copper color, so clarity provides the faint image of my hand behind the plastic glass. The glass was clean, however the soft plastic may have provided some of that. The cordon (edge of glass; especially bubbles/head) is all that’s left of the pillow head.

Taste: DRY; kind of like someone poured some sand into a pumpkin beer, thankfully without the texture. The spices dominate with caramel malt-like behind that, pale behind that. Somewhat well balanced, if you prefer the spices. Tries to be sweet, just a tad, but fails. Spices conquer all. Hard to decide which spice dominates, so comes across as all spice. Good balance as far as spice mix because they blend well with each other. As I sit here; a few minutes after the last drop was swallowed, I can still sense the spices.

Mouthfeel: the prickly carbonation is firm yet just below moderate, which one would want with this. Aftertaste is the spices that cling desperately to the roof of the mouth. The malt is silky, smooth, pleasing. Long for more.

Conclusion: an excellent beer is you wish for dry, less sweet and balance to the spices. Personally I would prefer a tad sweeter, less emphasis on spices and more on the malt, but as typed: preferences. Hence a higher score than if it was just my opinion. I do think balance with spice just a hint of an issue no matter what I prefer, so it would have scored higher.

On the Ken side: so far so good. We shall see as I go go forth through the day.

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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____________________________Beer HERE

4.4

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_______________________________Beer HERE

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Moving Sideways


Ken the beer judge moving sideways. Not really crabby at all! Crab Kolsch? Hmmm…

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 When I first became BJCP Certified I decided I wanted to serve the BJCP as best I could. I thought maybe being National might facilitate that. I think I was wrong.
 I admit to taking to retaking the test several times. I didn’t advance but I learned so much doing that! Yet, I also understood tasting tests might be best be reserved more for new judges. Taking a new judge’s seat was something I didn’t want to do. To be fair most of the tests I took might not have happened because they were having trouble filling seats.
 But, at least for now, I’m done with that. I have a new goal and I’m halfway there: moving sideways.

 ”Moving sideways, what’s that?”

 Why thank you for asking! Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Moving Sideways”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: THE Website

The OLD website.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I suddenly realized, when I had reached the new redesigned BJCP web site, that I had been here before. Not this exact design. Not even in regard to beer.
 Why the two are similar, why I had “been here before,” is because they both were about layout vs. content and usability. Also, in the case of the two publications, about how strict, dogmatic, rules for layout may actually ruin intent.
 In the early 70’s I was one of two editors of a literary magazine in college. I was also a columnist and did an occasional news story or review for the paper. Oh, and helped with layout on both until I clashed with the graphic artist too much when doing the paper. I had hoped it would stop there. I was wrong.
 Don’t get me started on that or I’ll get too far away from my topic; lost in the weeds of anal graphic arts theory (now thankfully dated) vs. what really works. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: THE Website”

From the Bottle Collection: Saranac

Saranac/Matt Brewing. Picture courtesy Wikipedia.

 Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice: tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s; OR, cover them with… The Bottle Collection

 The reason I am writing this is the plan this year, or at least by next, is for both of us to retire and move back to the Adirondacks where I am from, and closer to Millie’s sister. We have two places waiting for us. I am NOT moving the bottle collection, so if you know anyone who wants a vast beer bottle collection going back to the 60’s you could contact me via Facebook. I am in the process of dumping bottles, so sooner is better.
 I thought it a great idea to place what Saranac bottles I have; not even close to all the styles they have done, on a classic vehicle. The truck is this story is our 63 Studebaker Champ named Harvey Robin Churchill. Harvey was my first car: a 61 Lark I bought for $25 and went well over 300,000 miles. Robin: color of a Robin’s egg, according to Millie, my wife, and we both loved Robin Williams. Harold Churchill: without Harold there would have been no Lark.
 Another reason I am doing this is to celebrate one simple fact: Saranac, also known in Matt Brewing and F.X Matt Brewing, has done something incredible. Among the smaller major brewers in this country they have brewed more different styles than pretty much anyone. I am referring to old school brewers that go back to the 1800’s. In fact Matt Brewing would be the OLDEST surviving brewery in the country, instead of the second, if they hadn’t changed names and owners in the 1800’s. The original owners didn’t own it for long. This is kind of a technicality, IMO.
 Most of the surviving small traditional breweries have done a craft-like style here, style there. The gigantic breweries simply bought out craft brewers. Their independence safe… for NOW Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection: Saranac”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY


Andrew Luberto: BJCP Grand Master, mead, Advanced Cicerone

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
Note: Readers will be wondering, “You took a test on Long Island when you live in Nashville?” So this edition will provide a lot of context. Hence why it reads even more like a diary than previous editions.

 This is the 3rd test I have taken since I became Certified BJCP back in the 2000’s. Usually my main purpose is using tests as a self teaching tool. They inspire me to go out of my way and study more, learn more. I don’t want to be a judge who just passes the test, gets his rank, and never does anything to improve, to challenge myself. For me the pressure of an upcoming test is perfect.
 Though these tests can be like an advanced refresher course, with this test I had as strong an incentive to achieve a mead endorsement.

Mead judging at Austin, NHC. Courtesy Beer and Wine Journal
 I have tried to spread the beer tasting tests apart, time-wise, because I understand more new judges is important.
 Bringing at least one more mead judge to the mid-South competitions matters to me. The mid-South is somewhat of a mead judging desert, in my opinion.
 Since we don’t have the mead judges we need there are few (to no) mead entries. Far less than I hope for. So if I pass, dare I hope, dare I dream, dare I imagine, as a mead judge I might become Johnny Apple Mead? (Did that weak attempt at a joke make you Cy… Sir?)
 I will start by reporting the basics of how my beer journey, that started in the 70s, had me arriving at Bay Shore, Long Island, for a mead tasting test all the way from Nashville, TN. Then… specifics of the test itself; as much as I can offer. Third… observations, especially personal analysis. I WILL be quite critical of myself. Last… the big wave goodbye as I headed north, with some personal notes.
 I started brewing in the 70s. Then in the 2000’s I began brewing braggots: kind of a back door to mead at the time. The style appealed to me because I enjoy complex quaffs. When I told fellow brewers at the time what I was brewing I’d get, “What is THAT?” This was when online wasn’t a thing yet and legacy mead tests were even harder to find than Sinclair brand dinosaur era-based fuel on my main route.
 I had to rely on Thruway Sunoco to get here instead.
 Yes, I have a history of doing idiotic things like driving long distances to take BJCP tests. My second Legacy was in Knoxville. My other two, post Certified, were in Atlanta. This year I almost drove to Pittsburgh area from Nashville for a mead test, but it was canceled.
 I took my online mead test just before COVID really hit. Because of COVID the tasting portion of several regular BJCP tests have been canceled for obvious reasons, and I only have a year to get this done. That has been difficult: tasting tests for mead have been even harder to find. There are close to none in the mid-South.
Knickerbocker 2014. Courtesy Chad’z Beer Reviews
 I started judging beer around 1998, became BJCP in the 2000’s, I find it unfortunate; except one mead only competition in Savannah this year, that I always end up head of the table when there is a mead table. There just doesn’t seem to be enough mead judges; especially in the mid-South. And not just the South. One of the first mead tables that I became the head judge for was at Knickerbocker, back when the competition was in Albany. I wanted to learn so I told the organizer if he had a mead judge coming I would love to judge with them so I could learn more. Never guess who had to cancel?
 Through this column I have become an advocate for more mead judges. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY”

Beer Profile: Devil’s Backbone O’fest Lager

Profiled by Maria Devan

58870261_2482313405329658_7808926090944053248_o-1-150x150-1Pours a shade or two lighter than their Vienna for golden amber with a fat white head that lasts and clings sumptuously. Clear. Nose is malty and beady with a floral from hops and sweet grasses. PGAprofile-150x150-1A touch of promising light toast.

Drinks well with a firm malt and graceful hops. Steady bitterness, moderate carbonation. Finishes mostly dry. Would go well on the autumn or harvest table.

The difference between this beer and some of the European Fest beers is the hop character as well as a dry malt character. The Europeans like their malt completely dry with no sweetness in the finish. Also they like to show off the spice character of the hops. In Spaten, Ayinger and Weihenstephaner Oktoberfest for example from past years, you’ll notice a more prominent spice character from hops.

BA- 82
Untappd- 3.6 out of 5
RB-5.8

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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__________________________Beer HERE

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber

Different colors of actual amber

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This comes from an argument I had quite a while ago with another BJCP judge about how we talk about colors: specifically amber. If you look at the picture at the top of the column you may note that actual amber is certainly not just one color, and definitely not always lighter than what we think of as copper, though copper is not a singular color. It does vary… somewhat.
 If you look into the colors of honey there are variations on amber honey too in mead judging. So why do we stick to one hue? One variation? Shouldn’t we have gradations to more accurately reflect the actual color? I might even consider dropping copper if considering light to dark, because copper is more a hue variation with the addition of a red tint to it. Copper, when it comes to light to dark, could be covered by amber.
 I do believe in standards, but standards that reflect the nature of the color, not one singular nature. I have read the argument that everyone is familiar with the standard color due to amber the substance that is commonly used in jewelry. My father made jewelry out with amber setting all the time, but that practice seems to have faded with better fake gems. That one version may have gotten a slight kick from Jurassic Park, but how long ago was that? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber”

Profile: Southern Grist’s Blueberry Pancake Breakfast Brown

Profiled by Ken Carman

Deep tan head headed towards brown that doesn’t hold long. Quaff brown almost black, so dark clarity very hard to assess. SRM in 30s. Head clings to side of glass in ring. Tipped glass provides just a little clarity. No “floaties.”

The aroma is brown malt mixed with a whiff of blueberries behind that. Maple syrup-like sweetness way behind that: barely tingles the nose. What blueberry sense there is is more blueberry syrup-like. Slightly sweet in aroma: pancakes a definite sense to that. No alcohol in aroma, no hops.
Continue reading “Profile: Southern Grist’s Blueberry Pancake Breakfast Brown”

Westmalle Dubbel V. Chimay Dubbel

Written by Maria Devan

Cheers you all and welcome to the second half of my “dubbel feature.” Last time I had the Chimay dubbel. Today I am having the Westmalle dubbel.

The appearance is darker, 17 on the srm chart, a mahogany color that does not have as much golden fire around the edges. Another way to express the color is dark but not burned toast. The head of foam is darker in color. This one is khaki colored and long lasting with some bigger bubbles atop a dimpled rocky head that falls slowly, shimmering in sheets and falls away to spot as you drink. Nose is bready like brown bread and has slight hop grasses on the nose. Rose like qualities on the nose and slightly plummy. Raisins and dried dates in the background and a very light spicy clove. Drinks just like the nose and finishes drier yet malty with a slight bitterness from those grassy hops. Moderate carbonation. The bubbles are hard and plentiful. Slight warming from alcohol.

There are differences in every category from the Chimay Dubbel. In the Chimay beer the color and head were lighter. There was no hops on the nose or in the flavor. The breadiness was biscuit- not brown bread in the Chimay beer. There was no rose like scent and the clove was stronger. There also was no alcohol presence on the Chimay and nothing bitter in the finish. The carbonation was firmer than Chimay. And the Chimay finished sweeter than the Westmalle. Two world class dubbels that have plenty of differences between them.