Nick Carr on November 24, 2015 0 Comments With the changing of any season comes the seasonal variety packs from the larger beer companies. I don’t usually buy these, but while shopping around the other day for this week’s review I saw Boston Beer Company’s and noticed it contained a new beer. This beer, the Hoppy Red, is only sold — for the moment at least — in the fall variety pack. So, with fears that I may never get to try it if I didn’t go for it right then, I bit the bullet and bought the seasonal 12-pack. And so, you fine people get a four-beer review, seeing as I’ve never reviewed any of the four and, I figure, there are those out there wondering about all of them (except for maybe Boston Lager – everyone’s had a Boston Lager by now right??) and if the fall variety pack is worth buying. Shop for Samuel Adams Glassware on Amazon So, if you’re looking for the right beer for Thanksgiving dinner, this Fall Variety pack may just make everybody happy. Let’s look at each one individually. BOSTON LAGER: THE TASTING Pour and Aroma: Color is a nice Fall-like copper-gold, reminiscent of the yellow maple leaves taking on that tinge of copper. A short one finger head of loose big bubbles quickly builds. It drops a bit, but head retention is reasonable. Clarity is superb. Distinct grainy bread and caramel upfront. Hops come in, especially when it warms a bit, as spicy and herbal. On the whole it reminds me a bit of iced tea. Mouthfeel and Taste: Carbonation is medium-high pushing a satiating body of medium fullness. Sweet bready malt background with some grainy and light toast qualities. Nicely balanced bittering enters mid-palate. The herbal notes of the hops are quite pronounced. Hints of sweet bread pop again just before the swallow. Finish is dry with an aftertaste of grain and slight bittering. As with the aroma the flavor brings to mind notes of iced tea. FINISHING THOUGHTS There is little wonder this is Samuel Adams flagship. It is a nice, robust, easy drinking beer. It has enough character to take the title of “official door to better things,” leading, hopefully, many away from the dregs of American macro beer and into the eye-opening world of craft beer. It’s a standard, solid, refreshing libation that won’t scare newcomers, but can also offer as a steady entry in any beer geek’s book. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Vienna Lager ABV: 4.9% IBU: 30 Hops: Tettnang Tetnanger, Hallertau Mittelfrueh Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60 Serving Temp: 45-48°F Shelf Life: Approximately 6 months Suggested Glass: Tulip, Mug, Pilsner, Pint Availability: Year Round Food Pairings: Chicken Parmesan, Spicy Burritos, Sharp Cheddar OCTOBERFEST: THE TASTING Pour and Aroma: Pours a robust reddish amber, a harbinger to the change in the air and the turning of the leaves. A fingers worth of off-white head builds and rides the surface, but only for a brief moment before dropping away and completely disappearing, leaving a surface prickled by medium-low carbonation. It is very clear. Aroma is of sweet malt; caramel and toffee. Small biscuit like qualities and some very low hop floral notes. Mouthfeel and Taste: It has a nice smooth mouthfeel with a satiating medium body. Little bitterness or warming, with only a slight mouthcoating quality. Malt in the form of sweet toast, caramel, and to a lesser degree toffee take center stage in the taste. Front of the palate is all caramel with the toast and some biscuit-like qualities entering mid-palate. Bringing up the rear are some slight grassy hop notes, but little bittering. The aftertaste is pretty bold in its sweetness with some toasted bread qualities rounding the edges. FINISHING THOUGHTS: It is absolutely gorgeous in the glass and will definitely match the changing colors of the season. But, overall sort of a middle of the road example of the style. Nothing’s wrong with it and there’s nothing missing really, but the depth of malt is a little hallow. There’s enough there though to satisfy and, coming from Samuel Adams, it is probably one of the easier examples of the style to get a hold of. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Octoberfest / Märzen ABV: 5.3% IBU: 16 Hops: Tettnang Tetnanger, Hallertau Mittelfrueh Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Munich-10, Samuel Adams Octoberfest malt, Caramel 60 Serving Temp: 45-48°F Shelf Life: Approximately 7 months Suggested Glass: Tulip, Mug, Pint Availability: Fall Seasonal Food Pairings: Bratwurst, Grilled Chicken, Goat Feta, Crème Brulee HOPPY RED: THE TASTING Pour and Aroma: The Hoppy Red pours well… a nice deep amber red much like the Octoberfest. Canvas colored foam builds a two finger high roof above the liquid depths. The head drops around half a finger within the first couple minutes, but this lowered ceiling rests throughout the remainder of the tasting. It is very clear with minimal carbonation rising of the bottom. Aroma is of resin, pine, and spice. Catch some catty qualities to it and hints of citrus, but far less on the citrus end than what I’m used to seeing in hop forward beers. Very little of the malt shows through. Mouthfeel and Taste: Body is medium, pulled by only mild carbonation. Mouthfeel is a little harsh (though in all fairness I did drink this one at just below room temperature). Some astringency and bittering probably pool to create the slight harsh qualities. Very low warming notes. Taste is somewhat fruity/floral upfront before quickly shifting into resin mid palate. Spice lies heavy all the way with that slight cattiness appearing toward the back. Malt makes itself known with some quiet caramel notes, but also toward the back as a crusty biscuit-like character. The hop bitterness hits midpalate and plays all the way through to the backend and swallow where some astringency is left behind. Aftertaste is resiny, with some sweetness and bread crust. FINISHING THOUGHTS This new guy is my favorite of the lot I think. It’s a nice change to both the usual fall lineup and IPA offerings. It’s not overly hoppy allowing more of the malts through, something that works to its advantage especially given the season. This one fills a niche for those looking for a little hoppy in the fall season. Very nice. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: American Amber / Red Ale ABV: 5.7% IBU: 44 Hops: East Kent Goldings, Northern Brewer, Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Nelson Sauvin, Ella Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Special B, Caramel 60 Serving Temp: 45-50°F Shelf Life: Approximately 6 months Suggested Glass: IPA, Tulip, Mug, Pint Availability: Limited Food Pairings: Grilled Beef Brisket, Mutton, aged cheddar, vanilla cheese cake PUMPKIN ALE: THE TASTING Pour and Aroma: This one comes out of the bottle a deep copper color. A bone china head forms to the height of a single finger. Retention is rather poor here, with the head dropping away and disappearing completely within a few minutes. It is crystal clear –as all Samuel Adams beers are- and light carbonation floats of the bottom. Big pie spices come out in the aroma. Clove and nutmeg dominating the spice rack against a background of caramel and toast. Mouthfeel and Taste: Mouthfeel is smooth and pretty creamy –a happy consequence of brewing with pumpkin. Body is on the upper side of medium with a full round feel in the mouth. Taste runs the gambit of a pretty standard pumpkin beer. Spice, especially the clove is recognizable, but slight cinnamon, and nutmeg too. Malts are pretty balanced with the spices. Some sweeter caramel toward the front before much of the malt is hidden behind a spice blanket mid-palate. Hints of smoke work well with the spices and sweeter malt. Finish is spicy, warming with an aftertaste that is pretty mellow. FINISHING THOUGHTS This is a straight forward interpretation of the style. Pie spices dominate. I do have to give it to them for using actual pumpkin and not using the trick of building a sensory image out of the spices. It’s not bad, nicely balanced and I do like the hints of smoke, but in the end it just isn’t that far removed from the usual pumpkin fare. It is good enough for a person’s introduction to the world of pumpkin beer, and because Samuel Adams is everywhere it should be a pretty easy beer to find. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Pumpkin Ale ABV: 5.7% IBU: 14 Hops: East Kent Goldings, Fuggles Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Special B, Caramel 60, Smoked Malt Special Ingredients: Real Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Allspice Serving Temp: 46-55°F Shelf Life: Approximately 7 months Suggested Glass: Tulip, Mug, Pint Availability: Fall Seasonal Food Pairings: Pasta w/ Marinara sauce, Barbequed pulled pork, Aged Blue Cheese, Pecan/Pumpkin Muffins I think this Fall variety pack is worth buying, especially if a person wants to get a couple good standards for different beers offered this time of year. Both the Harvest Pumpkin and Octoberfest, while nothing spectacular are good examples of their respective styles. The Hoppy Red is definitely worth a taste, and since we have no idea if it is going to be released any other way, this may be the one opportunity to get it. Boston Lager rounds out the four nicely with something fit for the season but available year round. Cheers!