Monday, October 28, 2013

Analysis: Three Pumpkin Beers III

In October of 2010, I reviewed three seasonal pumpkin beers. I found the experience so rewarding that I repeated this squash-based beer tasting last year with three different products. At this point, I have reviewed the following: Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Brooklyn Brewing Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Granville Island Pumpkin Ale, Tree Brewing Jumpin' Jack Pumpkin Ale, Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale, and Steamworks The Great Pumpkin Ale. I scoured the liquor store shelves this year to find three more that I have yet to try. I tried these three with my family using a blind taste test. We added Crooked Tooth to mix this year as well, to see how the winner from last year stood up against these newbs. Here are the results:

Pumpkin Beer Taste Test 2013
1) Fernie Brewing Pumpkin Head Brown Ale
This was the darkest of the three beers we had and the blind taste test revealed unanimous similarities made between this beer and typical winter ales. With a vanilla bouquet and coffee finish, this beer was sweet but was controlled with light hop usage. Two of the tasters argued that this could not be a pumpkin ale! I insisted that it was, although they have a case since the label of this beer states that it is a "brown ale brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg". In my mind, this is not a true pumpkin ale because it does not share many characteristics with typical pumpkin beers and is first-and-foremost a brown ale. Having said this, everyone really liked it, and it was easy to drink due to its low carbonation and and subdued sweetness.  B+

2) Nelson Brewing Organic Pumpkin Ale 
I lived in Nelson for four months, four blocks from Nelson Brewing, and grew to really like their beer. I still buy it today and think that their After Dark black lager is one of the most drinkable and well-made beers being produced in BC. Therefore, I was really excited to try their Organic Pumpkin Ale, as this is the first year that they have made this. This beer poured a light copper colour and had a nice head. Similar to Fernie's Pumpkin Head, pumpkin was not the dominant flavour. This beer packs a spicy wallop, and two members of our group noted that it tastes a lot like chai tea. One person really disliked it because of the after taste, which she associated with Jagermeister. This beer was not sweet, so its heavy spice characteristics suit both dinner and dessert.  B

3) Central City Red Racer Pumpkin Ale
We all reacted negatively to this beer. Although the pumpkin flavour was arguably the most evident in this beer of the three that we tried, it was also quite hoppy and very tangy. It had an acidic quality too, and the extremely high carbonation did not do anything to improve the drinkability of this poorly-balanced ale. Despite local acclaim, I have never liked Central City beers, as it seems like the unfavourable traits in one beer can be identified in all made by this brewery. It is also strange how this particular beer was unpleasant while previous pumpkin ales made by Central City have been decent. That's another point off for inconsistency!  C

Keywords: "BC pumpkin beers", "Night Owl Pumpkin Ale", "Alex Dawkins"  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pronto Caffe

Several of my friends and fellow Yelpers have recommended this tiny trattoria, and I was charmed upon entering this neighbourhood restaurant last night. The simple wooden chairs, narrow layout, and coffee bar overlooking the kitchen sparked flashbacks to my travels in Italy, and the staff were accommodating and friendly when my friend brought his baby unexpectedly and we requested a larger table. This initial charm and the great customer service were the highlights of the restaurant, however, as the food only detracted from our first impressions. 

To start, we ordered the appetizers on special which were a tomato-beef soup and a skewer of prosciutto-wrapped prawns. The soup was hearty and thick, which suited the brisk autumn night, but it was also a bit heavy. The prawns were large and well cooked, but the chef coated them in breadcrumbs after they had been wrapped in prosciutto, and this coating was soft and moist when it arrived. The flavour was amazing, but the soggy texture didn't really have us wanting more.

The mains ordered were the spaghetti pomadoro (with a side of meatballs), the gnocchi special, and the shortribs special. The spaghetti was solid, made with a fresh and vibrant tomato sauce. The meatballs were okay, dense and only lightly herbed. My friend's wife said that the kitchen cheated with the gnocchi, making them from a rolled dough rather than as individual hand-formed dumplings. This wouldn't have bothered me, personally, except for the fact that they tasted like they were from a roll of dough...a little bit tough, with sharp edges. The shortribs themselves were great - probably the best thing that was ordered - but they were served atop a Milanese (= parmesan and saffron) risotto made with long grain rice. Long grain rice?! I am not a snobby foodie, but I was kind of shocked over this, even if Pronto categorizes itself as a "blue-collar" trattoria. The flavour was good. The texture was awful. 

And the ciliegia on the cassata was that they did not have any draught beer. The negroni I ordered was very good, but Pronto is going to need to do better than bottled beer to snag some of the adjacent BierCraft crowd. Especially since BierCraft has pretty decent food.

Keywords: "Pronto cambie street", "cincin review", "Alex Dawkins"