STEAMWORKS PUMPKIN ALE—Interesting, maybe even good, certainly not abusive

Over the last month pumpkin beer has had its way with LBHQ—much the way the kids have had their way test-driving Halloween costumes with yours truly.

We’ve had so much Halloween-inspired beer that  last time we went beer shopping our brains shut down and we bought macro beer. The pumpkin beer thing had just started seeming (and tasting) kind of gimmicky.

With the exception of LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER, in which pumpkin and its associated spices take a backseat to chocolate and, well, beer, these pumpkin offerings have been a little irresolute about what they’re going for.

STEAMWORKS has already impressed us with its steampunk-inspired bottle and pleasantly hoppy PALE ALE. But how does its PUMPKIN ALE perform?

Chihuahuas…there for the cupcakes.

Dark and opaque with an apt orange tinge, STEAMWORKS PUMPKIN ALE wafts pumpkin pie spices aplenty. For seasoned pumpkin ale drinkers this might be very welcome. For occasional indulgers, it’s a little confusing. And for bears who eschew solids entirely, it’s a whole new experience. I mean, it’s a little random. Where was the turkey-flavored Thanksgiving beer? Are we getting poppy-seed beer this Remembrance Day?

Importantly, the spices in STEAMWORKS PUMPKIN ALE aren’t overwhelming; they’re just a little too interesting perhaps. On the palate they don’t dominate, but the beer does end on an unexpectedly sour note. Not abusive like this:

Just weirdly dessert-like and a little precious. I don’t think any respectable hobo would bother with it, especially at $5.50 for 650 mL.

For those fellow inebriates with moustache concerns, STEAMWORKS PUMPKIN ALE won’t leave a cloying residue on your facial hair/fur. I spilled quite a bit of it on myself and have still managed to escape the washing machine, possibly because I licked it up, which animals do.

STEAMWORKS PALE ALE—the beer you need in your mouth

My dad is pretty good at not saying the wrong thing. If anything, he errs on the quiet side, and people often wonder what he’s really thinking. Not only is he diplomatic; he’s a good listener (except when you happen to be a bear requesting alcohol). So I sure didn’t expect him to describe the taste of STEAMWORKS PALE ALE (new in bottles!) thusly:

“It’s nice. Kind of a grapefruit note going on with the hops, and it finishes really cleanly. Kind of like a houseguest that cleans up after themself…in my mouth.”

I really like this summation. What it says about my dad I’m not sure, but my mum refused to transcribe it.

Prudishness, you ask?

Well, no. Well, yes. Yes, but in a different way. My mum insists there’s no such word as “themself,” and therefore my dad referred to a houseguest cleaning up after himself…in his [my dad’s] mouth. Which she said she’d happily type.

You have to be careful of these grammar-obsessed people. They are so detail-oriented that they can’t see the forest for the trees. As I warned my mother, they often become alcoholics after years of tearing their hair out over the exact meaning of “threshold,” whether the Oxford comma adds clarity or is just pedantic, and of course the demise, literarily, of the elegantly genderless “one.” As in:

“…like a houseguest who cleans up after oneself…in one’s mouth.”

This would have rescued my dad from some specific lifestyle-related questions that arose after we sampled STEAMWORKS PALE ALE. It would have obviated my mother’s arbitrary correction to “himself,” and it would have saved me from inadvertently summoning some raunchy imagery I hadn’t previously connected with my dad.

But let’s focus on the beer. For years Steamworks pub has been wowing Vancouverites with its line-up of tap beers. Problem is, you could get it only at Steamworks. But after 17 years, the pub is making a bold play for craft-beer market share, bottling its splendid products (at Dead Frog Brewery until the new Steamworks production brewery is built) and shipping them to liquor stores across BC. Ahhhh!

The whole production says money. The bottles are silkscreened with a sweet steampunk design celebrating Vancouver landmarks. Pale ale and Pilsner have already shipped, while Steamworks winds up to launch a series of limited-edition bombers including raspberry, oatmeal stout, pumpkin ale, and wheat ale.

If, like my dad, you’re not sure what you’re tasting, STEAMWORKS PALE ALE provides a tasting key on the bottle:

Malts—Pale, Carapils, Crystal, Caramalt

Hops—Zythos, Cascade


This puts STEAMWORKS PALE ALE into the bitter category, with a grippy, hoppy, grapefruity edge. With medium mouthfeel and refreshingly punchy carbonation, this delightful elixir packs 5.2% alcohol and lingers satisfyingly on the palate, finishing…er, cleanly.

Beautiful bottle, beautiful copper hue, beautiful taste. Don’t listen to my mum, who’ll just tell you there’s an unnecessary apostrophe on the bottle. And if you listen to my dad…well, don’t. He liked STEAMWORKS PALE ALE. A lot. End of story.

BROCKTON IPA—Sometimes you need a kick in the head

My judgment is feeble at best, my fellow inebriates, so when Scientific American emails me about a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Venus transit  the Sun, appearing as a small black disk in front of our blazing star, I’m not sure if SCIAM is advising me to look at it.

All my instincts are telling me it’s not okay to stare at the sun, but I’m thinking maybe I can get away with it just once. Venus won’t do this again until 2117. Astronomers are excited by it because it illustrates the way they find exoplanets orbiting distant stars—by the planets’ silhouettes.

I asked my friend Scarybear whether I should look at the sun* to see the Venusian disc. He said I definitely should**, for long enough to adjust my eyes to the glare and then a bit longer to make out the small dark spot. He said it would be “the coolest thing ever.” When I asked him if we need to put a special filter on the telescope, he shrugged and said that my eyes would “probably heal pretty fast.”

And the winner is…the lager.

Sounds like a plan. After all, a solar filter for our telescope would probably cost more than a few cases of beer. Between a filter and another GRANVILLE ISLAND BREWING Mingler pack, I’ll take the beer.

And while I wouldn’t gravitate toward an entire case of BROCKTON IPA, I don’t mind finding three of them in the Mingler. Sometimes an India Pale Ale provides just the bracing, hoppy kick in the head that a bear needs.

Deep golden with white foam, BROCKTON IPA gives off a strong, earthy aroma—hoppy, bready, and slightly astringent. The taste is more bracing than the smell, with pine notes and hops front-and-forward but some malty caramel notes balancing it somewhat. With moderate carbonation and substantial weight in the mouth, BROCKTON IPA finishes with a lingering, satisfying bitterness.

IPA isn’t a style we seek out too often at LBHQ; it always seems off-kilter with its emphasis on hops at the expense of milder front-palate-pleasing flavors. And BROCKTON IPA is an example of a beer in which hops pretty much beat the shit out of the other taste sensations, not to mention the drinker. But sometimes you need a beer that kicks your ass, and when you do, one like this is great.

We could buy four cases for the cost of a solar filter! I mentioned this to my mum, who had no idea why I would posit the comparison until I told her I was following Scary’s advice to watch an unfiltered Venusian solar transit*** while pounding cases of IPA.

For someone who doesn’t like using the word “retarded,” she sure unleashes it on me a lot.

* Do not do this.

** Do not do this.

*** Do not do this.