They get you thinking about Thanksgiving, those tart little red bog berries. And big, hearty warming ales may get your Thanksgiving beer drinking mojo working... but, Cranberry Beer? Some ingredients, as far out as they may seem work very well in a brew vat…but Cranberry Beer? Producers of cranberry-based beverages have known for years, the best way to get people to drink cranberry juice is to alter the formula by adding sweeteners and/or mellow juices. So it’s logical to suppose the best way to get a beer-lover to ingest cranberries is to add some to their beer.
When you think about it, Cranberry Beer certainly fits the idea of brewing in New England much like Blueberry or Pumpkin beers, but I doubt Cranberry Beers will ever reach the popularity level of those other fruit and/or vegetable beers. None the less, we should encourage the two Boston brewers who provide us one more holiday beer style option by drinking some.
Which leads to this question; why don’t they just name this novel concoction, Cranbeery?
Harpoon Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale – Harpoon Brewing – Windsor, Vermont – 5.9% ABV
12 brown bottle. Freshness date stamped on neck. Served in a SA Perfect pint glass.
Pours an orange-hued amber color with a fast-fading off-white, pink-tinted head.
The smell at first pour is of dried hops. A smell of cranberry sauce floats in carried on a bready malt foundation.
The flavors are a bit conflicting at first. Citrusy and resinous hop bitterness runs parallel to the tartness of the cranberry puree. Alas, the flavors begin the blend a bit as it warms. The mild malt backbone is revealed, yet never asserts itself. A bit of honey-like sweetness rolls forward and lies beneath. It's pretty good!
I expected to be disappointed, but am instead fairly pleased.
I enjoyed a gingersnap cookie with this beer!
Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic – Boston Beer Company – 5.9% ABV
12 oz. bottle. Freshness date notched on label. Served in a SA perfect pint glass.
Note: I first sampled this beer about 8 years ago and was repulsed at just how overly-tart and acidic it was. It was instant indigestion. It took 3 Tums to quell the acid reflux.
Now, I cautiously try it once more. I do believe it has changed. Not my taste buds...the beer.
It pours a cloudy rust color with a pink-hued beige head, along with a fair amount of sticky lacing.
A smell of citrus and cranberries waft up at first pour. A smell of Wheaties is followed by a lightly pungent clovey yeasty aroma.
Tastes of cranberries (surprise!) and orange zest dominate early. The flavors evolve into citrus-dominated fruit cup with a taste of lightly sweetened Farina. An astringent acidic/sourness is noticed in the aftertaste, though not as bad as I remembered it.
The mouthfeel is a bit off-putting. There's a raspy, dryness to it which creates a desperate need for a water wash down.
As bad as that may sound, it's not really. In fact, it's pretty good in an unusual way.
Cranberry Beer is an oddball beer that you need to approach with an open mind. It will pair very nicely with your turkey dinner or the inevitable turkey sandwiches with all the fixins’ later in the evening.
Next week: The Big Beers cometh.
Quote: To his students on drinking beer…“Yes I said, try tastin’ it. Don’t look so damned surprised. It won’t poison you and you’ll learn to enjoy it for its own sake” – Ruthven Todd (1914-1978)