Nancy and I had no idea what to expect when we opened the Shipyard Applehead Ale, which the brewery gave me so I could sample it before it reaches the shelves in Maine stores later this month.

Bruce Forsley, director of sales and marketing at Shipyard, said in a press release that the company asked fans of Pumpkinhead (Shipyard’s hugely successful fall seasonal) what other flavors they would like, and they said apple.

Applehead is a wheat ale with apple and cinnamon flavor at 4.5 percent alcohol. Shipyard says it will go well with pork chops, sausage, squash and apple pie.

I have mentioned in this column that I do not like Pumpkinhead. In defense of Shipyard, I have tasted pumpkin beers from Samuel Adams and other companies, and I did not like those, either. It is the pumpkin-beer mix that I dislike.

But what about the apple-beer mixture?

The Applehead poured a nice light-golden color with a fairly thin white head. The aroma was dominated by the cinnamon, with a bit of apple in the background.

It was a little sweet, and although it is not listed in the description, we thought we tasted nutmeg along with the predominantly cinnamon taste. It had a fairly heavy gravity, and was an intriguing mix of flavors — fairly complex, actually.

We agreed it is a good thing this is a winter seasonal, because it is not a beer we would want to drink for refreshment on a hot summer day. And this will not make our list of favorites.

But it wasn’t a bad beer. And those who really miss Pumpkinhead after it disappears from the shelves will have something to satisfy them through the winter.

Compared to the other apple-themed drink I’ve tried in the past couple of weeks, Applehead is a pure winner.

I belong to a group that meets Monday nights, and after the meeting, we occasionally stop at Samuel’s (1160 Forest Ave., Portland) for a beer. On Mondays and Tuesdays, Samuel’s offers one craft beer (it varies from week to week) for $2 a pint, along with Miller Lite for $1.50.

On a recent Monday, the $2 special was Angry Orchard, which the waitress said was a new hard cider by Boston Beer Co. Three people ordered it, and only one of them could finish it. It was cloyingly sweet, and did not taste like real apples.

When I came home, I did an Internet search and found that Boston Beer Co. is doing a stealthy launch of the line, creating it in Cincinnati and offering it in three flavors: Apple Ginger, Traditional Dry and Crisp Apple.

I don’t know which of the three we tried, but I did not taste any ginger, and it was neither dry nor crisp.

I was glad I spent the full $4 and got a Shipyard Prelude. 

MAGIC HAT, a craft brewery in Burlington, Vt., recently sent me three bottles of beer from its Winterland Variety Pack: Ravell, a vanilla porter; Howl, its winter seasonal; and Encore Fall IPA; as well as the company’s flagship, #9, which is part of all Magic Hat seasonal 12-packs.

The clear winner in the group was Ravell, which had a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel, a good rich mix of malt and vanilla beans, and just a little bit of hops.

It comes in at 5.8 percent alcohol, and would be wonderful to curl up with on the couch on a cool winter evening.

Encore is a good, bitter beer, and in what seems to be a trend, mixes wheat beer with an IPA. Now that I have tasted this mix several times, it’s not as discordant as I first thought.

Howl is a deep black, and it was described as having a chocolate flavor, but for me, the chocolate was more like a Tootsie Roll. It was my least favorite of the three.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]


filed under: