Beer Review 0527: 21st Amendment/Elysian He Said Baltic Porter

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In one of the more unique collaborations for 2013, San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery has teamed up with Elysian Brewing, based out of Seattle, Washington, to create two beers featuring pumpkin, both packaged in cans. This marks the debut of Elysian on this website as they don’t yet distribute in North Carolina, but we’ve reviewed several 21st Amendment beers, and they typically impress.

21st Amendment began operations in the year 2000 and are located just two blocks from where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. Both principal founders — Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan — took a brewing science course at UC Davis, trading their successful careers to follow the passion of brewing beer. As you might suspect, 21st Amendment is named after the actual 21st Amendment of the United States, which repealed the evil Prohibition.

Elysian opened in 1995, the creation of Dick Cantwell, Joe Bisacca, and David Buhler. The company has a production facility and operates three pubs, often churning out 20 different beers at any time available on-tap. Widely known for their beers featuring pumpkins, the brewery runs the Elysian Great Pumpkin Beer Fest, held each October. They’ve made over 300 unique beers since opening; at least 30 of them have involved pumpkin.

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He Said, the collaboration, comes in a four-pack, which contains two cans of each beer. The first one up for review is a Baltic Porter brewed with pumpkin puree and juice, Vietnamese cinnamon, and caraway seed. Remember, a Baltic Porter uses a lager yeast — the beer comes in at 8.2% ABV (alcohol by volume).

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Pouring made for a nice, average size head that was light tan in color and had a creamy texture. The head lasted atop a beer that looked dark brown out of light, but when held to light became a pleasing shade of ruby red. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and lacing was very good; no solid sheets, but plenty of thin pods of suds stuck to the glass.

The nose is traditional pumpkin beer with a huge malt backing. There’s lots of cinnamon, some clove, and of course pumpkin up front. Even though this beer uses Vietnamese cinnamon, I didn’t think the cinnamon was any more special than, say…”regular” cinnamon. But the malt backing is clearly the star here, pushing deep scents of chocolate, coffee, general roasted notes and bready, sweet caramel. As the brew warms, the chocolate turns from a dark chocolate into more of a fudgey semi-sweet chocolate.

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The flavor pretty much follows the nose, with a heavy spice up front that overwhelms on the initial sips, but calms as you get used to it. The cinnamon is out of control, and the caraway seeds, while not appreciated on the aroma, are full-bodied in taste. In the middle of the mouth, the malts begin to seep forward, and it’s very nice; full, black coffee and dark chocolate mingle with a toasty bread. The finish sees the spices kick back up, concluding with cinnamon and sweetened coffee, and a minor edge of bitter orange peel and herbal hops. I’d call that bittersweet, and the finish does help to subdue the spices just a bit. He Said is full-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

Really, this brew comes down to personal preference. Are you fond of heavily spiced pumpkin beers? If so, you’ll really love this, especially if you also lean toward drinking Porters and Stouts. I give 21st Amendment and Elysian credit; we need more darker beers that are flavored with autumn/pumpkin spices. But I wouldn’t want more than one of these in an evening, and I doubt I would return to it, even if I find the base beer really interesting (can I try that one by itself, guys?)

21st Amendment/Elysian He Said Baltic Porter, 87 points. Price: $9.99 US for a four-pack of two different beers.

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