Beer Review 0528: 21st Amendment/Elysian He Said Belgian-Style Tripel

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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 As you might suspect, 21st Amendment is named after the actual 21st Amendment of the United States, which repealed the evil Prohibition.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 to have 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 second beer up for review is a Belgian-Style Tripel brewed with pumpkin puree and juice, galangal, and tarragon. If you’re like me, you had to look up galangal; let me save you some time: it’s a type of ginger that comes from Asia. The beer uses Trappist ale yeast and like it’s Baltic Porter partner, comes in at 8.2% ABV (alcohol by volume).

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Out of the can, this beer produces a large, bright white head that is foamy and frothy. It hangs around a good while, but doesn’t regenerate especially well; color of the beer is a light golden, and the body has a touch of haze to it, but no particles or sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving clumpy chunks stuck to the side of the glass.

On the nose, we’ve got a standard Tripel style ale with a subtle hint of pumpkin and ginger. The Trappist yeast adds a touch of bready dough and sweet honey, while the malt bill is grainy and straw-like. The sweetness mixes well with some orange peel, and there are classic touches of clove and bubblegum. The alcohol is well hidden, and overall the aroma is very nice.

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The taste is dominated by both the ginger and tarragon — the tarragon has a very earthy herbal quality to it, and that is very potent all throughout the taste. This beer is zesty, and kind of unwinds across the tongue in fits and spurts; there’s some orange peel but it quickly gets muted by the ginger, but it comes back…in and out like a detuned radio. A sweet hit of pink bubblegum brings on the finish, which is where the pumpkin shows up, for just a second. For a Tripel, I found He Said to be a little more bitter than normal, but it still qualifies as light bitterness to me; however, when coupled with the earthy herbal flavor, it makes for a strange combination. The final notes are faded orange peel, ginger, and grain. This beer is medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.

While technically labeled as a “pumpkin beer,” it’s really hard to qualify this as a full-fledged member of that style. This is a Tripel with a bit of an identity crisis. That said, I never thought the beer really hit the ground running, and it’s a bit muddled overall.

21st Amendment/Elysian He Said Belgian-Style Tripel, 85 points. Price: $9.99 US for a four-pack of two different beers.

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