Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Juggernaut for fall

Fall is coming - less than a month away. Nights are cooler, although days still seem to reach uncomfortable highs at ruch hour. I don't drink very often before dinner, though, so the coming of cooler evenings in fall means a change in my cravings on the beer front.

Trouble is, fall offerings from craft brewers are traditionally thin. A number of them send up Oktoberfest lagers around Labor Day, most of which disapper by the time traditional Munich festivities even get rolling. Fall beers get crowded out quickly by better-selling winter seasonals - no doubt a reflection of the wider latitude and creative license engendered by that category.

One exception this year is Pyramid. Their Juggernaut Red Ale shakes up the autumnal offerings in a number of ways.

First, it's an ale. Nothing wrong with lagers, but where is it written that we have to ferment cool in the hot season?

Second, and related, is the hop profile. Fall beers tend to be bipolar - either moderately bittered but subdued in hop flavor, like the Okto's, or hop-crazy in the fresh-hop beers usually released later in September.

Not so the Juggernaut. Crisp and bitter up front, its hop flavor leans forward and balances the assertive, nutty malt profile all throughout. Cascade dry-hopping gives the Jug another little hop kick at the end, lingering a tad on the tongue.

Third, the beer has depth, both in body and color. Deep garnet in hue, you'd swear at first glance it was hazy, but in reality it's the dark malts making it opaque. No light-copper pale ale, here. It has mouthfeel, too - significantly more than the traditional pale ales and even Oktoberfests. The moderate carbonation and creamy texture offer a nice contrast to the often astringent harvest ales of fall.

Juggernaut would make a nice companion to something off the grill at a fall barbecue, or for sipping on cool fall nights by a fire. I could even see sipping on one along with some nachos at a football game. I like it. It's a good Fallternative to the usually thin autumn line-up.

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