Friday, January 16, 2009

Redhook Late Harvest Autumn Ale

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 12/20
Chad9976 (736) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 3, 2010
UPDATED: SEP 30, 2012 Seasonal autumn beers usually fall into two categories: Octoberfest beers (or at least those based on the style) and [nut] brown ales. Usually a beer in the former style will incorporate that into its name, but beers of the latter style often try to have catchy or gimmicky names, such as Red Hook Late Harvest Autumn Ale. Clearly, this is an attempt at making a weak brown ale cheap enough to sell on the mass market while also appealing to casual and serious drinkers alike. However, I just wasn’t sold.


This beer poured surprisingly rough, but has a beautiful shade of copper/burnt umber, clear complexion. Only a minor amount of carbonation was noticeable. The head was a small, off-white and soapy which didn’t last long, but did leave quite a lot of lacing on the glass, surprisingly. The smell was faint and unremarkable for the most part with only weak traces of malt and a tiny amount of roasty qualities detectable.


English-style brown ale is one of my favorite types of beer, but when an American brewer attempts to turn the style into a limited seasonal it seems the result is more often miss than hit. Late Harvest Autumn Ale definitely has all the usual signs of a brown ale, but they are very subtle and would be virtually unnoticeable to the casual drinker. For a more experience drinker, I was wondering why the so-called roasty, nutty qualities were so weak. Caramel malts are used to brew this beer, but they were equally weak.

The best way to describe the taste of this beer would be to take just a good brown ale and water it down. Yes, it does retain the basic elements of this niche style (which most beer drinkers really appreciate and enjoy), but without the strength of a true craft beer.

Since the beer’s taste is so mild, it really doesn’t surprise me Late Harvest Autumn Ale has such a soft mouthfeel and finishes so smooth. Since this former micro brewery is now owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch, it doesn’t surprise me a pseudo craft ale such as this might be watery in order to make it more drinker-friendly.


If I beer is going to have a taste like this (i.e. very mild), why have such a heavy body? At 5.9% ABV and 190 calories per bottle, Late Harvest Autumn Ale is quite a heavy body. Yet it seems to be marketed towards a drinker looking for something tasty for session drinking. The three bottles I drank more than filled me up. They definitely satisfied my body, but not my palate.


When American macro breweries attempt to cash in on seasonals or niche brewing styles the result, more often than not, is a let down. Red Hook Late Harvest Autumn Ale comes really close to being what it’s trying to be, but this discerning drinker just wasn’t buying it. 
Grade: 5/10

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