Fall is undoubtedly here. From fall sports (hello NFL, NHL and NBA) to different foods and of course, seasonal beers. NHL 17 is doing a nice job of getting me to play the game differently than in years past. Traditionally I stick to the hometown teams in Madden, NHL and MLB: The Show, working through their franchise modes. For whatever reason however, this year NHL 17 has had me sinking a lot of time into my career mode, and by and large I have been thoroughly enjoying it. Of course it helps when I am enjoying a cool beer or two as well, as these modes can be major time sinks, so sipping on something like Ichabod certainly helps some of these hours-long play sessions.
Maybe I just didn't give the career mode enough of a fair shake last season in NHL 16, or maybe it was because I picked a less glamorous position (I had chosen defenseman so I could hit people more readily), or perhaps I just got lured away by the career mode on NBA 2K16 last season (the sports game that usually scratches my career mode itch most easily), but I got several seasons in with the Red Wings on franchise mode and never finished even one in last season's career mode.
For whatever reason, that script has flipped for me so far in NHL 17. Maybe I just like that my created character is a center and therefore more nimble with more scoring and assisting opportunities. I don't actually feel as though the overall gameplay from NHL 16 to NHL 17 has changed a great deal, but I have been enjoying the overall package this season and the primary beneficiary of this extra time has been this particular mode. I will showcase a game from it (my first one of the season) in an upcoming Play Time article, but suffice to say I planned to make a one-off recording and have found myself coming back for quite a bit more.
Well, aside from my time spent playing NHL 17, I have had a chance to revisit one of my preferred seasonal fall beers, Ichabod Pumpkin Ale from New Holland Brewing. This is yet another local Michigan Brewery, and while they have quite a few quality beers, my favorite is their Dragon's Milk series of bourbon barrel aged milk stouts. As Robert alluded to in his ReCore review earlier this week, it is pumpkin-everything-season and he specifically called out this particular beer in the article. The funny thing is, he did not realize I was going to be covering it in Beeps and Beers this week, so the timing was outstanding.
Well, the Ichabod is different from a lot of other pumpkin beers because to my tastes it is not overly sweet. A lot of pumpkin beers go for the sweet potato / pumpkin pie flavor with a lot of sugary / brown sugar flavors that can be very good, but instead Ichabod aims for a maltier, almost bitter taste that is heavily accented by big cinnamon and lesser nutmeg spices. It pours a coppery shade that almost reminds of apple juice or cider, and is a pretty easy beer to drink in volume. The alcohol on this rings in about 5% and because it is not too syrupy and rich, I can have a couple without any issue. Now, I will say that those looking for sweeter flavor or one with a richer, stronger pumpkin taste might not like this one quite as much, but for me it is always a really solid change of pace pumpkin beer.
So, I settled in with Ichabod and really gave NHL 17's career mode a heavy dose of play. It is interesting, because you have a few different ways you can start your player's career. I opted to just try and make the Red Wings and after my first game I was pretty uncertain how that was going to turn out. I was getting mostly good marks from my coach, but a lot of it felt lucky. I had some good face-off wins and got lucky and got some second-hand assists that made my numbers look better than I actually felt that they were. Of course, the next game was a complete disaster. I wound up in a fight (that I lost badly), did not get any assists, whiffed on all of my shots, picked up a stupid penalty and by the end of the game I was surprised the coach didn't cut me on general principle.
Luckily you have five preseason games to try and earn your place on the roster and the next two games went very well. I pulled off a couple of long slap shots that were perfectly placed and timed, putting some points on the board. I still struggle mightily with face-offs - something I used to be good at in earlier versions of NHL but am not as proficient at in NHL 17. Still, my player made the cut and is on the team as I continue to advance his fledgling career. This was a great example of giving a game mode a chance that in the past I have traditionally not paid as much attention to, but I'm glad that I have.
So, I like to think of this year's edition of NHL 17 as a change of pace for me from my usual hockey gaming, just as I like to think the same of Ichabod Ale. But, my review of Ichabod comes with an interesting twist as well - because I saw a sign at a local grocery store for an Ichabod variant I had never heard of before, called Filthy Pumpkin. Remember that Dragon's Milk I referred to earlier? Their suggestion on the sign is to mix that with Ichabod to create a new type of beer. Considering that bourbon barrel aged is my favorite style (seriously, you will all be reading about quite a few different ones this winter when it's cold and I'm looking for a warm-me-up beer), I was only too willing to try.
At first I thought I would try to separate it out like a black and tan, but that did not work out at all. Of course, I suck at making black and tans, so perhaps that is just me. However, when looking this particular beer up on Untappd, all of the examples I see were the same sort of muddied color mine was, so I don't think I did anything particularly wrong in the setup, despite what the image at the store led me to believe.
Aesthetic aside, I decided to focus on the taste, and I have to say - I was a huge fan. It is interesting because all of the things I said about Ichabod still hold true, but because we have a milk stout that sweetens things up. The pumpkin flavor is certainly harder to notice, especially on the first sip or two, because for better or for worse (depending on your own preferences), the Dragon's Milk beers tend to run strong on the bourbon flavors initially. However, but cutting it with the Ichabod, you do get a nice medley of flavors that I did not think would necessarily work well together, but I was proven wrong. Perhaps it is my own bias towards bourbon barrel beers, but the Filthy Pumpkin was superior to the Ichabod in my opinion. I do believe I have a new preferred way of drinking these going forward.
So for the regular Ichabod:
While the Filthy Pumpkin is just a notch higher for me personally:
Article by Nick