Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter pours dark brown with a little more than average head at first. But it fades quickly. The aroma is anise, baker’s chocolate, coffee. That’s all present in the flavor, too. The finish is a strong, roasted malt and a little hop tingle. This is an affordable porter, and it’s low price and high quality make it one worth picking up.
I’m not wild about pumpkin beer, but Ballast Point's Pumpkin Down is pretty good. It’s clearly a scotch ale with pumpkin added. It pours a dark copper color, there isn’t much foam. The pumpkin is there on the aroma, but mostly this beer smells like a scotch ale, with warm caramel malt, liquor and citrus notes. The flavor is where the pumpkin and pumpkin spices come through most clearly on the finish of the flavor, but not so strongly that they dominate the scotch ale character.
Small Town Not Your Father's Root Beer pours dark brown and highly carbonated, like regular root beer. No head to speak of. The aroma is just like regular root beer, and strong. I could smell it distinctly while pouring it. And the taste is just like regular root beer, too. I pick up on no alcohol, no hops, just the usual root beer combination of sassafras, spices, sugar, and cherry. This isn’t something I’d get when I’m craving a beer, but I’m surprised at how identical it is to the root beer I drank as a kid.
Ballast Point's Calm Before The Storm is a Cream Ale with vanilla and coffee. It's billed as sort of a companion to the outstanding Victory at Sea porter. This ale is a clear lemon/orange color with a lot of carbonation and average head. Autumn vegetables in the aroma; squash, pumpkin, a little bit of vanilla and butterscotch. The flavor is a little muted. There is some malt up front, a little bit of citrus, and a classic, cream ale finish. I neither tasted, nor smelled, the coffee promised on the label. This is nowhere near as good as the porter.
Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale is not a shockingly original pale ale, but it's a a pretty good one. Pours bright orange with a lot of carbonation and average head. The aroma is citrus and malt. The flavor is citrus and malt, too, with slightly herbal/grassy notes. The finish is a little too sweet, but not enough to ruin it.
Ballast Point's Habanero Sculpin is different, that’s for sure. It pours orange with a little head, like other versions of Sculpin. The aroma is more or less like regular Sculpin, with the addition of spices, black pepper. The flavor is big on hot habanero. That’s really all I can taste. It's actually pretty hot. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t what I really want in a beer.