Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9% ABV.

I poured all of this 12 oz bottle into a stout glass.

Appearance: A careful pour gave about a finger of frothy light tan head. This dwindled away after about two minutes to leave a thin ring of foam around the sides of the glass, and little to no lacing. The color on this is a very dark brown, which is somewhat lighter than molasses. A little bit of light gets through this when held to bright light. This seems to have medium carbonation.

Smell: To start I get roasty malt, some pumpkin pie spicing, and light vegetal pumpkin. It smells like a porter. The spicing definitely includes cinnamon, and I think perhaps also some ginger and nutmeg. The spicing seems to be something like the standard pupmkin pie spicing. This also has elements of chocolate, perhaps from some chocolate malt. Overall, this smells nice and roasty, rich, and inviting. I now want to sip this

Taste: This is spice forward, with strong and dark roasted malt up front. The spices are cinnamon, ginger, and perhaps some clove or nutmeg as well. The spicing works well with the seriously roasted notes. The pumpkin, which is on the vegetal side, maintains a surprisingly decent presence throughout. It isn’t the most forthright flavor, though it doesn’t get lost in the mix of the other intense and rich flavors. That is pretty great. The sweetness in this is dark with molasses and some bitter chocolate notes. This sweetness grabs hold of you for the finish, and leaves a persistent aftertaste of intense, strong, and somewhat bitter roasted notes. This beer has real rich flavors, but also some booziness. I think this is really well-balanced.

Feel: This is on the light side of heavy bodied, with medium carbonation. The feel is velvety, smooth, and quite rich. The spices and dark roasty notes add some nice complexity to the feel. There is, as I said above, some booziness in the feel. This isn’t a major detractor for me, but is clearly noticeable. Overall, I’d say this is warm, intense, and has quite a good feel.

Drinkability: This has quite bold flavors and a high ABV; but in spite of the complexity and dark rich roasty notes, it is quite smooth. There is also that booziness I talked about, which certainly detracts a bit here. Even so, I think this is surprisingly drinkable given what it is working with. Obviously, drinkability isn’t so high a priority for the making of this beer.

Overall: I like this one quite a bit more than I remember liking it last year. (Though, to be fair to the beer, last year I tasted it at the end of about 10 beers at a pumpkin tap takeover.) This has dark and intense roasted flavors that balance quite well with the vegetal pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. It is well-balanced, intense, and hangs on to a decent bit of pumpkin flavor. This all works well for it. For detractors, I’d point to the booziness and the aftertaste. Going through one of these beers, the dark roasted elements really start to hang on the palate. This is broken up some with a new sip, which gives some more vegetal pumpkin. Even so, this makes it hard for the pumpkin flavor to flourish in this rich and increasingly roasty atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the flavors in this; but it doesn’t make it into the higher echelons of pumpkin ales for this reason. It is darn good. It just struggles with some booziness (so I say, anyway), and doesn’t really showcase the pumpkin. Lovely camera girl brought me one of the white chocolate truffles that I bought her for her birthday to have with this beer. The pairing was really nice. The smooth and sweet white chocolate paired so nicely with the rich and intense roasty flavors in this beer. With white chocolate or not, I would definitely give this one a go (even at the fairly steep 15 bucks per six-pack that I had to pay to get it).

Overall Rating: ***1/4

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