Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged “Frog’s Hollow” Double Pumpkin Ale is 8.4% ABV.

I got an 8 oz  glass at the brewpub.

Appearance: This was served to me with some empty head space, and about a finger of off-white and thin foam. The color is a very hazy medium burnt orange. It looks to have light carbonation.

Smell: At the beginning, I get strong oak and bourbon notes, some vanilla sweetness, and some smooth malt. There is some pumpkin to the smell, but is mostly overtaken by the bourbon. Nice aroma.

Taste: I get strong but velvety bourbon in this, and some good pumpkin. There is the vanilla sweetness noticeable from the smell, and a bit of earthiness. The flavors are just great. The bourbon is strong, but smooth and pretty well-balanced. This does not have tons of depth to the flavors, but does have good, solid, and bold flavors. There isn’t much of a spice profile in this one, which is interesting. It does have nice rounded flavors, though. This finishes to let some of the bourbon fade into the oak. A great finish. A bit of bourbon, but lots of oak in the aftertaste.

Feel: This beer has a medium body with light carbonation. There is nice warmth from the bourbon, and some real smooth oak notes. There is some alcohol that comes through, though it is fairly mild. The oak makes for a very smooth and round feel, like  from a nice big oaky chardonnay. Great feel.

Drinkability: This is not something to drink fast. It is bold, and drinks somewhat like a well-mixed bourbon drink.

Overall: This is good and not too aggressively flavored. I do think the bourbon is a bit on the strong side for this; I’d like the pumpkin to shine through more, but the feel, the warmth, and the oak is just marvelous. It is also overpriced. At $10.99 for a pint of this at the brewery, it is a bit steep. I’m not actually sure what they charge for a 22 of this. Anyway, it is very good, and the oak is just great. Another oaked imperial pumpkin I hope to review this 2013 season is Uinta’s Oak Jacked Pumpkin. Look out for that one which I’ll hopefully have soon.

Overall Rating: ****

image (6)About Hoppin’ Frog and this beer: When traveling to Cleveland, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to swing through Akron and visit Hoppin’ Frog. After most of a work-day of driving on the road, I sat down in their tasting room just a few minutes after they opened for the day. There were some folks already there. (It was great to visit this space, as it only opened about 12 weeks ago. Last time I was in Akron, you couldn’t even sample beer at Hoppin’ Frog.) We were greeted by our very helpful and kind server, Courtney. We learned from her that the servers also receive some training in the brewery, to engender better knowledge and appreciation of beer and the brewing process. This certainly came out in our interactions, which were very pleasant.

Hoppin’ Frog opened in 2006 in Akron, Ohio, and has gained quite the reputation since then. They have won numerous awards at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. They distribute their kegs and 22oz bottles to 18 states and 15 countries outside of the U.S.. If you haven’t had their “B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher”, I recommend doing so if you get a chance. Having received much praise for their beers, their beers can be expensive. But some are certainly worth trying, like “B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher”. I got a chance to talk with the master brewer, Fred Karm, while I was there. He talked some about his inspiration for brewing, and in particular, about how Hoppin’ Frog makes this barrel-aged “double pumpkin”.

Fred says they use canned pumpkin, 60% of which they roast in a pizza oven and 40% that isn’t. The aim is to give both roasty and vegetal pumpkin characteristics to the beer; thus, “double pumpkin”. This beer has some spicing added, with some of the ingredients in standard pumpkin pie spicing being used. However, after the barrel aging, the spices really retreat. I tasted this beer right alongside the non-barrel-aged version, and was blown away by how different they were. The original was more acidic, much more like apple cider, and had a lot more of a spice profile to it. Both of these pumpkin ales, along with all of the other Hoppin’ Frog offerings, are unfiltered. Fred uses special tanks that help to limit and cut down on sediment in the beer. And with this, he is able to get the nice characteristics in flavor and feel that unfiltered beers can offer. The exact bourbon barrels that are used in this beer was billed as kind of a secret. Fred did say that he tries to get the oldest barrels he can get, and that he never uses the same barrels.

Having noticed that most of Hoppin’ Frog’s beers are big, bold, and heavy hitting, I asked Fred what inspires him with his beers. He, like many other master brewers, started as a home brewer. The first year he brewed at home was with a group of friends that were all passionate about beer. They brewed 50 batches that year, brewing almost every single weekend. 3 years into this brewing enthusiasm, Fred had a professional job brewing at Thirsty Dog. Later, moving to start his own brewery, he wanted to make the big and bold beers that he and his friends were excited to brew, “the beers you write home about”. Fred had a lot more to say about the craft of brewing. If you are ever near Akron, I say stop in to their tasting room and get some samples of their seriously good beer.

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