Beer Works “Black O Lantern” Imperial Pumpkin Stout is 8.5% ABV.
I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a stout glass.
Appearance: I poured this vigorously, creating two fingers of thick chestnut-colored head. This looked like it wasn’t going anywhere, but it did dissipate in about 5 minutes to leave just a thin layer of creamy head atop this beer and no lacing. The color is an impenetrable dark brown heading towards black. From the bubbles coming through the head at the top, mild carbonation is my guess.
Smell: I get a lot of very dark and roasty malt. The malt has some notes of cocoa and coffee. There is some mild vegetal pumpkin as well, which brings along some mild sour notes. The more I smell this, the more the pumpkin flavor comes out. Overall this smells like it will be rich in dark malt.
Taste: This has a good bit of roasty malt, but a bit of darker spiciness as well. For spices I get nothing so distinct, maybe clove and probably cinnamon. The malt presence is nice, and cut by the slightly astringent vegetal pumpkin that forms something of a backdrop. This tastes almost as if it were aged in bourbon or other spirit barrels for a little bit, as it has more forthright spiciness and a little alcohol to it, especially on the end. This finishes to let mild sour notes from the vegetal pumpkin and the spiciness come through a bit more. The aftertaste has dark malt and spiciness hanging around for awhile along with a touch of astringency.
Feel: This is medium to heavy bodied, with light carbonation. In fact, it is a lot lighter in body than I was expecting. I was thinking I’d get a rich and very thick stout. This has some astringency from pumpkin which, along with the spiciness, breaks up the dark and roasty malt. These are interesting components to the feel. There is also some slight booziness to this. Not the best feel on this one.
Drinkability: This is not the most drinkable. The feel isn’t so suited to help the drinkability. And the alcohol it has towards the end doesn’t help this to drink so easily. Not the most drinkable pumpkin ale. Yet, this is an imperial stout, so I wasn’t really expecting easy drinking.
Overall: This has vegetal pumpkin, which I think can work really well with dark and roasty malt. I think they are great flavors to contrast. A bit of acidity and astringency with intense deep malt is nice. This has some of that contrast, but also has an alcohol bite, and a spiciness that is a bit too harsh. I wonder how this would taste if it laid down for a bit. In any case, this is alright, but nothing to write home about. If you are looking for a good pumpkin stout, I’d go for Saint Arnold’s “Pumpkinator” or Elysian’s “Dark O’ The Moon”.
Overall Rating: **
About Beer Works and “Black O Lantern”: This is the second pumpkin offering I’ve now reviewed by Beer Works. Yesterday I reviewed their first, “Pumpkin Works”. In that review, I talked about the history of their brewery. Beer Works started in 1992 in historic Fenway, and now offers 6 different brewpub locations for the people of Greater Boston. This year, the “Black O Lantern” is brand new.
As part of their “Overtime” series, Beer Works makes their “Black O Lantern” in a way similar to how they make their “Pumpkin Works”. They put pumpkin into the mash, and then add spices of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg into the boil. At 40 IBUs and 8.5%, it definitely packs a punch. Even in their advertising for the beer, they say, “[f]inishes with a strong but enjoyable kick of alcohol.” For those that want a little booziness in a dark beer, this may be good for your autumn beer cellar.