Blue Mountain Barrel House “Spooky” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.2% ABV.
I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a porter glass.
Appearance: My steady then hearty pour tossed up two fingers of bright and off-white frothy head, which slowly but never totally dissipated to leave thick lacing. This has a bright burnt orange color with some red to it, and looks to have heavy carbonation.
Smell: Strong bourbon up front is joined later by some vegetal and sweet pumpkin, some vanilla, and some warm earthiness, perhaps from some spicing. I am not getting anything real spice heavy, though. The more I smell this, the more the earthiness seems to come from the bourbon. This has real clean bourbon to it, which dominates a lot of the aroma, and suggests a bit of booziness. Nice bold aroma.
Taste: I get bold and round flavors of roasty pumpkin, bourbon, and a complex and strong sweetness, like from vanilla, dark honey, and molasses. This is really bright also having some strong floral elements, as from some artfully added hops. This is not just a real malt-heavy pumpkin pie style pumpkin ale. It has a lot of complexity to it, and incredibly well-balanced flavors. There is a mild alcohol bite to it, but nothing major, especially for something that has this much flavor. This finishes with some of the floral sweetness staying strong. This continues into the aftertaste, which has just a bit of a bourbon bite as well. Really nice flavors. A lot less bourbon than the aroma suggested.
Feel: This is medium to heavy bodied, with moderate (plus some) carbonation. This is quite round and has a lot of warmth to it. It also has a lot of sweetness that does keep it fairly thick. The bourbon comes through and adds a little booziness, though nothing that detracts so much. This is a heavy, sweet, but has enough floral notes and bourbon to balance it out. Great round and interesting feel.
Drinkability: This is pretty good on this score, despite the little booziness. The flavors are strong, which make it hard to drink very fast. But they have a roundness and are pretty smooth. Before trying this beer tonight for the first time, I had heard that it was on the boozy side. Maybe the 2 months of sitting in my fridge helped, or maybe what I heard wasn’t so spot on, since this really isn’t terribly boozy. Decent marks here.
Overall: I would certainly buy another bottle of this, even at that 11-12ish dollars for a 750. I love how bold the flavors are. It has great balance, roasty pumpkin, and nice bourbon. There is that slight alcohol bite, though this is otherwise good with respect to being boozy. The floral notes are also nice. For my tastes, I’d rather have a little more roasty pumpkin and a little less of the floral and honey sweetness. In any case, this is quite good. Another great offering from Virginia. In fact, it is the best bourbon offering I’ve had so far this season. Soon I’ll have Heavy Seas’ “Great’er Pumpkin”, and Shipyard’s bourbon aged “Smashed Pumpkin”.
Overall Rating: ****
About Blue Mountain Barrel House and “Spooky”: Blue Mountain Barrel House was founded by the Smack family in 2011 in Arrington, Virginia. It opened as a “sister brewery” to the original Blue Mountain Brewery, which is located in Afton, Virginia. Blue Mountain Barrel House bottle referments all of their beers, which are mostly available in 750ml bottles. This technique allows for a richer texture and more substantial head retention, and also offers certain flavor advantages. About half of the beers done by their facility are aged in American white oak bourbon barrels, by the hand of Taylor Smack, brewmaster. Taylor previously worked at Goose Island, quite notable for their bourbon barrel aged beers, with their quite notable and sought after “Bourbon County” line.
Blue Mountain Barrel House makes “Spooky” by adding cocoa nibs to their imperial ale with pumpkin flavor. They then age it in bourbon barrels for a few months. This bit beer hits 22 IBU’s and 8.2% alcohol, and is worth spending an evening with.