Shipyard Bourbon Barrel Aged “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 12.0% ABV.
I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.
Appearance: A hearty pour tossed up a half-inch of off-white head, which slowly dissipated and left no real lacing. The color of this is a bright medium burnt orange, with a slight haze to it. This beer looks to have heavy carbonation.
Smell: To start I get good strong bourbon, strong and smooth vanilla, round oak, and some roasty pumpkin with some spicing. The spicing isn’t so clear, and takes a backseat to the other strong aromas. I sense some cinnamon with some helpers. The bourbon, vanilla, and roasty pumpkin are the big players. This also has a prominent booziness. For my tastes, it has a wonderful albeit intense aroma.
Taste: The flavor of this is also wonderful. There is strong bourbon that isn’t overpowering, very smooth vanilla and oak that lasts throughout, and some roasty pumpkin with spices. It is much smoother than I was led to believe from the aroma. The bourbon is pervasive but doesn’t end up harsh, which is quite a feat for something this bold. The pumpkin is on the roasty side, and is accented by some spice. The spice bill seems to include some cinnamon and some nutmeg, maybe with some ginger thrown in as well. This also has a lovely and strong honey and toasted malt sweetness, adding some more depth and roundness. This finishes sweet and smooth with the honey and some of the spices leading into an aftertaste of muted honey and some spice soaked in bourbon. Just delicious and round flavors.
Feel: This is medium bodied with moderate carbonation. The feel on this is warm and round. It has some depth and structure from the bourbon and the spice, and some smoothness from the oak, vanilla, honey, and roasted pumpkin. It is also creamy, with a rich smooth texture. Outstanding feel.
Drinkability: For something this bold that is 12%ABV and has strong bourbon, this is very good on this score. This is a definite sip and savor, something to enjoy the complexity of. There is strong bourbon, but it is very well balanced and rounded on the edges. I”m blown away by how different and how much smoother this beer is than the “Smashed Pumpkin” I reviewed last night.
Overall: I think this beer is a huge success. Not that I don’t like Shipyard, but I was expecting this to be a bit harsher and rough around the edges. This is mostly because of my experience with their bold and delicious though somewhat boozy “Smashed Pumpkin”. To compare the two, I even poured a little glass of “Smashed Pumpkin” from the half a bottle I sealed last night. And it is really quite stunning how different this bourbon barrel aged version is. The complexity is really amped up with this bourbon barrel version, as is the roundness. “Smashed Pumpkin” is more acidic, and not as round and complex. In any case, I have to say that this is my favorite bourbon barrel aged pumpkin ale I’ve ever had. Its close contender would be Heavy Seas’ “Great’er Pumpkin”. But I find this offering from Shipyard more complex and round, with less of a cidery quality and more of a creamy and bold imperial ale personality. In any case, this bourbon version comes very highly recommended. If you get the chance, make this one happen! I’m having it next to a warm fire, and couldn’t be happier.
Overall Rating: ****1/2
About Shipyard and their Bourbon Barrel “Smashed Pumpkin”: Shipyard Brewing opened in Portland, Maine in 1994. I wrote a little about them last night, when I reviewed their “Smashed Pumpkin”. Shipyard is quite a large brewery, having produced 158,000 barrels in 2012 alone. They also make some popular brands of soda called, “Capt’n Eli’s Soda”.
Shipyard makes their Bourbon Barrel Aged “Smashed Pumpkin” by aging an imperial pumpkin ale in bourbon barrels for over 100 days. The grain bill includes Pale, Whole Wheat, and Munich malts. They use some Saphir and Willamette hops alongside of a top-fermenting English ale yeast, and hit 12% ABV. Given the mention of Saphir hops on their bottle, which is not claimed to be part of their “Smashed Pumpkin”, it looks like a little more goes into making this beer than merely aging their “Smashed Pumpkin” in bourbon barrels. Whatever the magic is, I hope they continue to do it.