Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine is 12.0% ABV.
I poured some of a 375 ml bottle into a stout glass.
Appearance: A steady pour produced not much by way of head, aside from some froth around the sides of the glass. This is a very hazy burnt orange/red, with noticeable sediment. It looks to have mild carbonation.
Smell: At the front, I get strong sticky liquor, like from rum, as well as roasted pumpkin, strong spice, and some dark fruit. The brandy smell to this is very pleasant, and doesn’t overwhelm the other aromas. I get good roasted pumpkin, and some sweet dark fruit of date and fig. This also has a little bitter citrus as from orange peel. The spicing is hard to pinpoint, in part because of how complex the aroma of this beer is. But I think I get some cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Overall great aroma.
Taste: This has strong but round brandy and oak, as well as some strong, smooth, and somewhat bright roasted pumpkin. It is certainly very malty, and has a lot of great sweetness. There is some fruit like dates, as well as some bitter orange peel. I also get some strong vanilla, and some well-dosed spicing. For spicing I am getting a lot of nice nuttiness, and I think there is some cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. This finishes with a bit more of the dark malty sweetness and smooth brandy, which continues into the aftertaste with a little lightly bitter spicing. This is an incredibly flavorful and round pumpkin offering.
Feel: This is medium to heavy bodied, with light carbonation. It is round from the oak and strong sweetness, but not sticky or cloying. The roasted pumpkin and spices bring a warmth, and nothing really drags. There is also a creaminess to the feel, which is lovely. Even more, though one can tell this is a strong beer, it doesn’t end up boozy. Great marks here.
Drinkability: This is a strong and full-flavored barleywine. Even so, it is very smooth and drinks well. Definitely a sipper, but not harsh or too punchy. Great for a night that is already at 25 degrees F. Good here.
Overall: This is a wonderfully flavorful and complex pumpkin ale. It reminds me quite a bit of Lakefront’s brandy-aged imperial pumpkin lager, which I also loved. Yet I think this Almanac offering has clearer and more pronounced pumpkin. Alamanac’s offering is round, and has wonderful complexity. I love the brandy, the great and strong roasted pumpkin, vanilla, dark fruit, and orange peel that I get in this. It feels more like a beer of 10 percent, though the aroma suggests more than that. Overall this is among the best pumpkin beers I’ve ever had. It is sweeter than I’d ideally want, but such is the nature of many barleywines. If you get the opportunity to try this, I think it is worth it. It is something of a must try. It goes for $11 for this 375ml bottle, which is of course a little steep. But it is so delicious, festive, and has very solid pumpkin. A special thanks to Julian from Craftshack.com for very generously sending this bottle for review. You can check their site or follow them @Craftshackbeer on Twitter. They have a lot of great beers and some rare beers to choose from!
Overall Rating: ****1/2
Almanac and their heirloom pumpkin barleywine: The Almanac Beer Company was founded in 2010 by Damian Fagan and Jesse Friedman. They have a special emphasis on brewing seasonal craft beer (that they term “artisinal ales”), by use of locally sourced and grown seasonal fruit. They note on their website that for each harvest, they team up with a different Northern California farm to source the fruit used for the next batch. They also have a “Farm to Barrel” line of beers, which consists of their barrel aged beers done in oak.
The heirloom pumpkin barleywine is part of Almanac’s “Farm to Barrel” series. To make this beer they roasted over 500 pounds of local heirloom pumpkins that they sourced from La Tercera Farms out of Bodega Bay. The pumpkins were then added to the barleywine base, and then aged in brandy barrels for a full year! After this process, the pumpkin barleywine was blended 50/50 with a freshly brewed ale that has some “pumpkin pie” spicing in it. I have to say, for all the work that goes into making this beer, it is worth it. Try this one if you are lucky enough to get a chance.