Tag Archives: Maryland beer

Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2014)

DSC03810

Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 10% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A mostly careful but slightly splashy pour produced a finger or so of frothy off-white head. This slowly reduced to a dollop still atop the beer, along with as a fairly thick ring along the sides of the glass. This also left the beginnings of some lacing. This has a beautiful rich orange color with reddish hues. It is mostly very clear, with a slight haze, and bubbles suggestive of moderate to heavy carbonation.

Smell: Bringing this to my nose gives me great aromas of roasty pumpkin, bourbon, strong round oak, some very mild sourness, subdued hops, and a complex and well-incorporated spicing. The spicing is hard to pin down, but I get something like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. It has a nice rich malty sweetness with caramel and some brown sugar. I also get some good vanilla in this as well. Great complex, rich, and round aroma. Now I get to taste it.

Taste: The first sip is wonderful, strong, and stays with me for a while. It has great complexity in flavor from the somewhat roasty pumpkin and spices, which are set against a strong and sweet malt backbone and rounded out with bourbon and oak. This is a cold weather sipper for sure. The pumpkin is present, and strong. There is enough by way of hops to add some brightness here and there, and a little floral dimension. The bourbon and oak really add great roundness and warmth to this, and are well-balanced. The bourbon does have a bit of a bite to it. In any case, the sweet but not heavy malt, the brown sugar flavors, and the vanilla bring this all together like a piece of pumpkin pie with some finely aged bourbon, served neat. This finishes dryer than I was expecting, letting the round complex bourbon, vanilla, and oak linger in this fairly prolonged aftertaste. Really successful.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has a very rich and round feel to it. There is great complexity, but the edges of the barrel really come through with vanillin and some softening of the otherwise rich and strong flavors. There is a little alcohol bite, but nothing major. Really great feel.

Drinkability: Given the strength of flavors with this, and the bourbon barrel aging, its not something to chug. But its roundness and balance of sweetness does really help it to drink really well. I would guess something like 10%. Not incredibly drinkable here, but that’s not really to be expected. For all the flavor and complexity,I say this is still really successful here.

Overall: This is a must try. I’ve spoken about its complexity and roundness. There is great bourbon and oak, wonderful balance, and the sweet malt, brown sugar, and vanilla are all equally effective contributions to this rich and warm offering. There is also great pumpkin and well-done and importantly, not overdone spicing. Some might find this boozy, I would guess. I say, if you like bourbon barrel offerings, especially pumpkin ales done in bourbon, you need to try this. For the price, about 8 or 9 bucks, it is a steal.

Overall Rating: ****1/2

DSC03813About Heavy Seas and their offering: Heavy Seas opened in 1994 (under the name, “Clipper City Brewing”), and is located in Baltimore, Maryland. I wrote about them last year in my 2013 review of “Great’er Pumpkin”.

Before this beer is aged in bourbon barrels, the brewers use pumpkin, brown sugar, and some spicing of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove to make this beer. More info can be found in last year’s review of this beer. This year is, I think, my favorite year having this beer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2013)

DSC03679

Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 10% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: This got a steady pour, and tossed up a half finger of light tan foam. This was gone in a minute or so, and left minimal lacing. The color on this is a very clear and bright orange/amber. Beautiful color. This looks like it has moderate carbonation.

Smell: Starting out I get a slight acidic or cidery quality along with some warm and inviting bourbon. This has some spicing which seem to consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. This also has some great round vanilla and oak, lending more complexity to the aroma. The more I smell this, the more the aroma builds for me. Some brown sugar and smooth lightly toasted malt round out a great aroma.

TasteI get very powerful flavors up front. This has some roasted pumpkin, strong but not harsh bourbon, vanilla, oak, and some enjoyable spicing. Like the aroma, there is a faint cidery quality to it, though it is less pronounced than the aroma led me to think it would be. The beer is quite bold. The bourbon, strong vanilla, and oak are all round and wonderfully complementary. As for spicing, I get some warmth from the spicing and maybe some cinnamon and allspice, though nothing so clear. The flavors really marry together in this beer. The sweetness in this is well-balanced with the other flavors. It seems to consist in some brown sugar and some almost rum-like qualities. Though the sweetness is strong, it doesn’t get syrupy. This has great sort of rugged flavors that are rounded on the corners. It has great complexity and depth, without totally overwhelming the palate. Delicious.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus some, and has moderate carbonation. A great warmth exudes from this beer, as does some nice woody oak and a strong vanilla and brown sugar sweetness. This is certainly a strong beer, and it is clear it is an imperial. Although, the 10% doesn’t come through so clearly to me. Great warm feel with some texture.

Drinkability: This is a bold and textured imperial ale aged in bourbon barrels. So it is not really made for drinkability. Even so, there is some definite roundness from the vanilla and the oak. The sweetness also helps to keep the 10% from coming through and burning. Not something you’d want to chug, though not something you’ll have to choke down either.

Overall: I’m quite happy with this beer. It has good roasty pumpkin flavor and a barrage of other flavors that work off each other. It has bourbon, persistent vanilla, oak, some clear cinnamon and allspice, brown sugar, a cidery quality adding a bit of acidity, and some other sugar reminiscent of rum. It is also warm. Though it is a little aggressive in places, it has some roundness. I think this is a very successful full-flavored pumpkin ale, with well-incorporated bourbon that doesn’t take over. I like this even more than I did last year. So I’m glad I decided to pick up a bottle this year. This is a must try.

Overall Rating: ****1/4

DSC03683About Heavy Seas and “The Great’er Pumpkin”: Hugh Sisson founded Clipper City Brewing in 1994 in Baltimore, Maryland. Hugh had previously worked as lead brewer for Maryland’s first brewpub, “Sissons”, which was only allowed to make the jump from tavern restaurant to brewpub by Maryland law in 1988. This was due in part to lobbying Hugh participated in. Clipper City ended up having a few different brands they brought out over the years. Heavy Seas, which came to the scene in 2003, became their most popular. Heavy Seas is now the only brand by Clipper City, and working hard to keep up with demand is what they do.

I had the privilege of touring Heavy Seas a year or two ago, which was a lot of fun. The brewery operation is fairly small and not glamorous. It is rugged, like a lot of the flavors in Heavy Seas’ beers. Like many brewers, the brewers at Heavy Seas started with home-brewing, and found their way into a pretty big business, which can involve a lot of change. Recently a number of the Heavy Seas beers have been renamed and re-branded under their now familiar pirate theme. I’ve heard that the aim was to bring the beers into a more cohesive set. I like some of the new art, though this overhaul in branding and names has caused some confusion.

“The Great’er Pumpkin” is part of the “Uncharted Waters” series, comprising Heavy Seas’ barrel-aged beers. They use pumpkin, brown sugar, and spicing of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove. Their main malt is a British crystal malt. After fermentation, the beer is aged in bourbon barrels, which impart some oak, vanilla, and bourbon. I don’t know what barrels are used. They are great, whatever they are. In years past, Heavy Seas made “The Great Pumpkin”, which was a non-barrel aged imperial pumpkin ale. I haven’t seen that at all this year, and have good reason to believe they have retired it. In any case, I’m glad “The Great’er Pumpkin” is still around, and hasn’t been marooned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Full Tilt “Patterson Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2013)

DSC03669

Full Tilt “Patterson Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour produced some off-white bubbles, but nothing much by way of head. This has a very hazy deep reddish orange color. There is also some definite sediment to this beer. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: From the moment of pouring I get a strong aroma of spicy and mostly vegetal pumpkin, which brings with it some pleasant sour notes. This is joined by intense spicing and brown sugar. For spicing I am getting some warm and aggressive cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice (I think). This also has some nice vanilla to the aroma. Some strong citrusy and piny hops rounds out a great aroma.

Taste: The first sip is just absolutely full of flavor. Strong spice, vegetal pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, and  hops. This has a very strong hops presence, especially given most all of the others in the pumpkin ale style. There is a lot of flavor with this beer. It demands attention. The spicing is strong, with a little bit of bite to it. I get strong cinnamon, as well as some ginger, and nutmeg. The cinnamon really comes on strong. The sweetness is forthright with brown sugar and something like vanilla going on with it. As for the hops, there is some citrus and some pine. This finishes with the strong spice and the hops taking over more, leaving some hoppy bitterness and some spice in the long aftertaste. Overall, good and strong flavors.

Feel: This ale is medium to full bodied, with moderate carbonation. It is full-flavored, and has a warmth and a richness to it. The strong spicing does give some texture to the feel, and hangs on in the aftertaste. The spicing is a bit more coarse than I typically want, but adds some character. There is an alcohol bite to this, but is nothing major given how the strong sweetness and the other strong flavors come to demand attention.

Drinkability: This is a bold, full-flavored beer. It has an aggressive spice presence, strong hops, and some noticeable alcohol. So it is not a paradigm drinkable pumpkin ale. Even so, especially given how strong this is for flavor and ABV, it drinks pretty decently.

Overall: This is a serious pumpkin offering from Full Tilt. There is strong pumpkin flavor and strong spice, especially with the cinnamon. Really all the flavors in it are sort of bold and unforgiving. As noted, it has a notable hops presence, which balances pretty well with the other flavors. This is nice and fairly unique in this style. As for criticism, I wish there was a little less of an alcohol bite, and that the spicing wasn’t as intense. Even so, one can easily see why they picked ‘Full Tilt’. Strong and serious unrelenting flavor out of Baltimore, Maryland!

Overall Rating: ***

DSC03671About Full Tilt and their “Patterson Pumpkin”: Full Tilt opened around early 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. Co-owners Nick Fertig, and Dan Baumiller, who are also cousins, began thinking about this venture in 2008. They talk about their brewery as “grassroots”, and from what I can tell, their brewery is a great example of the phrase. Both Nick and Dan still have other jobs, and also work full-time on the managing of Full Tilt beer. Currently their beer is contract brewed local in Baltimore, enabling them some freedom to get their own set-up going on their own clock. I had a great conversation with Nick, who explained that before the brewery started, him and Dan were constantly having parties to share their beer with friends. These events quickly gained a big following, as Nick and Dan furiously experimented and brought new and often full-flavored beer to these events. Nick said that the name Full Tilt came as an explanation for how they made and shared their beer. Interestingly, some of Full Tilt’s grassroots growing from home-brewing, as well as their pursuing strong and serious flavor, reminds me of their neighbor, Heavy Seas. I look forward to trying more of Full Tilt’s beers.

Full Tilt makes their tasty “Patterson Pumpkin” with 2-Row Pale, Carapils, Dark Munich, and Red Wheat malts. They add pumpkin right into the mash, something that takes some patience as pumpkin can clog things up. Also added is some brown sugar, and some spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Crystal, Sterling, and Willamette hops take this bold beer to 48 IBU’s. Enough of that beer that is “reminiscent” of pumpkin or pumpkin spice. This offering from Full Tilt makes sure you can’t miss it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2013)

DSC03450

Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a porter glass.

Appearance: I poured this steady, then fairly aggressive at the end. (It has been a hot day.) I got about 2 fingers of light chestnut head, which dissipated to about an 1/8 of an inch of thin and airy head that left some sticky lacing. This has great clarity, and a color of bright though darker red/brown. The red really comes through when held to bright light. This looks to have light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: There is clear vegetal pumpkin up front, along with some spicing that has a little bit of fine pepper to it. The spice profile seems to have the standard fare pumpkin pie spicing. I get something like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. I also get some light roastiness from dark malt that comes out the more I smell this. The aroma is, overall, on the light side.

Taste: To start I get strong and sweet dark malt. This is definitely on the sweet side, giving off molasses, some dark brown sugar, and some chocolate. There is also a nicely balanced spice profile that fits well with the malt: some nice woodiness, like from clove, allspice, and something that gives off… bark-like qualities. The spicing is nice. This does have some vegetal pumpkin to it that comes out the more I drink it; but the dark malt, the sweetness, and the woody and earthy spices don’t give the pumpkin much space on stage. Overall, the flavors in this are good, and really bold. It is a bit sweeter than I might typically prefer. Really, the flavors in this beer are kind of surprisingly bold, given how faint the aroma was. This finishes fairly sweet, to give way to some of the woody, earthy, and warm spicing. The spicing hangs on some in the aftertaste, but is pleasant.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with light carbonation. This is fairly heavy with its sweetness. The roastiness and spices really add something dynamic to the feel. It has nice warmth and smoothness (though some of the alcohol does break through in places). Overall this has a nice feel.

Drinkability: This is bold, roasty, and high in ABV. So it is much more of a sipper. The spices, though forthright, don’t detract. So, other than the alcohol that comes through in places, this is pretty decent on this score (for an imperial).

Overall: I think this is a really good pumpkin ale. It is very malty, with some dark roast, and some nice and well-balanced earthy spices. It has some vegetal pumpkin to it, which is of course nice in a pumpkin ale. If the alcohol didn’t poke through like it does, and the pumpkin had a bit more presence in this beer, this would be closer to my top tier. In part because of the heavy malt, it does feel a bit more like a winter seasonal than a fall seasonal. As it stands, though, it is still very good.

Overall Rating: ***1/4

DSC03451About Flying Dog and “The Fear”: George Stranahan and Richard McIntyre founded the Flying Dog Brewpub in 1990 in Aspen, Colorado. The name ‘Flying Dog’ comes from a painting that George was inspired by on an experimental adventure climbing the second highest mountain in the world. From the vibes I’ve gotten from visiting Flying Dog, and in the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, experimental drugs seemed to be nothing unusual in the course of some of these adventures. In any case, this brewpub bloomed into a larger brewery in 1994, and later inspired a move to a very large brewing facility in Frederick, Maryland. I remember touring this Frederick, Maryland location, and being blown away by how large and well-organized it was.

If you have ever had much contact with Flying Dog, you know that they speak a bit about the ‘gonzo’ lifestyle. This aesthetic comes out in their marketing quite a bit, and in some of the rich flavors of their beers. But the drug-driven and experimental Hunter S. Thompson motivated ‘gonzo’ lifestyle is a bit of a misnomer for their brewery, for they have quite serious lab-driven quality control, as well as pretty darn consistent good beer. It would be hard to pull this off were one living “gonzo” while working at the brewery. Flying Dog makes some pretty incredible beers, from their “Gonzo” imperial porter (which on its own or aged in bourbon is a delight) to their now popular “Raging Bitch” Belgian-style IPA, their flavors are bold, well-balanced, and worthy of a try. They are far from gonzo.

Flying Dog makes their “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale with “local pumpkin puree” as well as some spices that they would rather not divulge. I can say that the woodiness and the earthiness in the spicing is quite nice. So maybe it is worth keeping a secret. With warrior and willamette hops, and at 45 IBUs, this beer is still quite a bit on the malty side. I had the distinct privilege of tasting this beer bourbon-barrel-aged in December of 2012 at a tap takeover. It is well-crafted, and a great representation of the darker side of imperial pumpkins. If you like this one, you’ll probably like Epic/DC Brau’s “Fermentation Without Representation” Imperial Pumpkin Porter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Flying Dog Bourbon Barrel-Aged “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

DSC03242

Flying Dog Bourbon Barrel-Aged “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.

I was served a 5 oz pour on tap at a Flying Dog Tap Takeover.

Appearance: This was served with basically no head, but a bit of thin foam atop it. The color is a molasses red that is slightly opaque with a good bit of light coming through it. (This surprisingly looks lighter in color than the bottle and non-bourbon-aged version of “The Fear” I reviewed a while back.)

Smell: I get pumpkin pie spices, bourbon, and dark roasty malt. It smells strong of bourbon, but also has a little fruit to it. The spices smell like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. I’m so jazzed to taste it.

Taste: This has delicious and wonderful bourbon flavors that aren’t too punchy. It has some pumpkin flavor, though it isn’t so central. I get some pumpkin pie spices, but no particular spices that advertise themselves very clearly. This bursts with dark roasty malt, some molasses sweetness, and the nice fairly smooth bourbon flavor. This finishes bourbony with dark raosted malt, and lets these hang on well for the aftertaste. This has really great flavors that make for a great beer, though the pumpkin aspect ends up being pretty weak.

Feel: This is pretty smooth for a 9 percent bourbon-barrel-aged beer. It is medium to heavy bodied with medium carbonation. It also has a nice warmth to it. The alcohol does give sort of a bite at the end. Otherwise, impressively smooth.

Drinkability: This beer wasn’t really made for drinkability it seems. The bourbon flavors and the dark malt keep this one from being a paradigm drinkable ale. Even so, the smoothness it does have helps out some here. Still not a good choice if you hold drinkability high.

Overall: I tried this beer as the last pumpkin ale of the season and at one of the largest tap takeovers in the US, and the largest tap takeover ever on the East Coast. Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore Maryland had 56 different Flying Dog offerings. There were then some decisions to make about what was important to try. Given my blog, trying this was a no brainer. The more I drank this pumpkin ale, the more I did get more noticeable pumpkin, though it is nothing compared to the real big bodied pumpkin flavor ales like Schlafly’s and Cigar City’s. Overall, the flavors in this were really nice, even given the lack of strong pumpkin. I do like this better then the non-bourbon “The Fear”, though not by much more. The flavors are more interesting in this, but the pumpkin takes a hit. There are tradeoffs of pumpkin flavor to get the bourbon flavors. Even so, I was pressed to figure out whether I wanted more of this delicious beer, even with 55 other Flying Dog beers to consider a 5 oz sample of. So that says something too. Anyway, this was a great way to end the reviews for the year. Even though this wasn’t a top tier winner for me, it was still quite an enjoyable beer.

Overall Rating: ***1/4

DSC03243

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Flying Dog “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9% ABV.

I poured all of this 12 oz bottle into a stout glass.

Appearance: A careful pour gave about a finger of frothy light tan head. This dwindled away after about two minutes to leave a thin ring of foam around the sides of the glass, and little to no lacing. The color on this is a very dark brown, which is somewhat lighter than molasses. A little bit of light gets through this when held to bright light. This seems to have medium carbonation.

Smell: To start I get roasty malt, some pumpkin pie spicing, and light vegetal pumpkin. It smells like a porter. The spicing definitely includes cinnamon, and I think perhaps also some ginger and nutmeg. The spicing seems to be something like the standard pupmkin pie spicing. This also has elements of chocolate, perhaps from some chocolate malt. Overall, this smells nice and roasty, rich, and inviting. I now want to sip this

Taste: This is spice forward, with strong and dark roasted malt up front. The spices are cinnamon, ginger, and perhaps some clove or nutmeg as well. The spicing works well with the seriously roasted notes. The pumpkin, which is on the vegetal side, maintains a surprisingly decent presence throughout. It isn’t the most forthright flavor, though it doesn’t get lost in the mix of the other intense and rich flavors. That is pretty great. The sweetness in this is dark with molasses and some bitter chocolate notes. This sweetness grabs hold of you for the finish, and leaves a persistent aftertaste of intense, strong, and somewhat bitter roasted notes. This beer has real rich flavors, but also some booziness. I think this is really well-balanced.

Feel: This is on the light side of heavy bodied, with medium carbonation. The feel is velvety, smooth, and quite rich. The spices and dark roasty notes add some nice complexity to the feel. There is, as I said above, some booziness in the feel. This isn’t a major detractor for me, but is clearly noticeable. Overall, I’d say this is warm, intense, and has quite a good feel.

Drinkability: This has quite bold flavors and a high ABV; but in spite of the complexity and dark rich roasty notes, it is quite smooth. There is also that booziness I talked about, which certainly detracts a bit here. Even so, I think this is surprisingly drinkable given what it is working with. Obviously, drinkability isn’t so high a priority for the making of this beer.

Overall: I like this one quite a bit more than I remember liking it last year. (Though, to be fair to the beer, last year I tasted it at the end of about 10 beers at a pumpkin tap takeover.) This has dark and intense roasted flavors that balance quite well with the vegetal pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. It is well-balanced, intense, and hangs on to a decent bit of pumpkin flavor. This all works well for it. For detractors, I’d point to the booziness and the aftertaste. Going through one of these beers, the dark roasted elements really start to hang on the palate. This is broken up some with a new sip, which gives some more vegetal pumpkin. Even so, this makes it hard for the pumpkin flavor to flourish in this rich and increasingly roasty atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the flavors in this; but it doesn’t make it into the higher echelons of pumpkin ales for this reason. It is darn good. It just struggles with some booziness (so I say, anyway), and doesn’t really showcase the pumpkin. Lovely camera girl brought me one of the white chocolate truffles that I bought her for her birthday to have with this beer. The pairing was really nice. The smooth and sweet white chocolate paired so nicely with the rich and intense roasty flavors in this beer. With white chocolate or not, I would definitely give this one a go (even at the fairly steep 15 bucks per six-pack that I had to pay to get it).

Overall Rating: ***1/4

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Heavy Seas “The Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.

I poured some of this 22 oz bottle into a Heavy Seas pint glass.

Appearance: A steady pour gave basically no head, but a thin and incomplete off-white and fizzy ring around the sides of the glass. The color is a fairly clear but just slightly hazy reddish orange. Some small sediment can be seen floating in the beer. This also appears to have heavy carbonation.

Smell: To start I get strong bourbon, oakiness, and vanilla. These give the beer a warm aroma. This smells just great. I am getting some slight pumpkin, but it definitely isn’t the strongest smell because of the strong bourbon, oakiness, and vanilla. There is also some spiciness in the smell that is hard to pull apart from the bolder flavors up front. I think I am getting cinnamon and something peppery. Again, this smells wonderful.

Taste: I get the bourbon strong and bold upfront, along with the vanilla and oak from the barrels. This is quite nice. The pumpkin also comes in strong, roasty, and somewhat sweet. Along with all of the really strong flavors in this, there is a surprisingly smooth dark caramelized sugar sweetness. The bourbon isn’t overpowering, like I was expecting. It is strong, don’t get me wrong. But it complements. The intense oak and vanilla and pumpkin make for a really bold flavor profile. The finish on this gives way to a little more of the spices, which add some character but don’t poke through the other really intense flavors. My guess is that the spices consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and maybe clove. The aftertaste lets the bourbon hang for a good bit with some of the intense dark sweetness. You won’t go to sleep drinking this (unless you drink too much and the 9 percent goes to work on you). All of these flavors are decently well-balanced and work really well together.

Feel: This is on the heavy side of medium-bodied, with fairly heavy carbonation. This beer is warm, and has a surprisingly smooth feel for the strong bourbon and other notes. It does have some notable booziness. Even so, this is not a great detractor, I think in part because one expects and wants some bourbon flavor in a bourbon barrel-aged beer. In addition, the feel is also somewhat dynamic. You get strong bourbon up front, which settles into a smoother sweetness that lets the spice gain a (fatefully limited) presence. I think, despite the booziness, the feel on this is nice.

Drinkability: Drinkability is not an aim for a beer like this. That is, for an intense, bold, and higher ABV beer that is supposed to impart some bourbon flavor, this beer is not too much or overwhelming. Even so, this isn’t one you want to go through a couple of while you watch the game. Although, perhaps that might make “the game”- whatever that happens to be- more interesting.

Overall: I am surprised by how much I like this one this year. I don’t remember liking this anywhere near as much last year. I actually wonder whether the bottle I got last year was somehow off. It was no where near as well-balanced, pleasant, or warm. I guess it is also possible that bourbon barrel-aged beers are more palatable for me now. Anyway, what a beer! This is wonderfully complex, but still keeps its strong pumpkin flavor. The vanilla is quite nice, and the spicing adds some depth of flavor, though doesn’t (and really, couldn’t) overwhelm. I could see how some would be turned away by the strong and intense bourbon (and other) flavors. I, however, am not. I think this is great, and up there for pumpkin beers. It isn’t as smooth (in great part because of its somewhat unpleasant booziness) or subtle as some other pumpkin ales. It is less smooth and subtle than Schlafly. It is also less well-balanced than Williamsburg Alewerks and Southern Tier’s “Pumking”. Even so, the bold and intense flavors give this a leg up on other similarly heavy-bodied beers like Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin and Long Trail’s Imperial Pumpkin. I sort of regret not asking my lovely girlfriend to grab more of this when she was in Chesapeake. Last night I tried “The Great Pumpkin” by Heavy Seas. That was nice. But oh! This is… greater?! Definitely try this one if you get the chance. Seriously good beer.

Overall Rating: ****

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews