Lost Abbey Brewing Co – Inferno Ale

As with a lot of other beer bloggers and craft beer consumers, we used our time stuck indoors with hurricane Sandy to enjoy a good craft beer or two.  As with everyone else, I was stuck inside all day with the storm raging on outside; however, I was considering all day what I’ve wanted to drink for my beer review.  Unlike a lot of other school teachers affected by the storm, I didn’t just have the day off for the hurricane.  I actually had a lot of grading to do, and since we had a death in the family leading up to this past weekend, I didn’t have the chance to be ready with my grades in advance.  So I spent a lot of my hurricane day grading papers and projects.  Thankfully I got all of my grades in before the deadline, so I quickly got to doing some reviewing.

I wanted to do a review involving a beer that seemed appropriate for the mayhem that was taking place outside.  So, after a full day of grading, I went straight to the fridge to figure out what I was drinking.  It was much easier to pass up a few pumpkin ales, and I didn’t think a few other beers fit the craziness, so I ultimately landed on my bottle of Inferno ale.  Being from Lost Abbey, I knew the beer would have some type of Belgian quality to it, but I was hopping it would be a little darker and richer to fit the scary dark quality going on outside.  Ultimately I thought Inferno had to fit the straight up mayhem of the situation.

Lost Abbey seems to have an interesting idea for their production of their beer.  The last beer I reviewed was from a brewery that loved beer and ska.  Lost Abbey, however, seems to focus more on a battle between good and evil.  They play off the battle between good and evil that stems all the way back to Adam and Eve.  They state that starting way back then, man has attempted to battle evil, and they are attempting to combat the evils of bad beer.  Quite theological! Reading the description of Inferno Ale makes me feel slightly nervous to drink it.  According to their site, Inferno is the type of beer Satan is brewing and serving in hell.  While I’m unsure of how they would be aware of this, I’m kind of thinking there has to be a problem if it’s the beer they’re serving in hell.

This one pours out a bright golden yellow color.  It has that straw appearance to it.  If there is anything you should notice from the picture it is the massive amount of head that develops on the pour.  The head has a very ample sudsy bubbly appearance to it.  It takes a little while to let the head die down, but once it finally does diminish, you’ll find that it has some light lacing and fairly decent sticky residue.  You don’t see a whole lot of liquid right away, but once the bubbles calm down, you can see the slight hazy quality to the beer.  There don’t seem to be any carbonation bubbles in the glass, but the haze may be hiding it.

There are a few very noticeable aspects to the aroma of the beer.  The first really big aspect is the ample citrus smell that comes off the beer.  The citrus combines with a ton of brett aroma as well.  Brett, once again, throws up a major red flag for me.  I opened this beer because it seemed to suggest a certain doomsday persona in its name, but the aroma and color seem to suggest light citrusy fields of grain.  Not exactly the hurricane beer I was thinking of.  There is some light clove scents that come through as well, and you get some of that straw and grass scent that is suggested by the color of the beer.  Light hops and light sweet malts help make the beer seem rather well balanced on the nose.  It’s that brett that is dominating everything else.

There are some nice sweet malts that kick off the flavor profile.  Tons of ample citrus flavors combine with the sweet malts for a summery beginning.  Like I said, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a hurricane, but it is still quite delicious.  Some very dominant brett flavors mix in with some nice light clove notes.  I personally would have enjoyed more clove than brett, but it’s still tasty.  There are some interesting fruit flavors that follow the brett.  You get some nice ample citrus and pineapple notes that match quite well with the brett.  A certain grassy straw quality that continues throughout the entire brew.  You get a little light tang towards the end that is probably due to the hops, and you get a little light citrusy finish on the end as well.

There is one really big piece of advice I’ll give on the mouthfeel, let the beer rest before you drink it.  My typical way of drinking has me examining the liquid, smell, and taste before I go back to the mouth.  This means that I get to see what the mouth is like after the beer has sat and with a fresh pour.  The fresh pour on this one is a carbonation bomb.  You have to let it sit a few minutes to even let it be drinkable.  After it has time to rest, you can taste a little syrup that accompanies the big amount of carb.  The brett is a little overwhelming; however, it does have a pretty fresh taste to it.  The beer finishes kind of dry, but it’s a really nice mix of flavors.

I’m not sure this beer was perfect for the storm, but in the end any old drink while your stuck in the house can’t be bad.  Brett beers walk a fairly fine line for me; however, I thought this one wasn’t too bad.  I really don’t seek out Brett beers, but I seem to happen on them quite often.  If you’re into brett this is a great beer, and if you’re not, then I doubt you’ll really like this.  This one basically comes down to personal taste.

Teacher Grade: B-


Ska Brewing Co – Ten Pin Porter

One of the most important times of my life for self and music discovery came at the end of middle school and the beginning of high school.  I look back at that time period as being a really fun time in my life.  Shows or concerts were some of the most important things to me at that time.  Since I was without a car or license at that time, I had to hitch a ride to any event I wanted to get to.  While this made things difficult, it also helped me really look into every form of music I could find, so I would know to look for both big and local shows that were taking place.  One of the most important types of much in that development was the big resurgence of ska that was taking place at that time.  One of the most prolific ska shows at that time was the all day festival, Ska Against Racism, that came through the local college.  It featured some of the biggest ska bands at that time, and it was an all day fest in the rain.  While it somewhat sounds miserable, to a teenager, it was one of the best memories I have from high school.

Years later I saw that there was a brewing company that took me back to that memory; however, I couldn’t seem to get them in my area. Then, about two weeks ago, I got an email from an online beer distributer that told me they were offering three different beers from Ska brewing as a six-pack and it had free shipping.  I’m sure I overpaid some for these six beers, but I’m a sucker, so I immediately jumped on it.  The six beers that were included in this offer were their Ten Pin Porter, Pinstripe Red Ale, and Modus Hoperandi.  Although I wasn’t sure which of the beers I wanted to consume first, I decided to go with the Ten Pin.  There are a few different reasons I landed on the porter.  First of all it’s a porter.  I wanted to have something a little darker and maltier, plus I brewed a stout recently and brewing always puts me in the mood to drink beers of a similar nature.  Secondly, it was the one rated highest on Beer Advocate.  The Bros actually gave it a 100, so I felt that meant I had to go for it first.

Ska Brewing seems to have an interesting beginning.  Back in 1995 the two owners loved beer and ska, but they weren’t old enough to buy beer, so they decided to start making it.  Drawing inspiration from their favorite form of music, Ska Brewing Co was born.  Ten Pin is described as a beer brewed with six different malts and Perle and Willamette Hops.  The most intriguing note seems to be that they describe the taste as chocolate milk and not chocolate.  Hopefully chocolate milk beer is real good!

This one pours out a dark black oil color, but it has more of the consistency of coffee than oil.  There is a light tan head that develops on top of the beer.  Some great lacing and tons of really sticky residue develop on the side of the glass.  The beer is clearly too dark for any visible carbonation, but you can see some visible activity in the glass when you agitate the contents.

The aroma is fairly straight forward for a porter; however, this is the first sign that you’re dealing with a standard porter and not a robust porter.  There are some big sweet malts that pretty much dominate the nose.  There are certainly quite a bit of roasted notes here as well as some clear coffee scents.  The chocolate is dominate as well; however, despite all of the big rich scents, the beer is still quite crisp.  There seems to be some light citrus and hop aroma here as well.  I was interested to see how the citrus played into the flavor profile.

The flavors start with some big sweet malts.  This transitions into some well-balanced, although not overwhelming, roasted notes. The surprise comes right in the middle of the beer.  It starts as a standard porter, but it comes in with some pretty significant citrus flavors as well.  This helps the beer come across as much lighter right in the middle of a beer typically considered fairly heavy.  The roasted notes do come back, and you get a kick up of some nicely balanced chocolate flavors.  Some light piney tartness comes in, which I would attribute to some of the hops.  There is a little bit of oak and residual roasted notes on the finish.

The mouthfeel is quite interesting.  It is not as big and robust as most porters I’ve had in the past, but it is quite a refreshing take on a dark beer.  It’s a really good blend of chocolate, roasted notes, and citrus.  The moderate to high carbonation also helps keep the beer feeling rather fresh.

I don’t think I would call this beer chocolate milk, but I think it’s a great refreshing taste on a dark beer.  There are certain people out there who judge beers by their color.  This beer, however, helps to show that a dark beer doesn’t have to be big and thick.  If you see this beer around it’s a really great beer to have as a transition from fall into winter flavors.  I just don’t promise you can find it.

Teacher Grade: A

AleSmith Brewing Co – Horny Devil

I’ve written numerous times about the unfair three tiered system for the distribution of beer in America.  Breweries can’t always distribute their beers all over the country, so it makes it difficult for consumers in other areas to get a hold of certain beers.  There is, however, sometimes when I walk into a store and get a big surprise despite the system.  At the start of the summer I did a little bottle shopping in NYC.  I wanted to find beers that weren’t available in my area.  For the most part I accomplished that; however, I walked into a local store the other day and found some AleSmith.  While in Brooklyn, I grabbed a bottle of Alesmith Speedway Stout thinking I would never see one again.  I still haven’t opened it out of a desire to save it for a special situation; however, I found three different bottles of AleSmith in a local store the other day.  I’m not sure if they are starting to come into the area, but after dragging that big bottle all around NYC, I’m kind of upset I didn’t need to lug it all over the five boroughs.

Walking into the store, I was quite surprised to look up on an upper shelf and see three different bottles of AleSmith looking back at me.  I had gone there to buy a change of pace beer for brewing this past Saturday.  It would seem I’ve amassed mostly stouts and IPAs in my supply right now; therefore, I really wanted something lighter and more Belgian to be a different change of pace amongst the beers we were consuming while brewing.  The three different Alesmith beers were Old Numbskull, Grand Cru, and their Horny Devil.  While interested in the other two, they were both kind of heavy for what I was looking for.  Don’t worry, I’ll head back to pick another one or two up at some point.  Ultimately I needed to get something a little more light and refreshing.  I suppose a Belgian Strong Ale isn’t really light and refreshing, but I thought it was a better change of pace since it was brewed with coriander.

AleSmith states this beer is a Belgian Strong Ale that has been brewed with Belgian candied sugar and a Belgian yeast from a Trappist monastery. They also let you know that this beer has won multiple awards, including Gold in its category at the California and Colorado State Fairs, Silver medal at the World Beer Championships, and People’s Choice at the San Diego Strong Ale Festival. Coming in at 11.0% ABV, I couldn’t help but think this is going to be a great beer, even if I don’t think it’s the beer that put AleSmith on the map.

This one poured out a bright yellow straw color with some orange tint here and there.  There is some moderate white head that develops on top of the beer with some fairly decent lacing and pretty substantial sticky residue.  The beer is super hazy for sure which adds to the fact that you can see basically no carbonation in the glass.  The appearance of the beer is slightly more surprising when you hear that the beer is up to 11% ABV.  It looks like a much lighter beer.

The big lemony citrus aroma dominates the smell of the beer.  There are some very pleasant pineapple notes that combine with the lemon scent to give the beer a little bit of a tropical smell as well.  There is a light scent of apples that gives the beer a slightly cider feel; however, you also get some light spiciness as well.  You do smell some of the sweet malts in here, but they aren’t too overpowering.  You certainly have no sign of the hops on the nose, so I was hoping they would show up a little more in the flavor profile.  Surprisingly, it’s a Belgian strong ale that somewhat smells like a hefeweizen.

The flavors start with some light sweet malts.  These mix with some tropical fruit flavors like pineapple and mango.  Interestingly, although they hype the Belgian Trappist yeast they use in the brew, I really don’t get the big significant yeast flavor I typically get out of most Belgian beers.  The yeast flavor is lightly there, but it just doesn’t steal the show like it normally does.  The coriander steals the show in the second half of the beer.  You have a transition from tropical to lemony flavors.  They of course compliment each other quite well.  There is some light tartness that comes in towards the end of the brew.  The tartness combines with the cider taste that came through on the nose; however, I still don’t really spot the hops in the flavor profile at all.  The beer ends with a little bit of a light sour apple taste and some very slight spiciness.

The mouthfeel features a medium body beer.  It doesn’t land too much on the syrupy side, but it does have some light syrup quality throughout.  The moderate syrup and medium carbonation level help keep a big alcohol beer tasting fairly light and not too heavy.  The beer also finishes a little drier as well.

This is basically the first experience I’ve had with AleSmith, and I’m a big fan.  I’m not sure this is the number one beer on their roster, but I do have a bottle of Speedway Stout sitting around which may be an even better example of their top notch brewing.  I’m really looking forward to picking up a few other bottles from them; however, I would certainly revisit this one sometime in the future if I had the chance.  I would recommend you do the same.

Teacher Grade: B

Best Laid Plans

Saturday was my long awaited return to homebrewing.  It has certainly felt like a long time since I’ve gone through the process; however, it all came back to me when I got down to business.  One thing I didn’t expect was that the more interesting aspect of the brew was actually attempting to get all of my ingredients together.

I laid out my entire recipe for my brew in my previous post.  It seemed like a good recipe and I really didn’t get any feedback that would have altered the base recipe too much.  I did receive some feedback on my yeast and also on my ideas with coffee and possibly vanilla, but the steeping grains, malts, and hops seemed to be alright with everyone else.  Therefore, I headed out to the store Friday afternoon to pick up all of my ingredients.  Little did I know my recipe would be changing quite a bit.

DC is starting to become a craft beer lovers paradise.  We have new breweries starting up every few months, good beer bars, and our first ever homebrew store within the city limits.  Therefore, in an attempt to keep it local, we decided to forgo our typical homebrew store and check out this new location in DC.  The store seems like a cool idea.  3 Star Brewing Co opened it seemingly simultaneously with the opening of their actual brewery.  Heading up there, into the industrial park it’s located in, you basically walk right onto the brewing floor to get your stuff.

Walking in I immediately knew I would regret my decision to try a store just getting its feet under it.  Don’t get me wrong, they had some good things there; however, I would quickly learn their supplies were still lacking.  Our first stop was to pick up our grain.  At our typical store, I fill out a sheet and keep shopping.  By the end of the trip the grain is bagged and ready to go.  Here you walk around to different buckets with the guy and he essentially eyeballs the amounts.  Then you help him mill it into different bags.  Certainly not the easiest of processes. They didn’t have the 150 or 45 Crystal I needed, so I took it down to 120 and 40.  Not sure how it will affect things.  It ended up taking near half an hour to just do grains.  Next we moved on to hops.  They had my Magnum hops; however, they didn’t have Crystal, so I had to make a last minute substitution to Liberty.  Finally, I had planned on using a Wyeast, but I ended up having to go with White Labs because that’s what they carried.  I would have been better prepared for this substitution, but I was on the spot so I went with the Irish Ale yeast.  Finally I had to grab my liquid malt extracts.  One of the nicest aspects of my regular store is that they have big buckets of the extract that they use to measure out specific amounts.  Here I had to buy prepackaged quantities.  In the hopes of being somewhat cost efficient, I cut down on my Light malt and upped my Munich malt due to the prepackaged aspect of everything.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip, but it was long and somewhat frustrating.  It’s not that I won’t ever go back, but I’m thinking I’ll give it a little more time to work out the kinks.

The other interesting trip was to pick up the coffee for my additional ingredients.  I bought the main brewing ingredients Friday night, but I failed to go purchase the coffee portion that night.  So I got up and headed out to a local coffee shop to pick up my coffee.  I didn’t want to go grab some Starbucks or Maxwell House or something, so I went to the most unique coffee house I could think of: Peregrine Espresso.  Having never actually grabbed coffee there, I was more hopeful that it would need my needs.  It was quite the experience.  There was a line out the door, and the friendly girl at the counter was more than helpful when I told her it was for brewing beer.  She seemed to even debate with herself whether she would grind it at a 6 or 6.5.  Not being a coffee expert, I left it up to her. I ended up getting one called Concepcion Huista from Huehuetenang0, Guatemala.  It smelled awesome, and it said it had clear floral notes of fresh fruit and chocolate.  I’m still confused how they make flavors like that grow in a bean, but I’m glad I got to reap the benefits.

The actual brewing process was great.  It went off with no problems, and it was a fun social time with my friend John.  The product is now bubbling away in my basement waiting to be transferred over to secondary.  I have a feeling I will be picking up some vanilla this weekend.  I don’t want to include a whole lot, but I want a very light vanilla flavor to compliment the coffee.

Oh, and I decided on a name as well.  I’ll be naming it after one of the more interesting Vigilantes of the past few years.  My newest brew will be called Dark Passenger Coffee Stout.  It’s a killer!

Wild Onion Brewing Co – Hop Slayer

It’s been a little while since I’ve commented on the state of the canned beer industry; however, if you’ve looked around, it has only continued to grow like crazy.  A lot of big beer companies are realizing that this isn’t a fad that is going away, so they have started canning some of their more popular beers.  Next time you’re at a store, you may notice cans of Sierra Nevada – Torpedo or New Belgium – Fat Tire.  The companies are finally starting to see that canning beers doesn’t quite have the same stigma it used to have.  Yes there are still beers like Schlitz, Natty Boh, and PBR out there as well; however, they have started to seem fun and ironic to the hipster community.  Even though a lot of these brews have been doing this for a while, it’s still nice to mention some of the craft breweries that helped create the swing towards canned beers.

Wild Onion Brewing Co started back around 1996; however, they expanded into their current capacity back in 2003.  Located in Barrington, IL, they aren’t too far outside of the Chicago area.  They state on their site that they brew their ales and lagers in a 6,000 square-foot brewery, cellar, and packaging complex, directly below the bar. Brewing directly below their own bar sounds pretty good to me.  Ultimately this was the first beer I saw at the beer store I visited in Philly that I knew I absolutely wanted.  A canned beer I’d never seen before, from a company I’d never heard of before, and with a big double IPA named hop slayer inside was a sure sell.

I’ve consumed a few different imperial IPAs out of a can before. Just the other day I had my first Hop Crisis from 21st Amendment.  Aside from stouts, I think double/imperial IPAs are some of the most interesting beers to find in a can.  Hop Crisis was great and I absolutely loved Oskar Blues Deviant Dales brew as well.  Therefore, I had a lot of high hopes coming into this one.  Wild Onion states that this ale, “is so full of malt and hops that you can almost chew on it”, which I only find more exciting.  Coming in at 100 IBUs, it sounded like a perfect big craft canned beer.

This one pours a nice dark rich reddish color with some very light hints of orange.  It’s slightly coppery for sure.  There is some fairly plentiful white head that develops on top of the beer.  Some really good lacing develops on the side of the glass after the swirl, and you get a ton of sticky residue hanging around.  Although a little dark, it certainly seems to have a hazy tint to it.  You don’t really see any carbonation, but you can see some significant activity in the glass when you agitate its contents.

The huge tangy hop aroma dominates the nose for sure.  Combining with the tangy nature is some really big sticky sweet malts as well.  There is definitely a lot of citrus that comes out.  I think some of that may be due to a slight lemony quality the hops have to them.  The tang and slight boozy aroma definitely combine for some certain thickness on the nose.  You get some light fig, burnt sugar, and caramel mixing in there as well.  There is certainly some nice big hops and malts mixing here.

I normally start my talk of the flavor by saying there are some nice sweet malts.  This one instead decides to throw a tone of huge malts in right at the start to help create a hefty backbone for the upcoming onslaught of hops.  There is a nice little hint of citrus that comes in; however, this is just a slight lead into the hops.  The hops are not as huge as I was expecting.  You assume all beers that reach 100 IBUs are going to smack you in the face with the hops.  This one instead build up enough malts to really make the giant hop presence rather subdued.  The hops have a nice blend of both the pine and floral flavors.  I tend to think they lean more towards the tangy pine quality; however, the tang was bigger on the nose.  There is some sweet caramel and interesting light fruity flavors that bring the beer in for a landing.  The beer finishes with some of that residual hop and tang finish.

This is a really well-balanced big hop beer.  The mouthfeel is fairly syrupy overall; however, the carbonation is lighter but consistent all the way through.  The big malts help counteract the huge hops which help make this beer more drinkable for the moderate hop head out there.  Lots of hops, tang, and sweet malts here.

All in all I would say this may be quite high on the list of double IPAs I’ve had. It is certainly a fine example of a great beer that can be found in a can. The hops have a big malty backbone to build on; however, the malt doesn’t bury the hops.  The hops are still there for those who want to taste them, and yet, the beer is malty enough for someone who is only moderately a fan of the hops.  I wish I could find a few more of these around by me in DC.  If you see it out, I can not stress enough giving it a shot.

Teacher Grade: A

Time to Brew: Coffee Stout Edition

If you’ve noticed, it’s been a little while since I’ve talked about homebrewing on here at all.  Moving lots of stuff around makes it difficult for me to set up time to get it done, so I haven’t really done much recently.  I wanted to brew once before we moved from the condo, but it never worked out.  The time has finally arrived for me to get back down to business and produce something for the upcoming winter months.

The last time I brewed I produced probably my most challenging beer to date.  I’ve never really done a follow up on it for a good reason.  I still don’t really think it’s ready yet for the general consumption.  In case you’ve forgotten, I produced an oaked bourbon honey chipotle brown ale.  I know, it may have been somewhat ridiculous to try to get all of those flavors in there.  I’ve had to let the beer bottle age for a little while because I clearly infused the bourbon with the chipotle peppers for far too long.  There’s a really good reason why I called it Boomstick Brown though.  I think it should be ready within another week or two.  The point is that it certainly was far too hot the first few times I tried it.

Even though I’ve barely made it through any of those bottles, I wanted to get brewing another one that would take me a little while to drink.  I started brewing last year not long after my birthday in February.  Since I felt that I started a little late to tackle a stout, I decided to wait out the spring and summer to create a really good coffee stout.  I love coffee and I love stouts, so it only seemed logical to attack this style next.  Then, when I was hunting down recipes, I found that Zymurgy had an article on creating a good coffee stout.  It was the last sign I needed to tell me that it was time get the stout moving.

Since I still feel like I’m in the beginning stages of this whole brewing thing, I decided to utilize an extract recipe I found with the article on making a coffee stout in the magazine.  I like the few I’ve made from magazines thus far, so I wanted to stick with what has worked in the past.  I tried to use a base I found online for my chipotle, and I think that may have ultimately messed things up a bit.  Since I’m doing an extract recipe, I’ll be starting with some specialty grains and moving into my malt syrup for the rest of the brew.  Therefore I’ll be using 7.5 lbs of pale malt syrup and 15 oz of Munich malt syrup.  For me it’s the first time I’ve used two different malt syrups.  The specialty malts will be 5 oz of 45 L crystal malt, 5oz of 150 L crystal malt, 4 oz of roast barley, 4oz of chocolate malt, 4oz of black malt, and 4 oz of briess extra special roast.  The original recipe tells me to use Simpsons brown (coffee) malt, but my store said they don’t have it and the briess should be a good substitute.  Any thoughts or input on any of the gains or malts?

I really don’t think the hops are a huge deal; however, I have .5 oz of Magnum going in at the start of the boil, .5 Crystal going in at the 30 min mark, and 1 oz Crystal going in at the flame out. Supposedly this will give me about 20 IBUS, which I think sounds about right for my purposes.  The recipe also says to use Wyeast 1056 American Ale. The final and big issue for me is getting a good coffee flavor in there.

The article outlines two different ways to get coffee into the beer.  The first one says to take half a pound of ground coffee, put it in two muslin bags, and place it into the wort at flame out.  Allow it to steep for two minutes and then get it out of there.  I kind of like this idea.  It sounds quick and easy.  The second idea is to create what they call a coffee toddy.  This involves taking 2 oz of ground coffee and steeping it in 1.5 cups of cold water for 24 hours.  It says it makes a much smoother variation of the coffee that has less bite to it.  After 24 hours, you get the coffee grinds out of there, and you add the liquid to a secondary fermenter.  I’m not sure which option I like better, but I’m sure I’ll use one of the two.  Which do you like better?  I have another idea to work some light vanilla flavor in there as well; however, I’m not sure how I would want to do that.  I’m thinking of using whole vanilla beans in secondary, but I’ll have to wait and see.

I’m quite psyched to get this beer working this weekend, so if you have any other thoughts on what I should do, let me know now.  I’ll be heading out Friday to get the ingredients, so I haven’t given you much time to think it over.  In the end, I think I may have to use this one to honor my favorite Vigilante of all time.

Unita Brewing Co – Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin

The season seems to have finally arrived for the pumpkin beers that were unexplainably released sometime near the end of
August.  I’ve personally managed to compile Dogfish Head – Punkin, New Holland Brewing Co – Ichabod Ale, Weyerbacher – Imperial Pumpkin, Schlafly – Pumpkin ale, Southern Tier – Pumking, and Hopping Frog – Double Pumpkin.  While I find some to be great and others to be rather boring, I knew I only wanted to do one pumpkin review for the season.  I debated doing the Weyerbacher.  While I discovered a love of pumpkin last year with the Dogfish Head version, the Weyerbacher has managed to extend that love this year.  However, last week I found this bottle from Unita.  This being a big bottle, I didn’t have a chance to try it to figure out if it’s on the stellar or pedestrian side of things, but it seemed to be an interesting enough combination to earn the honor of this review.  Hopefully it is deserving.

As I said, I’ve really only started developing an appreciation for pumpkin beers over the past year.  Of course, there was a big break in between the pumpkin seasons, so I suppose that really only totals a few months.  What I’ve come to find about pumpkin beers is that it isn’t really about the pumpkin actually taking the reins.  Most of the time, it’s actually more about featuring the spices and other flavors that accompany the flavor of pumpkin.  Many beers throw in the clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon to get you more of a spiced pumpkin flavor.  I’m still not really all that sure how Pumking gets their beer to taste like it is literally pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  Anyway you look at it, it’s more what you can do to the pumpkin that will win over your consumers.  That’s what really drew me to trying this particular beer.  The fact that it is imperial and aged in oak barrels was enough to get my attention.

Unita is a brewery I’m beginning to become more familiar with.  I love that they are a great brewery coming out of the Mormon state of Utah, and I’ve tried 3-4 beers that I’ve found quite enjoyable.  Here’s an interesting fact, they created the first barleywine beer I ever had.  Either way, knowing what I’ve had out of this brewery before, I was thinking I couldn’t go wrong with this big bold bottle of oaked pumpkin beer.

This one pours out a very dark brown color with some slight hints of reddish auburn in it.  Although I’ve had a pumpkin porter before, this one was certainly one of the darker pumpkin beers I’ve had.  It develops a nice moderate tan head.  Swirling the glass displays a lot of nice lacing and tons of sticky residue.  The beer has some slight haze to it, and it would seem there is no real visible carbonation.  Agitating the beer displays a little activity in the glass, but it’s pretty much too dark to see a lot of carbonation action.

The smell is certainly dominated by some very big pumpkin and spice combination.  The scent seems to be dominated by clove, cinnamon, and a whole lot of nutmeg.  The nutmeg is probably the show stealer here.  Being a big beer at 10.31% ABV, I didn’t expect it to have a crisp and clean aroma, but it somehow did.  You certainly can smell the slight oak aroma and you get a little bit of light booze on the nose as well.  I’m thinking there may be some slight hops here that are keeping it fresh smelling.

The first sip certainly revealed the biggest pumpkin beer I’ve ever had.  The flavors start with some pretty big sweet malts.  These mix in nicely with the big pumpkin and bold spices they used in their mix.  The big pumpkin flavors start-up almost immediately.  The pumpkin flavors seem to build over the course of the beer.  The spices have some light cinnamon, nice clove, and really big nutmeg flavors.  Right in the middle you hit a big booze flavor.  The booze has that huge oak flavoring to it that really shows this as the well aged pumpkin beer it is.  You get some slight hops and more booze on the finish.  The spices seem to be somewhat concentrated on the ending as well.

The mouthfeel has some carbonation all throughout the beer; however, it’s really slight to allow the beer to feel even more boozy and syrupy throughout.  I drank this one all by my lonesome, so I could certainly feel the effects of the big imperial nature by the end.  It has some really good big bold flavors all throughout it.  I really like the way the spices and pumpkin developed overtime, and the oak and booze add a nice twist.

There are good beers for everyday drinking and there are good beers for special occasions.  This is a big beer that should be shared by a few friends.  If you can find this one, pick it up and hold on to it for a nice beer with desert after Thanksgiving dinner. This one certainly won’t disappoint.  I’m quite tempted to go grab another bottle for just this purpose.

Teacher Grade: A+