Posts tagged ‘almanac’

Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.

Almanac Scaled Edit

 

One of the styles we don’t see to often in the pumpkin category is the elusive, and often divisive, sour ale. Leave it to the good folks at Almanac Beer Co to follow up last years (and coincidentally one of our highest ranking beers to date) Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine with a new entry, Dark Pumpkin Sour. Though they share the same humble roots, gorgeous artwork, and barrel times, they couldn’t stylistically be any further apart! So, if you can find one, crack it open and compare notes with us, and if you can’t, you’re probably going to want to find one – so keep trying!

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Name: Dark Pumpkin Sour (Farm to Barrel Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: Sam Jose, CA / Almanac Beer Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Dark Pumpkin Sour / 7.00%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Designed as a counterpoint to the sweet and savory items on a fall dinner table, Dark Pumpkin Sour is brewed with caramelized organic heirloom pumpkins from Bodega Bay, pie spices, and then aged in used red wine barrels for a year.

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Packaging:

Almanac should probably win the award for the most classically inspired bottling each year, with their wood carved motifs and calligraphic logo they inspire an old world appeal that really carries the legacy of colonial pumpkin ales into the new millennium. – Tim

There isn’t a lot more to say about Almanac’s design than it is simply a work of art. I would seriously hang both their iconic woodcut tree logo and the hop bine entwined “Farm to Barrel” designs on my wall proudly. They must really like it too because there isn’t a whole lot differentiating this from their other Pumpkin Barleywine offering appearance wise. A quick color change from orange to deep turquoise on the inch wide bottom label is the only major difference. But then, why fix what ain’t broke?

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Color: 7.5

Rich, deep mahogany and plum with glinting copper highlights where the light happens to pierce the shadows, and a tan head that fights to stick around. Murky like a bog. – Brittney

This sour ale pours a fluffy light brown head that billows over an opaque body. Root beer brown with some earthy tones. Looks quite impressive. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

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Aroma: 7.5

Pronounced Brettanomyces barnyard funk, cereal grains, pinot noir grapes, and dark fruits, meet a smatter of perfumed wood and slight porter-y roast. – Mike

This definitely has a great barrel aged nose to it, imparting some nice woody elements amongst a musty roasted character. Red wine is another bold aroma that starts sour, but has an enticing sweetness to it, and I can’t wait to try this beer. – Rick

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

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Mouth feel: 7.5

A study in contradiction, the dark voluptuous body belies a crisp highly acidic sour ale, that explodes on the tongue causing your taste buds to detonate with the shock of an atomic warhead. – Tim

Instant pucker on the first sip. It’s like a barrage on the senses, but it’s a light sour tartness that envelopes the tongue while a wisp of sweetness tickles it. Interestingly, the medium body contains a full flavored punch that’s easy to drink. – Rick

M- 8 / T- 7.5 / B- 5 / R- 8.5

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Tasting notes: 8.5

Intense citric acidity with pepper, wood, and a zesty spice on the fringes. As it warms dry, dark wine qualities appear alongside notes of pine, vegetal summer squash, and touches of caramel and cinnamon. – Mike

Crisp and bright, the pumpkin is tamed and even lost a bit in the bright lemon pucker notes. As a complement to a thick, rich pumpkin pie with a dense homemade whipped cream this ale would cut right though the gluttony and refresh your palate between each bite. Hint of allspice carries the ale slightly into the holiday season, but as a drink designed to complement a dessert rather than replicate, it gets high marks for contrasting tendencies. – Tim

There are moments where the pumpkin is fighting to show through, but for the most part all I’m tasting is sour. As it warms the spices begin to appear along side roasted pumpkin seed and wood and I can see why they recommend having this with pie. It needs the savory sweetness as an accompaniment. – Brittney

It’s like a sweet and sour pumpkin with a light watery red wine swirl. Great compliments, but is very atypical for a pumpkin offering. As it warms towards room temperature, the beer mellows and I’m starting to discover more elements of sweet cinnamon within the oaken melange. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 9

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Finish: 8

The finish is really were you get most of the flavor. The acidity begins to withdraw and pumpkin really comes through, almost as an afterthought. Roast and touches of caramel qualities as well as some woody vanilla. – Brittney

Blade mace and resinous cedar wood give way to a long, long, tart decay that settles out with echoes of the fork full of pumpkin pie that I never actually ate. Why, oh why do you elude me you devious phantom pastry? – Mike

M- 9.5 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance: 7

  • Pumpkin to Spice balance: 7

While the pumpkin takes a backseat to the sour’s peacock levels of non-subtlety, the notes on the nose and the color imparted in the ale are not to be missed. The spice on display is mainly a function of the wine barrel aging and as such adds tremendous depth to proceedings. – Tim

The pumpkin here is less of a defined quality than it is a referential. This brew begs to be set alongside your dessert course at Thanksgiving, and the spice is far more, but still subtly, notable. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 6

 

  • Sweet / Dry balance: 7

Tart, dry, and definitively sour. How dry and sour? The balance to the cabernet-sour is roast and wood. Sucka’s dryyy. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 6.5 / B- 5 / R- 8

 

  • Multiple Drinkability? 7

This is a fantastic and complex sour. I only wish there was more to get better acquainted with. – Rick

Cutting though a turkey weighted, gravy laden and desert friendly feast, this ale would do well at your next family gathering. – Tim

M- 10 / T- 7 / B- 4 / R- 7.5

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Overall: 7.67

M- 9.00 / T- 7.67 / B- 5.92 / R- 8.08

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2013 Rankings and the 2014 Season begins!

Punpkin Beer Set 2014

Oof. Just looking at that photo makes my liver hurt. But we do it for you guys, we do it for you. Now it’s time to do it all over again. So strap in and get ready, the 2014 season has begun and the fourth times a charm!

Of course, as the ritual requires before digging into any more amber spiced libations, here’s a look back at the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the most unique, the most interesting, well, yeah, the really, really good ones. We’ve scoured the earth for these brews, and we will keep searching as the list of craft brews continues to grow and more skilled artisans get in the game.

And of course, we will be breaking down our personal top 5, and lowest ranking choice at the end. So if you’ve got a favorite reviewer, we won’t tell anyone if you skip to there.

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Top 10 Beers To Date

10. Fat Jack Double Pumpkin – Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Co.) *Tie* Score 7.75

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Brewed with Two-Row Pale Malt Blend, Caramel 60, Special B, and Smoked Malt. East Kent, Goldings, and Fuggles hops are then added, along with 28 lbs of real pumpkin the barrel. Spices include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.

Notable Quotes

“Wow. This is that deliciously burnt crust pumpkin pie reheat that you get the day after Thanksgiving. Piled in creamy goodness to keep it moist, and then finished with a slice of apple wood smoked bacon — because you’re the guy that eats pie for breakfast. The pumpkin tastes phenomenal, and there is no doubting of it’s presence. This barrel is bursting with squash, and momma slapped that hand away before it got too heavy with the spice. It’s got all the sweetness and weight of a Belgian triple.”

Fat Jack corrected

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10. T.R.E.A.T. Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter – Midnight Sun  *Tie* Score: 7.75

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

This demented ale took home the Gold at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival, and is made with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Notable Quotes

“Thick with roasted malts, lush pumpkin, cocoa nibs, blackberries, dark fruit jam and molasses blending with a notable touches of cinnamon, vanilla and clove. The beer envelops, it’s sweet and bitter all at once with enough pronounced notes of alcohol heat to keep you warm on the long sunless Saturday’s during Alaska’s famed 30 days of night.”

treat1 WEB

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8. Slashed Pumpkin – Ron Raike (Shipyard Brewpub) *Tie* Score: 7.83

(No longer in production)

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Twenty-two pounds of fresh pie pumpkins are baked, caramelized, and added in the mash, boil, and fermentations stages along with pie spices intended to balance the chocolatey porter. ( This may sound familiar from their offering “The Great Plumpkin“, and with good reason.) It is then finished with chipotle peppers to give it a mild Smokey burn. Another nicety for some additional flair is the garnish of a deep fried Pumpkin Grit Fritter made with Anson Mills Organic Heirloom Grits, pumpkin, spices, and a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

Notable Quotes

“The pumpkin aspects are accented very well by the porter’s smoky qualities and the malty sweetness is just right without being too cloying. It’s a unique addition to a pumpkin beer, but the chipotle spice gives this porter a great finish.”

slashed-pumpkin

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8. Gourdgeous (Local Fields Series) – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery  *Tie* Score 7.83

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Gourdgeous uses 1,000 lbs of pumpkins grown at Larry Jacinto Farms just a half mile from the brewery,  hand collected, cut, and seeded by local volunteers, and then roasted in giant ovens compliments of local catering company Q-Works BBQ. It’s then turned into a rich strong porter where molasses and spices join the mix.

 

Notable Quotes

“Did someone say decadent? This is a top notch porter, delivering on every single promise the aroma has to offer, it’s thick and chewy which stands in direct contrast to the color of the ale. Masses of burnt caramel and molasses, roasted pumpkin and baking spices are mixed with earthy sage and rosemary notes.  It’s a full-on assault making this craft beer more of a meal than a beverage.

Gourdgeous

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6. Good Gourd Almighty – Cigar City Brewing  *Tie*  Score: 7.92

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Almighty takes Cigar City’s ever popular Good Gourd (an imperial pumpkin ale that includes Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, Zanzibar cloves, and nutmeg) and finishes it out for some time in rum barrels.

 

Notable Quotes

“Spiced Rum, treacle, dark fruits, and milk chocolate. This tastes a good bit like a Dale Degroff tropical pumpkin cocktail with a few extra dashes of Pimento Dram. It’s caramel coated pumpkin bread – beach side.”

photo

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6. Pepitas Grande (Dunk Your Face Project) – Paradox Beer Co.  *Tie*  Score: 7.92

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Pepitas Grande is a dark beer brewed with pumpkins, roasted pepitas, Chimayo red chili, and a hint of cocoa. After brewing it is aged in oak red wine barrels.

Notable Quotes

“This isn’t your typical pumpkin ale, and I say that with a very happy lilt applied. This is complexity and grace. The wine barrel adds heavily to its presence and richness, vegetal and earthy notes shine from the competing pumpkin, and the heat is a kiss upon the brow. Both nuanced and epic, this is pumpkin beer done Dios De Los Muertos style. Well deserving of its name.“

Paradox2

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4. The Great Plumpkin – Ron Raike (Shipyard Brewpub)  *Tie*  Score: 8.25

(No longer in production)

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

18 lbs of pie pumpkins are baked and caramelized in the emporium’s bakery, and are then used in both the mash and boil to add flavor, texture, and sweetness. Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg, and a new spice to our equation, Mace, are added to create a uniquely spicy and aromatic finish. Then it’s garnished with a skewered toastette covered in roasted and candied pumpkin seeds.

Notable Quotes

“Deep roasted pumpkin explodes on the palate while the malty spice keeps the ale dry and pleasantly sweet. The shining star here is definitely the smokey roasted notes though, and the garnish offers such a dramatic change in flavor profile, giving a completely different aspect to the ale. Try the first half without it, and then kill it with the toast. It’s a trip.”

GPA 1

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4. Pumking – Southern Tier Brewing  *Tie*  Score: 8.25

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Bewitched and brewed with pagan spirit, Pumking is brewed in tribute to Pủca, the benevolent Celtic goblin of fairy folk lore, who is both respected and feared, but notably a trickster of the highest degree. This beastly beer is brewed with 2-row pale malt, caramel malt, puréed pumpkin, and both magnum and sterling hops.

Notable Quotes

“Huge vanilla cookie notes–that are liable to send neophyte pumpkin beer drinkers running for cover–pop out ahead of pronounced cinnamon, sweet caramel malts and roast pumpkin flavors. It’s toasty and liquory with a background of clove, nutmeg and allspice. Tremendously complex, Southern Tier recommends serving at 40-degrees but as it warms up it displays cognac-like elements that are really unique to this beer.”

Pumking 1

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3. Gourds of Thunder – Cigar City Brew Pub (Tim Ogden)  Score: 8.42

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Gourds of Thunders stays true to the Cigar City Brew Pub Farm to Table mission, and features heirloom local organic calabaza pumpkins and butternut squash, along with chocolate rye, dark chocolate, coriander, allspice, and other spices. It is fermented with Tim’s go to house Belgian yeast “Forbidden Fruit”.

 

Notable Quotes

“For some reason, brewpub exclusives tend to be the domain of mad scientist potions, and this ale is no exception. It has to have one of the craziest spice profiles of anything I have had in a very long time. It reminds me primarily of my mother’s homemade Thanksgiving stuffing, with significant notes of celery, cumin, rye seed, fenugreek, an d even a little iron (courtesy of chicken liver in the stuffing – and I don’t know what in the Ale!). Masses of dark chocolate notes and dark roasted malt accentuate the caramelized pumpkin and squash. It’s a meal in a glass.”

Gourds of Thunder WEB

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2. Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm To Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.   Score: 8.50

 

Specialty Prep / Individuality:

Almanac Pumpkin Barleywine is made with 500 lbs of hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins from La Tercera Farms in Bodega Bay. The caramelized gourds were added to their American Barleywine and aged in brandy barrels for a year, then the resulting concoction was blended with a freshly brewed spiced barleywine.

 

Notable Quotes

“Warm brown sugar, caramel, an explosion of malt, pumpkin, and spice tamed only by wood, and a finish of vanilla, apricots, violets, and cognac. This is what the flame on the tea light inside your jack o’lantern must taste like after a round of Brandy Alexanders.”

Almanac

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1. All Jacked Up (Ron Raike) – Cask & Larder   Score: 8.83

 

Speciality Prep / Individuality:

All Jacked Up is a traditional style pumpkin ale brewed with 150 lbs of Tampa, FL grown Calabaza Pumpkins that are roasted in the kitchen by Cask & Larder’s Sous chef. The Pumpkins are then added to the mash, boil, and secondary fermented, based on the degree of char they received, along with mace, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and wildflower honey.

 

Notable Quotes

“I’m really trying not to be a fan girl here but Ron knows how to make a damn good beer. Just the right amount of earthy/squashy pumpkin with a honey sweetness, and just when you think it can’t get any better the finish completely blows you away.”

All Jacked Up 2

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Top Five Beers By Reviewer To Date:

 

Mike

1. All Jacked Up – Ron Raike (Cask & Larder) 9.33
2. Gourds of Thunder – Cigar City Brew Pug (Tim Ogden) 9.08
3. Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Almanac Beer Co. 9.00
4. Pumking – Southern Tier 8.92
5. T.R.E.A.T. Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter – Midnight Sun 8.83

Last Place: Sarnac Pumpkin Ale 3.25

 

Tim
1. All Jacked Up – Ron Raike (Cask & Larder) 9.08
2. Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Almanac Beer Co. 8.67
3. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale *Tie* 8.25
3. Pepitas Grande – Paradox beer Co. *Tie* 8.25
4. Blight Pumpkin Ale – Elysian Brewing*Tie* 8.17
4. Fat Jack Double Pumpkin – Samuel Adams *Tie* 8.17

Last Place: Pumpkinhead – Shipyard Brewing 3.08

 

Brittney
1. All Jacked Up – Ron Raike (Cask & Larder) 8.33
2. Southern Tier Pumking *Tie* 8.17
2. Slashed Pumpkin Ron Raike (Shipyard Brewpub) *Tie* 8.17
3. Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Almanac Beer Co. 7.92
4. Harvest Time – Big Boss Brewing *Tie* 7.83
4. Hipp-O Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Riverhorse Brewing Co. *Tie* 7.83

Last Place: Avery Rumpkin 3.50

 

Rick
1. Good Gourd Almighty – Cigar City Brewing 8.83
2. The Great Plumpkin – Ron Raike (Shipyard Brewpub) 8.67
3. The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Flying Dog *Tie* 8.58
3. Gourds of Thunder – Cigar City Brew Pub (Tim Ogden) *Tie* 8.58
5. Pumking – Southern Tier Brewing *Tie* 8.42
5. Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Almanac Beer Co. *Tie* 8.42

Last Place: Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider 3.50

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Pumpkin Closze Up

Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Barrel Series) – Almanac Beer Co.

Almanac

If our first two reviews this month are any indication, California is killing it when it comes to craft beer and the farm to table movement. Further, if this beer is par for the course, Almanac Beer Co. is poised to quickly rise to the forefront of said movements. A pair of “gypsy” brewers (or for the uninitiated, brewers who don’t own their own brewery), Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan brew through the good faith of using other local brewing equipment. As a result, Almanac is the definition of “small batch”, creating exclusive seasonal releases that incorporate local ingredients, and flies off the shelves in no time. Already well decorated in accolades, we weren’t surprised that this was a good one. We were surprised at just how good it was though, and just how hard it was to get our hands on it!

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Name:  Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (Farm to Table Series)

Place of Origin / Brewer: San Jose, California / Almanac Beer Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Barley Wine / 12.8%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Almanac Pumpkin Barleywine is made with 500lbs of hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins from La Tercera Farms in Bodega Bay. The caramelized gourds were added to their American Barleywine and aged in brandy barrels for a year, then the resulting concoction was blended with a freshly brewed spiced barleywine.

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Packaging:

The design on this bottle is amazing. Well thought out from top to bottom, informative, clean, and simply breathtaking. From farm to anything seems to be on everyone tongues lately, and with good reason. Farm to Barrel is proudly expressed on the side of this bottle as well as a gorgeous sketch of a tree I would gladly enjoy a pint under any day. – Brittney

My favorite label to date. This one balances beauty and professionalism with charm. Maybe a bit of design porn, what with all the sexy type, but the label just enhances the experience of this great beer and shows the level of appreciation that went into making it. – Rick

A gorgeous postage stamp visage which shows careful consideration on the part of the brewers to impart both information and aesthetic appeal in a design so cool, I would consider framing it.  I hear they grow these pumpkins in Bodega Bay…I was half-expecting some “Birds” on the label.  You Hitchcock fans will understand what I’m talking about. – Tim

Perhaps the sexiest beer bottle I’ve ever seen, this baby features detailed wood cut hop bines accented by metallic gold and ivory lettering a font designer would die for. A sleek and narrow lower paper trailer label encircles with details about the specific bottling, and a giant tree mandala, tractors, and the state silhouette remind you that this is California, Farm to Table and “Beer is Agriculture”. (Also, it says that on the bottle.) – Mike

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Color:  8

            This takes your Belgian dark and adds gorgeous red undertones. It looks thick, decadent, and overtly autumnal. –    Mike

            Nearly opaque, the body is full and inviting. It’s awesome copper and burnt umber coloring is accentuated with a light fuzzy head on top that leaves behind a bit of legging as well. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 7.5 / B- 8 / R- 7

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Aroma:  8.5

Wow, this is a sensory overload of the highest order, with black fruit, brandy, molasses followed by intense malt and vanilla notes.  I want to live inside this…I’m trying to imagine how amazing this would smell if you warmed it up. – Tim

Smells just as it states, very much like barley wine & barrel aged beer would smell, high in alcohol and earthly. Although like any good fall vegetable should, the sweetness is brought forward from being caramelized just a touch. – Brittney

M- 9 / T- 9.5 / B- 8 / R- 8

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Mouth feel:  8.5

            Creamy. At 13% that should read boozy, but it’s lush and gorgeous, and the only hint of fire is on the swallow. – Mike

It has a full body, but it stays smooth as each sip spills a plethora of flavor over my tongue. It doesn’t burn too much at first, slowly giving way to the inevitable bite of a strong beer. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8.5 / B- 8 / R- 9

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Tasting notes:  9

            Warm brown sugar, caramel, an explosion of malt, pumpkin, and spice tamed only by wood, and a finish of vanilla, apricots, violets, and cognac. This is what the flame on the tea light inside your jack o’lantern must taste like after a round of Brandy Alexanders. – Mike

Boozy and sweet, rich with raisins and prunes, caramelized pumpkin, dark molasses and brown butter, vanilla and clove, it dances across the palate with waves of flavor, this is a meal, dessert, and after-dinner drinks in a single glass.  It’s like drinking pumpkin pie. – Tim

I like to believe that our palettes are ever changing.  There was a time that I didn’t really have a taste for anything that mentioned barrel aged or barley wine. This has nothing to do with a lack of love for things that come from barrels. Trust me.  For it’s style, this one does it well, it doesn’t feel or taste too heavy and it allows for the earthy elements as well as the care in brewing and aging to shine though.   – Brittney

As expected, the style really dominates the backbone of the profile with some awesome pumpkin qualities to make this brew shine. I’m almost overwhelmed by the nutty vanilla bean that introduces me to a cinnamon topped buttery crust, there’s so much going on here! – Rick

M- 10 / T- 9 / B- 8.5 / R- 9

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Finish:  8.5

The finish is the reminder that this beer has spent some time in barrels; the oak and smoothness of the vanilla notes stay with you, as does the thickness of the mouth feel. Final reminder is the12.8%. – Brittney

Long and sweet, with bitter burnt caramel notes and linger of dried fruit and oaked brandy notes.  It doesn’t linger nearly as long as I would like it to, but to be fair I’d like it last forever, so grade that on whatever curve you want. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 8.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 8.5

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Flavor balance:  8.5

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 8.5

As usual, anytime pumpkin in any state can shine through a spice presence, I call balance. Blending the ales is a genius move for the style. – Brittney

Everything meshes really well, and the pumpkin flavoring is grand. I’m starting to think that complex brews like this one really capture all the nuances of a pumpkin beer, and are the perfect vessel for this gourdy imbibement. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 8.5 / B- 7 / R- 8

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7.5

It’s Barleywine, it’s not meant to be dry.  The high ABV and bitter burnt sugar notes do less to curtail the sweetness and more to extend its enveloping character. – Tim

This is the only minor space for fault. It is pleasantly sweet, but so bold and luxuriant that it is almost overwhelming. Almost. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 8 / B- 7 / R- 7.5

         Multiple Drinkability?  9

If I could drink more I would. This beer alone warrants a trip to the west coast in search for more of Almanac’s offerings. – Rick

At 12.8% ABV the intensity of this ale is more than enough for a single 375ml serving.  That said, this is a stockpile-level spirit and I would gladly cellar as many of them as I could get my hands on.  In fact, if I see it at a store, you better get out of my way. – Tim

M- 8.5 / T- 10 / B- 8 / R- 8.5

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Overall:  8.50

M- 9.00 / T- 8.67 / B- 7.92 / R- 8.42