Posts tagged ‘barley wine’

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

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Rumpkin (October 5, 2011) Annual Barrel Series – Avery Brewing Company

Every once in awhile, a beer comes along that separates the boys from the men. Well, actually no. With Avery, that’s pretty much every day. Known for their unusual brewing practices, and some intense high ABV beers, Avery doesn’t think inside the box, they punch their way out while watching Old Spice commercials on infinite repeat. So if you’re in a climate that’s a little on the chilly side this Thanksgiving, and you just need something to break down all the Tryptophan in your gullet, grab one of these bad boys and don’t be a turkey.

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Name:  Rumpkin (October 5, 2011) Annual Barrel Series

Place of Origin / Brewer: Colorado, USA / Avery Brewing Company

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Triple Ale / 15.90%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Limited to 512 cases (of which we’re sampling batch one) Rumpkin is brewed with Rocky mountain water, malted barley, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, hops, and yeast, then rested in oak rum barrels to yield spicy gourd, delicate oak, and candied molasses notes.

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Packaging:

Avery really impressed here, complete with gold foil neck and cap, and a specialty label reflecting the barrel slats, and woodcut pumpkin and rum jug with skull and crossbones adorning. They’ve also nicely incorporated a significant number of details to the labeling, including batch, cases production and bottling date, as well as the concept of the beer. Nicely done. – Mike

I love this pseudo-pirate styled label with the rum barrel branded with skulls and growlers and pumpkins and proclaiming the batch numbers (ours was No. 1) and the number of cases in the production (512) all of it speaks to Avery’s continued tradition of being a rebellious brewer. – Tim

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Color:  6.5

Cloudy molasses brown giving great credence to it’s rum referenced conception, and just a hint of burnt umber to give it an aging pumpkin feel. A mild fizzy head crowns it, and quickly becomes a menacing ring, hinting that this may be too hardcore for any frilly accoutrement. – Mike

Murky and swamp like.  I’m expecting Swamp Thing to crawl from its depths any moment now.  Even what little remains of the head and the lacing have a slight mud tinge to them. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 5.5 / B- 4.5 / R- 7.5

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Aroma:  6

Shiver me timbers with your burnt caramel sticky sweetness.  This beer is packing a seriously complex nose, with spiced rum, prunes and molasses kicking you square in the face with a ferociousness that actually frightens me a little (but in a good way).  However, I’m also a bit concerned that I haven’t found the pumpkin, or the pumpkin spices yet. – Tim

Just the smell of this is giving me a hangover.  It’s heavy on the alcohol right away.  Next is a blast of heavy dark molasses and raw oak.  Separately I love the smell of molasses and oak but this aroma is totally off putting for me.  I don’t even want to taste this. – Brittney

It smells like aged pumpkin might.  It’s musty and carries a thick molasses aroma.  I can tell right away just from the smell that the alcohol content is fairly high on this one. – Rick

M- 7.5 / T- 6 / B- 3 / R- 8

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Mouth feel:  6

It seems light on the tongue, then it burns over the palate smoothly.  This one warms up quickly in the glass, and I think it’s the first pumpkin brew to leave my lips numb after a few sips. – Rick

On the very high end of medium bodied, you might as well tick this off in the heavy column due to the epic levels of sweetness on display.  However that being said, it’s not a tough swallow.  It’s got some carbonation burn and some absolute heat from the super high alcohol content, but I didn’t struggle to get it down.  It’s palatable. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 5.5 / B- 4 / R- 6.5

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Tasting notes:  6

The sweet pumpkin assaults you like a belligerent pirate, and a malty black strap molasses and chocolate cake field quickly follows, with a hint of oak on the backend, that should firmly suggest rum, if my puns and the label fail you. The spices are regulated into the caramel sweetness, reminding me more of spiced dark rum, than holiday cheer. – Mike

Tastes of Dark Brown Sugar, Sorghum, Spiced Rum, Allspice and Ginger, Sweetness that just teeters on cloying with deep chest warmth from the spirits.  The intensity of the beer overpowers any pumpkin that might be in there and the big alcohol content pushes this offering squarely into the Fortified (or Barley) wine category.  In fact, I’d seriously consider serving this ‘sipping’ beer in a Brandy snifter. – Tim

This one has a unique  flavor with an oaky aged-like quality.  It’s sweet like candy with a roasted pumpkin essence, but don’t let it fool you, this beer packs a punch. – Rick

To be fair, I’m not quite certain if I can get past the aroma and mouth feel to get to the taste.  But this is just not pleasant to me.  Nor do I feel that this has anything to do with anything that has to do with being anything like pumpkin ale. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 5 / B- 3 / R-  7

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Finish:  6

Fruity apple and black tea come in here, with just a hint of cinnamon. I’m most impressed with the handling of the significant ABV though, which offers a gentlemanly pound on the back, without offering the acrid burn you could easily come away with. – Mike

Long and defined by the deep malty sweetness and the trailing alcohol vapors—extending the profile for an eternity, which makes sipping this brew over an extended session an even more attractive option. – Tim

Relief. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 5 / B- 3 / R- 7

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Flavor balance:  4.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

This ale has the usual spices in it.  Although, it’s heavy with a molasses and caramel flavor, this is the most pumpkin flavored ale so far. – Rick

I’m not sure I’d call it balance since I never found the pumpkin in there but I will give Avery props for attaining some semblance of harmony with the other components in this crazy strong brew they managed to bottle. – Tim

This is a dramatically different approach, with the pumpkin winning the race to the finish, but I particularly enjoy the way the spices are handled by relegating them to an aspect of rum flavor.

M- 6 / T- 3 / B- 3 / R- 5.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

It’s sweet, damn sweet in fact, but this is barley wine to the max territory, and it finishes exceptionally well, certainly worthy of acknowledgment as a finer example, rather than a seasonal frivolity. – Mike

It’s very much like melted candy, and it starts off sweet, but finishes dry. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 3 / B- 3 / R- 4

–         Multiple Drinkability?

Avery Brewing Company is based in Boulder, Colorado where the record low once reached -31.  Rumpkin might best be enjoyed as a sipping beer in the tradition of a cognac or as a replacement spirit to help stave off frostbite in a St. Bernard’s rescue barrel.  – Tim

This is 15.90% so lets be honest here, you’re only meant to have one. But on a cold night, this boy will keep you warmer than any of Brian Wilson’s northern girls, and in Boulder, Colorado, you can be damn sure that’s a welcome thing. – Mike

This is a great tasting pumpkin ale to sip on a cold day, maybe more like a frigid day.  The ABV is super strong, but doesn’t keep this ale from exceeding in flavor. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 2 / B- 3/ R- 6

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Overall:  5.83

M- 7.67 / T- 4.92 / B- 3.50 / R- 6.83