Beer Review: Southern Tier’s Rum Barrel Aged Pumking

Name: Rum Barrel Aged Pumking
Brewing Company: Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NY
Style: Pumpkin / Yam Beer
ABV: 13.4%

From Southern Tier Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Back in 2014 we had the good fortune of finding a cache of rum barrels which we quickly filled with Pumking making what was affectionately called “Rumking.” We were lucky to have found more barrels, and in 2018, found some of the best we’ve ever used. This batch is at least as delicious as versions past.

Imagine our inimitable Imperial Pumking Ale as the captain on the high seas, flying the Jolly Roger. The ‘King sails for ports unknown in this limited release. Rum Barrel Aged Pumking has been kept like secret treasure in the hollows of the brewery, patiently awaiting discovery. Yo ho ho!

Enjoy Rum Barrel Aged Pumking now, or keep it hidden standing upright in a dark and cool place until you can say ‘anchors aweigh!’

Drinkers who enjoy pumpkin beer, especially those in the Northeast, may have asked themselves when reading my post about pumpkin last week, “What not even one of Southern Tier’s Pumking offerings?” After all Southern Tier is one of the leading brewers of the “dessert beer / pastry stout” style of beers and Pumking has been making the rounds for over 10 years now (2007). Well, I’d wanted to try one of the variants for the past couple of years and decided to go with the biggest one of them all, the Rum Barrel Aged variant (represented by the Pirate Pumking on the far right in the image below).

The Pumking family of icons.

I’ve had the regular version, Pumking seemingly every other year and for a while Warlock was actually my favorite pumpkin beer (until they changed the recipe last year). It is still a good beer (or was last year), but enough about the other members of Pumking’s family. The remainder of this post focuses on Rum Barrel Aged Pumking, which is now part of the “Barrel House Series” at Southern Tier.

The beer pours a perfect golden orange, hinting at the pumpkin and rum flavor. As I brought the glass to my nose, I was punched in the face with the strong, sweet aroma of rum. When I gave another whiff, I was punched again by that sweet rum aroma. Did I mention the beer has a strong aroma of rum? Because there’s a lot of rum on the nose of this beer.

The nose doesn’t lie…my first sip was a big hit of rum, sweetness (maybe a little big of brown sugar?) and some pumpkin spice. Most of the barrel aged beers I’ve had are in the whiskey family – bourbon, rye, or whiskey. I typically don’t gravitate to rum, not that I don’t like it, just not my thing. But here, the rum is a welcoming warmth.

The pumpkin spices come in after the beer sits for a bit, and the full pumpkin character shines or glows. There’s a line of sweetness that the rum enhances in the typical pumpkin spice character, which makes for a really unique take on a pumpkin beer. Or at least for my palette and 50+ pumpkin beers I’ve consumed over the years.

Another thing I found impressive about the beer is that the character of the base beer – Pumking – is still very strong despite the big punch of rum. Pumking has always stood out from other pumpkin beers for me – something about the spice and nuttiness (I’d almost say pecan-like) sets it apart. This really is like Pumking turned up to 11, so if you like Pumking, chances are very good you’ll enjoy this beer.

I feel like the statement I’ve most often made on this blog is to let the beer warm and get closer to room temperature. Well, the statement applies here to the Rum Barrel Aged Pumking. To the point that I’d recommend letting the beer sit for five or ten minutes before fully enjoying it.

At 13.4% ABV, this is either one to share or enjoy over the course of an evening. I took almost the entirety of watching a really good horror movie (The Witch, a little over 90 minutes) to enjoy the beer. Given that letting the beer sit in the glass allows the beer to breathe and the flavors to come alive, you’ll want to take your time with it, too.

I’ve recounted how much I enjoy Southern Tier’s beer in the past, but this is the first “new to me” beer from them I’ve had in almost a year (last year’s new take on Warlock and 3 Citrus Peel Out) but overall, I’ve had nearly 30 beers from the venerable NY brewery and this is a standout from them and worth hunting down.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Gourd to the Last Drop (Level 11)

Fall is in the air and the holidays are just around the corner, but pies and jack-o-lanterns aren’t the only things pumpkins are good for. Pumpkin beers have grown in popularity, bringing with them a delicate balance of malt and spices. That’s 55 different beers with the style of Pumpkin / Yam!

 

Beer Review: Bruery Terreux’s Beret

Name: Beret
Brewing Company: Breuery Terreux
Location: Orange County, CA
Style: Sour – Ale
ABV: 9%

From Breury Terreux’s landing page for the beer:

Beret is as artistic as those who wear its namesake cap. Our brewers developed a silky, full-bodied wheat ale which we began fermenting with a Belgian-style witbier yeast strain. To finish the fermentation, we added our collection of barnyard bacteria, intended to slowly sour the ale, bringing out a slight funk and refreshing piquancy. Finally, a small dose of pureed raspberries were added for just a hint of fruity tannins, putting the berry in Beret.

I’ve had a few of the big beers from The Bruery, but before enjoying Beret, I think I only had a taste of Bruery Terreux beer at a beer festival. As their twitter profile inidicates, Bruery Terreux is “The sour & wild side of Famille Rue. Crafting wildly traditional bière alongside The Bruery.” After enjoying Beret, I will be having more of their beers. As I’ve come to enjoy sour beers more and more, I wanted to try one of these big sour beers from California. The range of styles within Sour beers is quite wide and Bruery Terreux seem to brew them all. In the end, I was drawn to Beret were the approachable price of about $15 (some of their 750ml beers range well above $20) and the fruited flavor of raspberry.

The beer pours a cloudy/hazy yellowish-pink. It looks a bit like a fruited hefeweizen/witbier to me, which I suppose makes sense since the beer began as a wheat ale. It has that spongy aroma most Goses do for me. I’m not sure why I use the word spongy, but that imagery pops up in my head. I like Goses so on the whole, and Berliner Weisses as well, so I like where this beer is going on looks and aroma alone.

That first taste is slightly sweet with lots of that spongy sour-tartness. There’s a lot of funkiness, too, the flavor moves around a bit from sweet to tart, but settles down once the raspberry joins in the flavor party. I had this beer on ice to get it cold, which turned out to be too cold. The complexities of the flavor from the chemistry that happens with the ingredients from the wheat to the yeast to the raspberry become more prominent as the beer warmed up.

For my palette’s sensibilities, I would have enjoyed the beer a little bit more if the raspberry was a more assertive and pronounced. A little more sweetness would have been welcome. I wonder how the same beer would taste with a slightly sweeter fruit like peach.

On the whole, Beret is a fairly approachable sour ale – it would be a good beer for people unsure of whether they enjoy sours to try. That, coupled with the lower price point compared to many offerings from The Breury or Bruery Terreaux, makes Beret one to potentially share with a friend who is curious about sour beers.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pucker Up (Level 11)

Right about now you’re feeling your face tighten and your taste buds explode. The full pucker is quickly setting in and you can’t get enough. This is the wonder of the sour. That’s 55 different Sour Beers.

Hopped Down (Level 67)

One cannot live on dank hops alone. Tone down the bitterness and enjoy some smooth flavor. That’s 335 different beers with an IBU of 20 or below.

 

Beer Review: Left Hand 25th Anniversary

Name: 25th Anniversary
Brewing Company: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Stout –Imperial / Double
ABV: 12.1%

From Left Hand’s page for the beer

Assertive notes of dark chocolate, cherries and roasted coffee beans with a smooth warming finish.

In 1993 we set out to change the world one pint at a time. For 25 years we have forged an independent path, building a stronger community and creating an employee-owned company founded on brewing the best beer we can make. Cheers for supporting us at Left hand and independent craft beer.

25 years is quite a long time to be in the brewing business, outside of the multinational macro brewers. Left Hand Brewing is one of the old guard of Colorado breweries, having been at the forefront of the Western American Craft beer movement since 1993. They’ve brewed some iconic beers like Sawtooth Ale and Milk Stout and the innovative Nitro brand that began with Milk Stout Nitro, the beer for which they are likely best known. So, for an anniversary ale, they decided to go with an Imperial Stout.

This one pours dark with a khaki head. Closer examination reveals colors that hint at crimson and deep red. The aroma, to be honest, doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a well-made stout with some roasted coffee notes, but I don’t get the cherries. In other words, it smells like other stouts I’ve enjoyed in the past.

First sip is fairly complex – roasted malts, some cocoa with a hint of cherry sweetness. It immediately put a smile on my face. A few more sips and I get the full taste; dark/bittersweet chocolate dominates the palate. The coffee is still hinted, but the cherry flavor is a nice undercurrent providing a sweetness that offsets the bittersweet chocolate. It doesn’t feel too much like a 12.1% beer in the body, but there’s definitely some heat/booziness from that high ABV.

This stout drinks a little better as it approaches room temperature, with the cherry notes becoming more pronounced giving the beer a nice overall flavor profile. I found the bittersweet notes to be a little more dominant than I typically enjoy in these types of big stouts. On the whole; however, this is a complex and tasty Imperial Stout.

As an anniversary or special occasion stout, it definitely works. The addition of the cherries gives the beer just enough of a unique taste to make it stand out from typical Imperial Stouts. Not sure if it is available on draft, but the beer is in 4-packs of bottles for distribution. This a beer you’ll want to pour when you have no plans on a cool night aside from relaxing and reading a good book or watching a movie.

Left Hand had a big celebration for this beer. That would have been a nice time to visit the legendary brewery!

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: De Kleine Dood from Central Waters Brewing Co. & Local Option Bierwerker

Name: De Kleine Dood
Brewing Company: Central Waters Brewing Co. / Local Option Bierwerker

Location: Amherst, WI / Chicago, IL
Style: Bock – Weizenbock
ABV: 12.2%

From Central Waters’s page for “Specialty Beers:”

De Kleine Dood (formerly known as La Petite Mort) is a Belgian inspired Weizenbock brewed as a collaboration between Central Waters and The Local Option in Chicago, IL. This beer maintains the traditional characteristics of its Bavarian fore bearer, with the added complexity of Belgian ale yeast. La Petite Mort is dark amber in color; maintains a rich, full-bodied mouth-feel augmented by caramel; mild and dark fruit.

My feature on Bocks back in April should be an indicator that I enjoy the various styles of Bocks, with Weizenbock maybe my favorite of the Bocks. So when I stumbled across a Weizenbock I hadn’t tried, let alone knew about from a brewery that seems to have a solid reputation, I knew I had to give it a try.

Of the styles of Bock, the Weizenbock or Doppelbocks have the highest ABV (in the 7%-9% range) so imagine how big the beer would be if it aged in bourbon barrels. Well, Central Waters Brewing who has a solid Barrel Aging series as part of their brewing portfolio apparently were also curious how that would work. The result, in collaboration with Local Option Bierwerker out of Chicago, is this potent, rich, complex beer.

The beer pours a beautiful deep crimson/scarlet, a red bordering on brown. The photo doesn’t do the color of the beer justice. On color alone, this is one of the loveliest brews I’ve poured. The bourbon is extremely strong in the aroma, it really dominates although there is a slight hint of earthy/stone fruit in the undercurrent of the beer.

First sip…yep, that bourbon is omnipresent. Underneath it, the figgy/date/plum flavors evoked by the yeast are there, too. My first impression is that this is a long sipping dessert beer, but the flavors are muted a bit by the cold temperature. So, I just kept breathing in the beer every few minutes before each small sip so the beer could warm closer to room temperature.

Once it warms up, like most high ABV beers, especially those aged in barrels that previously held some kind of alcohol, the flavors can breathe. The beer comes into its full flavor profile and those stone fruit evocations from the yeast rise to the top. I managed to take about two hours to drink the full 22 oz, over that time, the bourbon settled down and the fruitiness evoked by the yeast became more prominent, even if the bourbon still dominated. I didn’t get much of the banana flavors that typically come from a weizenbock, but that wasn’t really a problem. At 12.2% even taking two hours to drink the beer still had a noticeable effect on me – about the only sensible thing to do after enjoying 22oz of a 12.2% beer is go to sleep.

The beer’s description does confuse me a little, I’ll be honest. A Weizenbock is one of the more Germanic styles of beer, yet the description says “Belgian inspired Weizenbock.” I suppose sine the fruit evocation is more of the stone fruit than a banana like flavor from true German brews the description does make sense. Either way, this is a really tasty beer and I would love to sample the base beer before it is aged in the bourbon barrel.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)

Name: Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)
Brewing Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan

Location: Chico, CA / Freising, BY Germany
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6%

From Sierra Nevada’s page for Oktoberfest: (This will likely change when the next year’s Oktoberfest beer begins to be marketed)

We’ve partnered with Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery, for this American take on the classic German Oktoberfest. A malt backbone is balanced by subtle hop character in this crisp, clean, and drinkable crowd-pleaser. Nothing captures the spirit of celebration like a beer among friends.

Oktoberfest 2018 is almost here! Get out your lederhose and dirndls, and join us in Chico, or Mills River for an epic party! Or try your hand at the Oktoberfest Game while you wait for the big event!

Since 2015, Sierra Nevada has been collaborating with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest offering and if my posts last year about their Beer Camp project was any indication (here and here), few breweries collaborate as often or as well as Sierra Nevada. I’ve enjoyed each of the last three years’ collaborations (Brauhaus Riegele [2015], Mars Bräu [2016], Brauhaus Miltenberger [2017]), so when Sierra Nevada announced they would be collaborating with Weihenstephan, perhaps my favorite German brewery to brew a Hefeweizen (Braupakt, which is a must have Hefeweizen) and an Oktoberfest, I was excited.

As one of the most recognizable styles of beers, Oktoberfests are pretty straightforward. What you should typically expect is an amber, dark golden lager with sweet malty overtones, with some hints of caramel and maybe even a hint of floral.

The beer looks exactly like you’d want an Oktobefest to look – golden amber in color. The head wasn’t too thick, but the aroma gave me exactly what I’d hoped for – a little bit of sweetness and a touch of hops. First sip hit my tongue and it was extremely tasty. I had to go for a large gulp on the second one, let it sit in my mouth to really taste it all. Yep, that caramel and malt are there and the carbonation was perfect. This is one of the better Oktoberfests I’ve had over the last couple of years and a really nice collaboration. In short, this beer lived up to my expectations. As of this writing, I’ve had three different Oktoberfest beers this season and so far this one is the best. Admittedly, that isn’t too large a sample size as I usually try at least a half-dozen Oktoberfest beers in late September and early October. Be that as it may, Sierra Nevada’s 2018 Oktoberfest collaboration with Weihenstephan is the perfect beer to enjoy this time of year and a must have.

A few brief notes about the label. While I like it, and it does evoke the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest banner, I don’t like how it departs from the previous Oktoberfest collaborations. Sierra Nevada has redesigned some of their labels over the past year or so to mixed results. For example, they really need to go back to the classic label for their Narwhal Imperial Stout.

I know I’ve featured Sierra Nevada on The Tap Takeover quite frequently, and I try to vary it up with the beers I review, but with the Oktoberfest season upon us and just how delicious this beer is, I wanted to highlight it. Then again, this is my blog and I can write about whatever I choose.

Sierra Nevada  has a fun little Oktoberfest Game to while away your free time.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin

Name: Old Rasputin
Brewing Company: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%

From North Coast Brewing’s page for Old Rasputin:

Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

The Old Rasputin brand image is a drawing of Rasputin with a phrase in Russian encircling it — A sincere friend is not born instantly.

The Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the biggest, boldest of all stouts. In most cases, it is the stout with the most pronounced hop presence. As the name implies, this style received the name because they were first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia. (or Catherine the Great?) Regardless, North Coast’s take on the style aptly named Old Rasputin is probably the most iconic and widely known American interpretation of the style.

I’ve had a few Russian Imperial Stouts (I even reviewed one from Carton) but generally, the barrel-aged versions are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. For the longest time, the hop assertiveness wasn’t for me. Since I started enjoying more hop-forward beers I wanted to give one a try, one that wasn’t barrel aged so why not go for the granddaddy or “ded” of the style?

The most noticeable element, initially, is how dark this beer is. I’ve had PLENTY of stouts, over 200, and Old Rasputin is one of the darkest stouts I’ve ever poured. This beer has presence, especially with that old Russian mystic staring at you from the bottle. The most pronounced element of the beer’s aroma was the roasted malts, I think. Atop the beer is a thick, fluffy head that looks like a frothy cappuccino head.

That aroma is a pretty good indicator of what to expect with the beer. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the beer, maybe some chocolate hints and maybe even some toffee. I’ve seen some comments / reviews of the beer that mention hints of cherry, but I didn’t get that at all. Most of these flavors come from the malts but the hops aren’t going to let you forget about them.

The hops have a big bite, but not unpleasant for me. The roasted malt brings most of the flavor in the beer and their potential sweetness is balanced out the hop presence. While this is a big, flavorful beer and the hops are assertive, I would have guessed the IBU lower than 75 IBU. In many ways, this almost a chewable beer for how thick and robust it is.

I had a bottle of Old Rasputin many years ago, long before being on untappd, so I can’t remember exactly how the beer worked for me. Now? Seems like it should be an annual acquisition as nights get cooler and the big bastard of a beer will help warm the soul.

Unsurprisingly, North Coast brews a barrel-aged version of the beer that I may have to try. As it stands, Old Rasputin is rightfully an iconic beer of the style. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and tag this beer as an American Craft Beer Classic.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

For a great history of Old Rasputin, check out Jeff Alworth’s piece on All About Beer.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Imperial Czar (Level 5)

Originally created and brewed for Russian Emperor Peter the Great, the Russian Imperial Stout has a history as rich as it’s roasty, hoppy flavor. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Russian Imperial Stout!

2X (Level 31)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 155 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

Beer Review: Jersey Girl Brewing’s Rake Breaker

Name: Rake Breaker
Brewing Company: Jersey Girl Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: New England Style IPA (Jersey Girl) / India Pale Ale – American (untappd)
ABV: 6.5%

From Jersey Girl Brewing’s beers page:

Tropical IPA with Mosaic and Amarillo. Fresh, and incredibly drinkable. A tornado of tropical hops will be sure to break your perception of traditional bitter IPAs.

Jersey Girl has been around the NJ beer scene for a few years now and I was lucky enough to visit the brewery last November. Supposedly, the name came about because the mash rake used in the brewing process broke because there was so much grain in the brew. At the time, I was relatively averse to IPAs so I didn’t try any of their hop-forward ales. What I had I enjoyed, but as they were tasters/part of a flight and the last brewery of five I visited that day, I didn’t feel a review of any of those beers would be appropriate or truly reflective of my true experience with the beer. Then I had their flagship IPA Rake Breaker and I knew I had to write about the beer.

When the waiter at 22 Tap and Grill delivered the beer to me, I was very pleased at the look. There’s a hazy, bright, inviting look to the beer that looks like the juicier IPAs I’ve come to enjoy. A whiff of the beer brought the hoped-for citrus/hoppy aroma I was hoping to get, which proved to be a nice hint of what the beer would deliver.

The first sip matched the aroma really well. A great combination of citrusy hops with a really nice grasping hop bite on the finish. Second sip was much of the same, proving Rake Breaker to be a really balanced India Pale Ale. Although untappd calls this an “American IPA,” I’ve seen Jersey Girl refer to this as a New England or Northeast Style IPA.

Whether this is a true New England IPA (I lean towards yes, based on the citrusy hops and the look of the beer) or an American IPA, Rake Breaker is an extremely pleasing IPA. The Mosiac hop is a really nice hop that has become more prevalent over the past couple of years because of the way it brings the bitterness, aroma, and citrus/sweet flavors together. The Amarillo also has a nice citrus profile, too. The two hops combined bring the citrusy hops together for that pleasing flavor I mentioned earlier.

As I said, I overlooked this beer (despite it being something of a flagship for Jersey Girl) when I visited the brewery for my birthday tour last year. I won’t make the mistake again. With all the buzz that breweries like Carton, Kane, Twin Elephant, Cape May, and Three 3’s gets for their IPAs, Rake Breaker shouldn’t be lost in that shuffle and overlooked. In other words, a quality IPA that proudly represents the quality of brewing one can and should expect from a New Jersey brewery.

My only minor complaint isn’t necessarily about the beer itself, but about the availability. I see plenty of NJ brews in the stores in my immediate travel radius (i.e. the liquor stores on my way home from work), including beers from fellow Hackettstown brewery Czig Meister. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen Jersey Girl’s beers in those same shops since the brewery first started canning and distributing. On the other hand, I have been looking for an excuse to make the drive up to Hackettstown again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 26)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 130 different IPAs.