Monday, October 31, 2016

Western North Carolina Taproom Tour, Part One Of Two

This is the first part of a two-part post. The second part is at this link.

When I went to North Carolina for my marathon last week, I had time to check out some of the breweries and taprooms in the part of the state where I was traveling and staying. Part of this included a visit to Asheville, and if you're familiar with that area, you know that there is just too much outstanding beer coming out of Asheville to consider one visit conclusive. I did visit all three of the major breweries in the Asheville area, including New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada. Those tours and tastings were ninety minutes to two hours each, and I'll post separate blog entries for each of those breweries later.

For the most part, my taphouse visits were more about relaxing and sampling the beer and food, not about blogging. But I did make a few notes about six of the taprooms I visited during my stay in western North Carolina, and I'll post them, along with a few pictures, here. These reviews, like the Richmond reviews, reflect my experiences during a brief visit, and they should be regarded as such. One brief visit is not really enough to sum up or adequately assess any taproom's oeuvre. But I will tell you a little about what I enjoyed. This is part one of a two-part North Carolina indie taproom review.
MY TWENTY-SECOND RACE, THE PEAK TO CREEK MARATHON

When I first started getting active and trying to lose weight in August of 2014, I started writing about it at the blog. I also wrote a long blog post about my first race, a 5K in Charlottesville, in June of 2015. Looking back at how I ranted for paragraph after paragraph about a simple 5K is kind of humbling now. At the time I'd come a long way, but I'd have probably guessed in June of 2015 that 5Ks were about as far as I'd go with running.

When I ran my first half marathon in January of this year I wrote another long blog post. That one is particularly embarrassing for me now, because I look at the purple prose and the attempts at allegory and realize that, once again, I was sure I'd accomplished as much as I ever would. I'm leaving both of those blog posts up because that's all part of the process. Hitting milestones, feeling a sense of accomplishment, working for the next milestone, and looking back at where you were with mixed feelings. That seems to be what distance running is about.

I spent this past summer training for my first marathon, which was yesterday. I posted a long, rambling blog entry about marathon training the other day. That's probably sufficient as far as reflection and contemplation. Now that I've actually finished the marathon I feel like writing something more immediate. These are the things going through my head the day after finishing a marathon. Maybe looking back at a list of bullet points, recorded before selective memory re-frames the race, might be useful as I prepare for my next distance-running project. So, that's all this is. A highlights reel. A list of the things I am feeling right now, one day after completing a marathon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Here's six beer reviews.


Stone's Double Bastard Imperial American Strong Ale is one of my favorite beers ever, and Templeton Rye is my favorite rye whiskey. I’ve been anxious to try Double Bastard In The Rye since I first saw it last year, but in my area the price has been ridiculous. Sure, Double Bastard is a pricey beer to make. And, sure, aging in Templeton Rye barrels cannot be a cheap proposition. But at what point does that expensive extra step become a bridge too far? I've wondered about it for a year, and when I visited the Stone taproom in Richmond recently, I finally got a chance to try the Templeton Rye barrel aged version of Double Bastard at a price I could live with. And, what can I say? Regular Ol' Double Bastard is just about perfect. It's hard to improve on "just about perfect."

In short, Stone started out with a great beer, aged it expensively in premium barrels, and ended up with still a great beer. It isn't transcendent. It doesn't change everything, and at even the most affordable price I've seen it, that is a disappointment.

Like regular Double Bastard, this beer pours brown with very little head. The aroma is all the stuff from regular Double Bastard... caramel, apples, brown sugar, spice. That’s all in the flavor, plus the boozy blast of Double Bastard is compounded here (because the ABV is elevated to 12.7%). Where I really notice the Templeton barrel aging is in the aftertaste. On the aftertaste the distinct, spicy, sweet, oaky, buttery quality of Templeton is a real, undeniable presence. I did notice it. But I already have a bottle of Templeton, and that bottle tastes exactly like Templeton.

One more note about the price, which I cannot help fixating on. This beer was thirty bucks in my area last year. Thirty damn bucks. I'd never have bought it at all if the taproom hadn't had it at a much more reasonable price. And this is not even for a twenty-two ounce bottle. This bottle stands as tall as the double-deuces, but it has that big dimple in the bottom of the bottle that makes appearances deceiving. This is a 500 ml bottle, not much more than a pint. Stone is milking their loyal fanbase with releases like this.




I was glad to get a chance to try the re-release of Stone's 15th Anniversary IPA at Stone’s taproom in Richmond, and I was curious to see if I’d find it to be different from Sublimely Self Righteous, the regular release version of this recipe. Maybe some of it was in my head, but I thought this beer was quite different from SSR. I liked it enough to bring home a crowler, and that’s what I’m reviewing, here.

This beer still pours brown with a thick, tan head and average carbonation. The aroma is still hop-forward, of course. Pine and grassy notes, but I didn’t really think I picked up on the rye-like notes that I notice in SSR. The taste is where I really detected a difference. There is a rush of chocolate and coffee on the finish that I just do not get out of SSR, and it’s delicious. Really wonderful. Hops in the nose, hops on the front of the tongue, and then sweet, rich smoothness at the end. As much as I love Sublimely, I do like this more. I’d buy this often if I could. I'm glad that Stone balances mild disappointments like the beer reviewed above with surprising beer like this one.




I haven’t been wild about maple beers, but Saucony Creek's Maple Mistress, a pumpkin beer with maple, is very well reviewed. And it deserves to be, it's very good. To my taste, it's really nothing like a pumpkin ale. It pours hazel/brown with a head that fades to a tan ring quickly. The aroma is really nice. Warm spice, some brown sugar, some of the maple. The maple comes through on the flavor bigtime in the finish, but it doesn’t get old. The rum spices and rich malt are nice, too. There is a lot going on here, and pumpkin is the least of it. This beer is very good.




As billed, Roy Pitz Daddy Fat Sacks IPA is a balanced and malty IPA that finishes slightly sweet. That isn’t really my kind of thing as far as a regular IPA choice, I mostly tried this out of curiosity. I'd rate it well for delivering on it’s promise. This beer pours slightly cloudy yellow with a huge head. The aroma is like an English bitter, with some lemon citrus and yeasty notes. The flavor is smooth and understated, and finishes emphasizing the mellow malt.




I’m a litle late getting Ninkasi's Maiden The Shade Summer IPA, but the beer in this bottle was good, regardless of it’s age. It pours cloudy orange with average head and carbonation. The aroma is grapefruiit/citrus and slightly sweet malt notes. The flavor hits hard with that citrus. Grapefruit, and then a lemon meringue, sweet finish. I liked this beer.




The ginger version of Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA is okay, but I don’t enjoy it as much as the regular release. It pours cloudy orange, there is a good deal of foam. The ginger is strong on the aroma, but the fairly juicy, strong IPA aroma of regular Big Eye is still there. The Ginger is front and center on the flavor, too, although the hops aren’t completely drowned out in the finish. I was a little tired of the ginger by the end of the 22 ounce bottle.




Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Beer news?

Two things have happened this month that make me consider the possibility that I should start a new tag at the blog, because I may be writing about this topic some in the future. That tag references the long-dreaded popping of the bubble in the craft beer industry. Craft beer fans have been bracing ourselves for this inevitability for a while, and recent developments make me worry that it is eminent.

But, first, a quick look at where we've been recently. There was a time, not long ago, when I had to travel a couple of hours to find decent beer to buy. It seems to have only been in the past four years that things changed and I was able to find good beer in nearby Roanoke. The relative accessibility of craft beer was a novelty to me, and as I am in Roanoke at least once a week, it seemed like it might be fun to start this blog and begin reviewing those beers as an ancilary hobby. And that is what I did in January of 2013 with a brief but glowing review of Founders Imperial Stout.

In the past (almost) four years I have made friends in home-brewing, craft-retail, and national beer distribution. And among all of them I have heard rumblings about fear that the bubble is going to pop. The popularity of craft beer has grown at an insane rate over the past few years. When I started reviewing beer on the internet, I had to drive two or three hours to find something fit to buy. Now I can buy damn fine beer ten minutes from home. It has always seemed like an unsustainable dream come true.

All I've done for the past couple of years is bask in the glory of it. I love having local access to really good beer. I love being just one part of a growing, extremely local, grass-roots beer community. I love being just one more fan of something I've come to think of as "mouth music." So I hate to think that two recent developments give me real reasons to believe that the much-lamented, inevitable bursting of the craft beer bubble might be nipping at our heals.

One of the news items that has me concerned is Stone's round of lay-offs. Another news story, and once that effects me personally, as it will change the contents of my refrigerator, is Firestone Walker's elimination of three of their best regular releases. Wookey Jack in particular hits me like a ton of bricks. I love that beer. I hate to see it going away.

Those noteworthy news stories in an industry I care about necessitated the creation of a new post-tag at this blog. I'll call that tag #BeerBubble, and I hope I never have reason to post with it again.

But I won't bet on it.

MARATHON TRAINING... SOME REFLECTION BEFORE THE RACE

This Saturday, October 29, 2016, I will run my first marathon. I'll be competing in the Peek To Creek Marathon, over 26.2 beautiful miles of road from Jonas Ridge to Brown Mountain Beach Resort in Caldwell County, North Carolina. I've been training for this marathon since June 27th, and I decided to crunch the numbers from my MapMyRun account and see how much training this program has actually entailed.

Rounding down to the nearest mile, I've run about 710 miles over the course of this training program. I've been doing a variation of Hal Higdon's Intermedate 2 Training Program for marathon runners. I've customized the program to allow for the fact that I'm a shift worker. More often than not, my days off are during the week rather than on weekends, and I haven't been able to keep the long runs relegated to Saturdays or Sundays. For a shift worker, you train when you can, how you can, and sometimes where you can.

I also read Higdon's book about marathon training, and tried to take a lot of it to heart. In one chapter, Higdon discusses and largely dismisses the idea of over-training. He said that the vast majority of marathon runners feel at the end of their marathon that they ran just the right amount of training miles, and many feel that they didn't run enough during training. However, Higdon said that very, very few runners go into the race feeling over-trained. Higdon did emphasize the importance of doing the "taper" correctly... the taper being the last three weeks of training before the marathon when runners run less and rest more and prepare to go into the race feeling recharged and energized. Since I've been tapering I've followed the plan religiously. But during the intense months I felt free to up my mileage. Toward that end, instead of running the prescribed three 20-miles training runs, I doubled the number of 20-milers to six. And I extended other runs to go a little longer fairly commonly.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Richmond, Virginia Taproom Tour

Over the weekend I visited six of the taprooms in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond's craft beer scene has been growing like wildfire over the last few years, with national breweries opening Richmond locations and witih local, Richmond based companies brewing beer that stacks up against any in the world. All six of the taprooms I visited are fine, and if any of them seemed less than memorable, it's only because some of the others are absolutely incredible.

I tried to spend about half an hour at each of these taprooms, and taste several of the current offerings. When I could I ordered a fight of four or more samples, and tried to relax and soak in what each of these locations had to distinguish itself. Keep in mind, though, that a tour like this leaves time for brief visits by necessity. Please don't think of these reviews as comprehensive summaries of these breweries. One quick stop is a superficial experience. So, think of these reviews as nothing more than comments on the brief time I had at each location. Had I gone on a different night, or stayed longer, or had different beers to pick from during my visit, my experience might have been substantially different. These reviews are just the things I remember about the few minutes I spent tasting beer at each of these taprooms. I'll review them in alphabetical order.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Six, if ya want 'em.


Sierra Nevada 11.5° Plato is one more session IPA. I guess it’s OK. This beer pours a slightly cloudy light orange with average head and carbonation. It doesn’t smell like much. It doesn’t taste like much. There’s a mildly hoppy back end and the finish hints at a bit of dry crackle. It isn’t bad, but session beers just aren’t my thing. I felt nothing while I was drinking this. Session IPAs are the rom-com's of beer. I have no idea who enjoys them. I just know it ain't me.




Flying Dog's Oaked Chipotle Ale is part of the brewery's Heat Series. I tried this out of curiosity, and I liked it a lot more than I expected to. It pours dark brown with very little foam. The aroma is sweeter than I thought it would be. There’s a hint of the oak and the pepper, but mostly it’s creamy caramel malt on the nose. The flavor brings the other stuff. The oak and some brown sugar up front, then the chipotle burns and tingles in the finish with a mildly acidic smokiness. I might even buy this again.

It's really, really hard to get pepper right in beer. Stone does a great job with Xocoveza, and South Street's wonderful pumpkin beer called Twisted Gourd are the only two beers with pepper that I really love. This one could be a grower, but it isn't quite a shower.




New Belgium's Lips Of Faith beers are the brewery's high-brow collaborations, but I haven't had one yet that I really love. Flowering Citrus is their colaboration with De Koninck, and this beer is a slow burner that I enjoyed more and more over the course of the glass. I enjoyed the last sip more than the first, which is pretty much what you want in a beer. It pours cloudy dark yellow with a good bit of fluffy white foam. The aroma is floral and a little tangy. Roses, lemons, some spice, a fairly complex bouquet. The flavor is really juicy up front, with lime the dominant presence. It’s clean and crisp, and a little bit dry in the finish. Refreshing. I liked this more than I expected to.




On the other hand, New Belgium's Lips Of Faith colab with Hof Ten Dormaal is very much only kinda OK. Simply called Golden Ale, this is a rich but very typical strong Belgian ale. It pours slightly hazy yellow with little head. Average carbonation. The aroma is like most Belgians, yeasty and fruity, bananas and malt. The flavor adds some grassy hop to that, and the finish is dry. My reaction was very much "Sure, alright, fine."




Stone has spent this, their twentieth year, bringing back some of their most beloved recipes. Not one of them has been a dud. I was very glad to see 2014’s limited release Unapologetic IPA back on the shelves. This batch, billed as Still Unapologetic, is like a giant West Coast middle finger to everyone who says that the New England style IPA has killed off the West Coast version. This beer pours clear gold color with average head and lace. The aroma is understated, as it was in 2014. In the nose there is some mild citrus, mild tropical fruit, a little malt, no big whoop. The flavor, like it was in the first release two years ago, is bigger. Still Unapologetic is dry and bright and bitter as hell. Notes of cantaloupe and grape and clean, grassy hops are punched up by a bright, dry, very bitter finish. The only thing disappointing about this bottle is that it eventually dripped dry. Stone has nothing to apologize for here.

I've made it no secret that I'm totally Stone Brewing's boy. Beers like Arrogant Bastard, Enjoy By, Ruination, Xocoveza, and Thunderstruck are among my favorite beers of all time. Then again, I made it no secret that I thought the last three years were a bit lackluster for my favorite brewery. Recent news has indicated that this hasn't been Stone's best year, financially. But I'm here to say, unequivocally, that at least in terms of taste, this has been Stone's strongest year in ages. These twentieth anniversary re-releases have just been ringer after ringer. It would take a miracle for any brewery to top Stone as my pick for Brewery of the year in 2016.




I've had some of Stone's Enjoy By variants on tap, but rarely pick up a bottle and rarely feel like I've tasted the variants enough to review them. But I sipped a sample of Stone's tangerine version of Enjoy By recently, and liked it enough on tap to get a bottle. This variant is not better than regular Enjoy By, abd maybe it's not even quite as good, but still a delicious imperial IPA.

Enjoy By Tangerine pours clear, light orange color with an awful lot of head. The aroma is pretty much exactly like regular Enjoy By... notes of grapefruit and floral hops. The flavor is comparable to regular Enjoy By, too, but the tangerine is a slight presence on the back end. I love that Stone doesn’t make ancillary ingredients the dominant character when they do a variant of a favorite recipe. My only complaint is that I expected something juicer, here. Something bigger and danker and a little less lean. This beer is subdued by Stone imperial IPA standards. Yeah, it’s good. It’s not mind-blowing like the Enjoy By series can be from time to time (Long live 12-25-15), but it’s still very good.




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I've previously only had Catoctyn Creek's Roundstone Rye at restaurants and bars, this is the first time I've bought a bottle. That's partly because it's hard to track down, you have to special order it at most ABC stores in Virginia. But it's also because of the price. Roundstone is significantly more expensive than my go-to rye, Templeton. Nonetheless, Roundstone is a favorite way to finish a meal, when it's available, and I've always been happy on the rare occasions that I can find it by the glass. I finally picked up a bottle yesterday, and after really comparing and contrasting, I have to say that Catoctyn Creek's rye whiskey is absolutely outstanding, but will not edge out Templeton as my preferred rye.

Roundstone Rye pours only slightly lighter in color than Templeton. The main distinction between this and other ryes is the aroma. Put simply, Roundstone Rye is the best smelling whiskey I've ever had. I could just sit and smell a glass of this stuff for ages. And what makes it so wonderful to smell is that it isn't very balanced at all. Roundstone leans to the sweet side in the aroma, in a strong and wonderful way. Every wiff conjures up something new, and all of it sweet... caramel and butterscotch are dominant, but there are also notes like pancakes, candied nuts, vanilla, sweet potatoes, and gingerbread. This whiskey smells incredible, and this is coming from someone who doesn't really go for sweets. But I go for this.

The flavor is also surprising, and not what I'd expected from that huge aroma. The first time I had this I expected the flavor to just be off-the-charts sweet after taking in that aroma. It isn't at all, and that's what makes it so enjoyable. Roundstone is mild and goes down very clean, almost like an Irish whiskey more than a rye. To my untrained palate, this whiskey is very subtle in flavor. The spice and rich malt I've come to expect from rye whiskey are there, and so are the sweet notes. But it is all dialed back noticeably. This is like a cross between Templeton and Tullamore Dew... lighter on the tongue, and far less aggressive than some ryes, such as Russell's Reserve and Bulleit.

I don't know that Catoctyn Creek's Roundstone Rye is ever going to become a regular purchase for me. The difference in dollars between this and Templeton is prohibitive. But there's no denying how good this is, and there is no forgetting the incredible aroma.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

This mixed six review is made up almost entirely of beers from the North East. These are beers I'd not typically get a chance to try here in Virginia, but lucky me, I have a friend who hooks me up with these things. And, man, this shipment was killer.


Port Jeff Brewing's Orange Dream is one of the best Belgian Tripels I've had. It pours about the color of iced pekoe tea, with average head and carbonation. The aroma is what I expected from the name. It smells like a dreamsicle, sweet orange and vanilla and sugar. I'd have probably been happy with the flavor if it had been similar to the aroma. But the taste is surprising, rich, and even better than the smell. The typical Belgian tripel malts and yeasts are there, despite having not really been a presence in the aroma. On the tongue, the orange and vanilla is milder, more of a background quality, but still a presence. I'm more of a fan of dubels and quads than tripels... except for a handful, tripels often finish with a medicinal aftertaste that I don't like. No such problem here. Orange Dream was tasty to the last drop.




I've been hearing good things about Tree House Brewing out of Massachusetts for a while. The first beer I've been able to try is Green, a Tree House IPA. And this beer delivers on the hype. Green pours super cloudy yellow with a fair amount of head, the aroma is fantastic. Pineapple, herbal tea, a little bit of popcorn, something like Brussels sprouts going on there, too... it’s complex. The flavor is tangy, bitter, a little bit sweet. The citrus thing is the dominant quality, but the finish is a long, lingering floral hoppy note that resonates for several seconds. This beer is just fine.




Captain's Daughter by Grey Sail Brewing is a very good, juicy double IPA with a fair amount of foam and average carbonation. The aroma is lemons, cracker malt, herbal hops. That’s the flavor, too, with a dry and clean finish. This isn't a particularly unique double IPA, but it's a classic example of why the style is so popular. Tasty stuff.




Afterimage is a Double IPA by Grimm Artisanal Ales, a Brooklyn Brewery. This beer pours cloudy tangerine orange with average head. The aroma is a sweet citrus blast, very much like pulpy orange juice, but the rich malt is there in the nose, too. The flavor is just extremely juicy citrus... grapefruit, lemon, clementines, etc. All of it good. Dry, bright, bitter finish. Dank as hell. Wonderful.




So, those four North East brews were all damn fine. But this one, here? This was the jewel of the five. Pile Of Crowns is a Double IPA by Long Island City Beer Project, and barring a miracle, this will be my IPA of the year for 2016. This beer is just super juicy, dank and bright with monstrous citrus and an almost vinegary bitter finish. Not vinegary as in acidic, but vinegary as in the sweet, pungent thing that you might associate with a citrus salad dressing. Salty, sweet, lemony, all good things. Pile Of Crrowns pours cloudy yellow with average head, and the aroma is mostly bright citrus. Nothing surprising for an East Coast IPA. It's the flavor that really brings the fun. And I think "fun" is the right word to sum up the taste, but the components include qualities such as starchy, crisp, a little piney, and slightly sideways. I absolutely adore this beer. I adore this beer so much that it makes me use words like "adore."




This year's variant on Stone's reliable Old Guardian Barley Wine is dry-hopped with Pekko hops. I like it. It's very smooth, very sweet... or, at least, sweater than I’d expected. Certainly not as hoppy as last year’s "extra hoppy" variant. In fact, to my palate, this thing isn’t even as hoppy as regular release Old Guardian. Maybe my palate is changing or maybe it’s even just a little off tonight. I don’t know. I do know that this beer is delicious, and smooth and rich, just not as hoppy as I had expected. It pours deep copper brown with a good bit of head. The aroma is like other Old Guardian brewings... caramel, honey, citrus, apples. The flavor is so rich and smooth, without the high ABV showing up much at all. Just the molasses and raisins and walnuts I expcted from Old Guardian. No complaints at all, although I can’t say that I detect anything special from the Pekko dry hopping.

My reviews of previous iterations of Old Guardian:
Extra Hoppy Old Guardian
Oaked & Smoked Old Guardian
Original Old Guardian




Monday, October 3, 2016

Another six with a bunch of fall beers.


Black Boss Porter is not the best baltic porter I’ve had (my preference is for Smuttynose’s version of the style), but this is still a pretty good beer. It pours dark brown with a fair amount of head. The aroma is not strong but it’s appetizing. Some anise, a little espresso, a faint bit of citrus. The flavor is coffee and sweet malt on the front, and it closes with some milk chocolate notes and a hint of cherries, kind of a Dr. Pepper thing that I often notice in Baltic porters and bocks. The high ABV is there in the flavor, but it isn’t medicinal or synthetic. In my area this beer is inexpensive, which effects my overall score in a very positive way.




Sierra Nevada Hoppy Wheat IPA pours clear, pale yellow with a lot of head and carbonation. The aroma is really nice, a combination of lemon-zest hop tingle and rich, sweet, mellow malt. The flavor is the same, but it closes distinctly to the hoppy side, with strong citrus and a little bit of white grape character. This is pretty good.




Saranac Pumpkin Ale comes in a 32 ounce mini-growler, and pours the color of iced tea with a great deal of foam. The aroma is slightly citrus with pumpkin notes. The flavor is thin and nothing special. Not awful, but not that good. An average ale with a synthetic pumpkin spice finish.

When Saranac’s S’mores Porter came out in 32 ounce growlers for five bucks, I bought one figuring that the little growler itself was worth that. I was surprised and really happy when the porter that came in that growler was delicious. I rolled the dice on the pumpkin ale in the 32 ounce jug for five bucks this time, and this time all I really got out of the deal was the neat little growler. Still, at the price, I can’t complain too much.




Southern Tier Back Burner Barley Wine is really good, really serious barley wine with a gigantic ABV kick. It pours dark brown with a lot of light tan colored suds. The aroma is brown sugar, sweet fruit, raisins, all the typical barley wine kind of stuff. The flavor is very strong, very rich, sweet but not too sweet, with the blackstrap molasses and boozy character fighting for domination of the finish. Just a fine beer by any standard.




Bell's Oktoberfest is not very good, but I haven’t had many Marzens that I enjoy at all, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. If Oktoberfest is your thing, maybe you'll love this. I don't. This pours light copper colored with average head and carbonation. The usual mildly sweet malt aroma of an Oktoberfest, as you'd expect, is present. And an okay hop tingle rounds that out on the tongue. Not awful. Not worth having again.




Buffalo Bill's Black Pumpkin Oatmeal Stout is not a bad beer, but it does go a little too heavy on the pumpkin spice thing. The amount of nutmeg and cinnamon is overdone to the point of an artificial level, kind of like gas station pumpkin spiced coffee. And that’s a shame, because a smooth, rich, slightly sweet oatmeal stout is one of my favorite cooler weather beers. There’s not real hint of oatmeal malt in the flavor, here, it’s just pumpkin overload. This beer pours dark brown with a little tan head, and the aroma is a slightly creamier version of the flavor. It’s too bad the flavor oversells it.

One of the reasons I enjoyed Southern Tier's Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout so much is that it's obvious that the beer would be just as good without a hint of pumpkin flavor. I have no way of knowing what this beer would taste like if they left out the pumpkin schtick. Pumpkin isn't a a few notes of the music here, it's just a gigantic drone.